Cutting costs won’t necessarily bring more customers into your store, but it will boost your bottom line. And though heaven knows costs are tough to cut these days, there is one way convenience retailers can save a bundle—by lowering food waste.
C-store retailers seeking to win more customers by expanding food offerings should become vigilant about not wasting food, says Timothy W. Jones, an anthropologist who studies food waste. Jones reports that U.S. convenience stores, supermarkets and restaurants toss out approximately 27 million tons of edible food every year—about $30 billion worth.
"Some sectors, especially supermarkets and mom-and-pop restaurants, are very efficient," Jones said. "Others don’t even have the first clue."
With few exceptions, Jones believes convenience stores are far and away the most wasteful with food, losing more than 26%, which is almost three times the rate for fast food restaurants.
"They know they lose a lot, but they don’t think it represents a large share of their business," said Jones, who calculates that food loss amounts to a 2% hit on store revenues.
The reasons for food waste are two-fold. The first is that customers want "instant food" they can grab and eat by opening a package or peeling off a wrapper. The second is employees’ lack of concern about the problem.
Jones acknowledged that retailers can’t change customers’ preferences, but pointed out that they can put in place programs that reward employees for spotting and reducing food waste and inefficient operations.