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Couche-Tard rolls out new “Fresh Food Fast” program

Like all convenience store retailers, Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. has adjusted its operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it has not taken its foot off the gas when it comes to key initiatives, such as the rollout of its new food program throughout North America.

Brian Hannasch

Brian Hannasch

The new program, which Couche-Tard calls “Fresh Food Fast,” presents a significant organic-growth opportunity, with expectations for both top-line and margin improvement, according to president and CEO Brian Hannasch.

“We continue to be excited about its potential. In markets where the new program has been available, customer feedback has been very positive, and both food unit sales and overall sales in the stores with the program have significantly outpaced comparable sales at other stores in those same markets,” he reported during the company’s fourth-quarter fiscal year 2020 earnings call, held June 30.

As the world entered the coronavirus pandemic, Couche-Tard moved quickly to cut costs, but there were a few items the company felt were “sacred,” Hannasch explained. These included IT initiatives, new-to-industry builds, and the new food program.

Unknown-1The parent company of Circle K did hit the pause button temporarily on rolling out the program because, according to Hannasch, Couche-Tard did not think “it was prudent” to allow sampling or to conduct training during the health crisis.

“However, we will continue to build out the program, and we continue to install equipment as planned. We laid the groundwork with approximately 500 stores during the [fourth] quarter and continue to expand rapidly toward our target of 1,500 installations for the calendar year and 2,300 stores during the fiscal year,” he stated.

Couche-Tard has resumed training on the new program, and all of its converted c-stores will soon offer the new food assortment.

In addition, the retailer continues to roll out its on-demand coffee program. The U.S. rollout is now complete, and Couche-Tard has shifted its focus to rolling it out across Europe, according to the chief executive, who added that the espresso-based beverage equipment was deployed with 450 machines during the fourth quarter.

Also in Europe, its Froster frozen dispensed beverage program is now available at more than 200 stores. The program has been a Circle K mainstay in North America.

“We continue to see great opportunity to scale this offer in that region, as it’s been a solid driver of incremental trips to our stores, especially in Ireland where we started testing last year, where traction with customers has been impressive, and more recent in the Baltics as we moved into warm summer months,” Hannasch said.

As of April 26, Laval-based Couche-Tard’s network comprised 9,414 c-stores throughout North America, including 8,221 stores with road transportation fuel. Its North American network consists of 18 business units, including 14 in the United States covering 48 states and four in Canada covering all 10 provinces.

In Europe, Couche-Tard operates a retail network across Scandinavia, Ireland, Poland, the Baltics and Russia through 10 business units. As of April 26, its European network comprised 2,710 stores, the majority of which offer road transportation fuel and convenience products while the others are unmanned automated fuel stations that only offer road transportation fuel.

In addition, under licensing agreements, close to 2,350 stores are operated under the Circle K banner in 15 other countries and territories, bringing the worldwide total network to close to 14,500 stores.

Originally published at Convenience Store News. 


Refrigeration cleaning tips to protect against COVID-19 and food-borne bacteria

With convenience stores and micro markets declared essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic, your site likely adopted a stricter cleaning routine to prevent the virus spread. This is also an ideal time to look at best practices for food safety, because commercial refrigerators and freezers can quickly become bacterial carriers if not properly maintained. 



Given the right conditions, bacteria found in food can double every 10 minutes, which means that 1,000 bacteria can grow to 1/2 million about 90 minutes! So, let’s look at how to create conditions where neither COVID-19 or food-borne bacteria can survive. 

Cleaning 101

Research shows COVID-19 can survive up to nine days onmetal, glass and plastic if these surfaces are not properly disinfected. While it can be tempting to saturate your refrigerated units with a strong cleaner like bleach or ammonia, don’t, as these products can contaminate food. 

Instead, use a soft cloth with a non-abrasive liquid detergent cleaner mixed with water. Soap and water are proven to eliminate the virus, as soap interferes with the fats in the virus shell, which lifts the virus from surfaces and is then rinsed off with water. (This is also why frequent handwashing is effective at preventing the virus spread.)

We recommend deep cleaning your refrigeration units monthly, but exterior door handles and doors are high-traffic areas and should be wiped down several times a day. While most sites these days have hand sanitizer available for customers to use at the checkout counter, it’s also a good idea to provide hand sanitizer or sanitizing hand wipes (with at least 70% alcohol content) directly beside any refrigerated merchandisers.

Before deep cleaning your unit’s interior or exterior, always unplug it. Neverapply or spray any undiluted cleaner directly to the unit, since excessive liquid can seep into the electrical connections and cause a malfunction or electrical hazard. To avoid any contamination, ensure all cleaning materials are cleaned themselves (for instance, use a fresh cloth each time) and stored so bacteria is not transferred from one surface to another. Also, keep cleaning equipment for refrigeration units separate from those used for floors or other store equipment.

Cleaning also gives you a chance to inspect the unit for any damage. For example, when wiping down the door gaskets and glass, check for gaps or tears in the gaskets, which can cause air leakage or a build-up of dirt or grease. If you’re not able to snap them back into place, they need to be replaced. Most units are self-defrosting, but if you have manual defrost units, follow the manufacturer’s instructions—regular defrosting is essential, as it helps prevent serious damage to compressors. 

If your unit has a conventional condenser, it should also be cleaned monthly to avoid breakdowns caused by an overworked motor. To clean it, remove the front grill, switch off on the control panel and unplug it, then use a small, hand-held duster to clean inside, and, if necessary, a vacuum cleaner for any additional debris. Don’t forget to reattach the front grill, which helps to protect the condenser from debris and damage.Some units are built with low maintenance condensers, which require regular visual inspections and much less frequent cleaning than conventional condensers.

 Freezers need to breath

Screen Shot 2020-06-11 at 10.41.35 AMWithout optimal airflow, you risk a blocked condenser, which can result in equipment failure, overheating, spoiled product, higher electrical costs and even a possible void on your warranty. 

  •     Position each unit away from the surrounding walls
  •     Ensure each unit has a dedicated electrical outlet 
  •     Situate away from other equipment that radiates heat or produces airborne oil and grime
  •     Inspect regularly to check for blockages 

In addition, distribute the product evenly inside the unit, as overloading blocks interior airflow, which can lead to spoiled food and equipment damage. Cabinets are also better able to maintain a stable temperature if they’re stocked, but not overstocked, versus empty, as the thermal mass of the refrigerated or frozen products helps to maintain the interior temperature.

Temperature matters 

Technically, a refrigeration unit can’t get a “fever”, but temperature variations are a serious threat to food safety, potentially contributing to bacteria growth, pathogens and cross-contamination. 

In an environment where doors are being opened and closed frequently, maintaining optimal temperatures within the unit is crucial. For example, chilled foods, such as sandwiches should be kept within the 37°F to 41°F range. Short spikes, not exceeding 30 minutes, above 41°F are acceptable. 

 If you do not have a temperature malfunctioning safeguard, you should aim to monitor temperatures frequently each hour to make sure they are within the healthy range. Since you need to sanitize the handles on merchandiser doors often, you can do both cleaning and temperature monitoring tasks at once. 

 Randy Skyba is the vice-president of sales and marketing at Minus Forty Technologies in Georgetown, Ont. He helps retailers merchandise their frozen and refrigerated products.

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Breakfast is an important meal of the day for c-stores

Screen Shot 2020-06-10 at 2.57.07 PMMost of us are familiar with the slew of well-known phrases that, for decades, have been imprinted into the eating culture of Canadians. In addition to ‘spinach will make you strong like Popeye’ and  ‘carrots will improve your eyesight’, one of the most well worn phrases in the cultural consumption arsenal is ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’. 

While many of us have grown up believing that skipping breakfast is a blasphemous corruption of dietary obedience, Ipsos FIVE daily consumption tracking study reports over the past year reveal that a quarter of Canadians skip breakfast during an average day. This skipping rate has risen 20% (more than four points) in just the past three years.

Given considerable changes in both eating patterns and item choices during that time, the big question is: What is happening at breakfast?

Deferring breakfast to morning snack

As consumers face the daily early morning gauntlet of hectic commuting schedules, competing family priorities or forgoing breakfast to get a bit of extra sleep, we have often assumed that most of these consumers simply defer their breakfast to the later less frenetic morning snack occasion.

However, this is not always the case. Ipsos FIVE data reports that the majority of those skipping breakfast simply do not eat until lunch, back-end loading their daily eating choices—opting to not eat less, but just to eat later.

This presents new challenges, particularly for traditional morning foods and beverages, such as cereal, yogurt and milk, all of which are heavily dependent on their inclusion in an ever-shrinking universe of early day consumption occasions.

New dietary regimes

Ipsos FIVE’s daily tracking of what individuals eat and drink reveals that, while three-quarters of consumers believe that breakfast remains an important occasion, there is a new school of thought emerging, one that challenges whether or not the first meal of the day should remain a priority occasion. 

Undoubtedly, the rising popularity of new eating regimes, including morning fasting (which now ranks third among alternative eating regimes) and adherence to dairy-free diets (which ranks second), are clearly influencing early day eating decisions.

Additionally, changes in the ‘how’ may also be contributing to the de-prioritization of breakfast, including shifting togetherness habits at the morning breakfast table.  Today, almost two-thirds of first meal (breakfast) occasions are consumed alone, which begs the question: How much time, effort and dollars are consumers willing to invest for a party of one?

Slow movement to foodservice

Although contemporary dietary and cultural trends have altered Canadians’ morning consumption patterns, the five morning H’s (hunger, health, habit, hearty and hurry) remain critical to shaping our food choices in the morning, especially as a wider variety of channels are entering the battle to win a share of stomach at breakfast.

With only a slim array of portable breakfast options available, one in five morning occasions are now sourced from foodservice operators, led by strong growth in fast food restaurants (QSR) over the past five years.

While the quest for convenience remains a priority for many time-starved consumers opting to pair their morning hot beverage with an evolving array of foods offered away from home, foodservice operators will need to remain committed to also meeting consumers’ needs for high quality options, including clean labels and nutrient dense benefits.

The rise of early day hearty, warmth and satiation needs

The focus on evolving wellness goals in the morning has also given rise to the importance and prioritization of choices that serve to meet a growing variety of functional health needs, while providing distinct emotional benefits.  

Warming satiation, comfort, gut health, physical energy and mental focus have risen to the top of early morning needs, with consumers trading out traditional food favourites, such as eggs, bacon, pancakes, bagels and vegetables.   

Food and beverage manufacturers, retailers and foodservice operators who want to win the battle for breakfast in the dawn of this new era, should consider creating intentional experiences that are engaging and enjoyable and serve to discourage meal skipping.  

Consider movement beyond traditional sweet food. Instead, focus on offering savoury options with a fresh and global varietal flair that fills nourishes and delights consumers, while also building a new level of interest and engagement in the still-important breakfast occasion.

Kathy Perrotta is a vice-president with Ipsos Market Strategy and Understanding, working with the Food & Beverage Group Syndicated Services.  Data sources within this group include, Ipsos FIVE and Foodservice Monitor (FSM). Ipsos FIVE is an ongoing daily tracking of consumption behaviour, attitudes, situational dynamics, health statuses, preparation and shopping habits that influence item choice for more than 20,000 individuals annually across all dayparts, categories/brands and venues. Ipsos FSM is a daily tracking of purchases, habits and motivations at all foodservice segments and at branded operators among more than 36,000 individuals annually. 

Originally published in the May/June issue of Convenience Store News Canada. 

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Research team to study impact of COVID-19 on retail food industry

Screen Shot 2020-06-02 at 9.18.54 AMThe University of Western Ontario’s Human Environments Analysis Lab (HEAL) has launched a study of employees and owners/managers in the grocery and foodservice sectors to determine COVID-19’s impact on their industry.

The new Food Retail Environment Study for Health and Economic Resiliency (FRESHER) study will explore the effects of COVID-19 on the retail food environment, with the study’s principal investigator saying its findings will help policymakers assess the impact of financial support programs on business survival.

“This study is not just about the numbers. We are not coming up with a vaccine,” says the University of Western Ontario’s Dr. Jason Gilliland. “We are addressing the long-term health and economic impacts of the pandemic. We are looking to listen to the voices of those who have been on the frontlines and those managing to keep shelves stocked and stores open.”

Gilliland says they also hope to hear from people who have lost their jobs and identify how multiple stakeholders including government, industry and community can work together to recover from the crisis.

In addition to tracking which businesses have remained open and how they have operated during the crisis, the study will delve into how COVID has impacted the financial circumstances, physical health and mental wellbeing of frontline employees.

Finally, interviews with employers will be used to determine the strategies that have contributed to business survival, as well as gather their perspective on the response to the crisis by all levels of government.

Grocery has been one of the few industry sectors that has performed well during the pandemic, with Q1 sales up a remarkable 22.1% in March over the same period last year, according to Toronto retail analyst Ed Strapagiel.

However, the Centre for Interpersonal Relationships says frontline workers are being negatively affected by a combination of factors—including possible direct interaction with COVID-19, isolation from family and friends, “chaotic” work environments and long hours and lack of equipment/resources.

The study questions were developed by a multidisciplinary team of researchers from Western, Ivey Business School, Brescia University College, Wilfred Laurier University, University of Waterloo and the University of Guelph possessing expertise across human geography, business, economics, labour, sociology, food and nutritional science.

HEAL is recruiting participants via social media and PR and is also working with organizations associated with the grocery and foodservice industry at the national, provincial and local levels. Limited funding means it is concentrating the bulk of its efforts in Ontario. Early responses have included a number of grocery store employees, says Gilliland.

Gilliland says findings from the “fast response survey” are expected to inform government policies and programs as well as business strategies that will help preserve the livelihood of employees and business owners, sustain food security, support economic recovery in the retail food sector and improve resiliency to future pandemics and emergencies.

Originally published at Canadian Grocer. 

Photos by Justin LaPierre

Socially connected: Dépanneur R. Prud’homme

Located on the edge of Quebec’s vast wilderness, Dépanneur R. Prud’homme combines a modern approach with small-town charm

How is it that a family-owned convenience store and gas station in a remote corner of Quebec has generated more than 40,000 followers on its Facebook page, making it by far the most popular dépanneur on social media in la belle province?

“I think it reflects the quality of our store and products and the way we treat our employees and customers,” says Vicky Beauséjour, who helps run Dépanneur R. Prud’homme, a family business owned and operated by her parents, Éric Beauséjour and Nathalie Richard.

Photos by Justin LaPierre

Photos by Justin LaPierre

Located in the small town of Saint-Michel-des-Saints, a two-hour drive north of Montreal at the end of a provincial highway, the store, which operates under the Beau-soir banner, is the last place where cottage- and camping-bound tourists can buy food, gas and other c-store items before entering Quebec’s vast wilderness.

Screen Shot 2020-05-14 at 12.25.20 PM“Don’t think that because we’re in a remote community this is a sleepy, backwoods business,” 25-year-old Vicky told Convenience Store News Canada during a recent phone interview.  “We have a modern, big-city store with friendly, small-town charm.”

Built and opened in the fall of 2017 (next to the now-demolished, decades-old general store that the Beauséjours bought in 2012), the store features the same menu of homemade traditional and fast food items—everything from chicken pie and ragout to pizza and poutine, eaten on premise or takeout—that earned the original store local fame.

It also stocks a growing variety of specialty local food products, including craft beer, wine, dairy and charcuterie, as well as modern ready-to-eat and made-to-order items that span healthy snacks, breakfast sandwiches, daily lunch specials and meals.

Screen Shot 2020-05-14 at 12.51.16 PMScreen Shot 2020-05-14 at 12.51.35 PMAll are made fresh daily in the big kitchen, where most of the store’s 15 full-time employees work under the supervision of Richard, a trained chef who also runs a local catering service. During the pandemic, the c-store used social media to keep customers in the loop about daily specials and encouraged people to preorder, while also offering delivery. 

The store’s foodservice offering has expanded to include a well-stocked salad bar, which Vicky says was added at customers’ bequest: “We’re glad we did because it’s very popular.”

Screen Shot 2020-05-14 at 12.25.07 PMAnother popular feature—one that has been a game changer for the family’s business—is the Esso gas station.  “Adding gas was big because it made us a one-stop destination for both locals and tourists,” says Vicky, a new mom who works throughout the store, often alongside her fiancé, Marc-André Soulière.  “Now people don’t have to run around to different stores to find things. We’ve got it all here.”

While it was her mom who showed her how to cook as a young child, Vicky credits her dad, Éric, a former candy salesman who always dreamed of being a c-store owner, for her entrepreneurial zeal. “My dad’s like a big kid. He loves to be at the store meeting people and being involved in everything. I’m a lot like him.”  

They use the store’s Facebook page to actively promote the business and to post updates, like the closure of the store’s dining area during the COVID-19 crisis and the expansion of home delivery service.  

Screen Shot 2020-05-14 at 12.25.00 PM“We use social media a lot to announce our menus or promotions, like draws,” says Vicky.  She credits those postings—including several of customers posing with a skid of Budweiser cases made to look like a single case costing nearly $4,000 (part of a promotion by Labatt)—for generating both buzz and likes online.  

“We work hard to provide people with the things they want and need,” she adds. “ I think people understand and appreciate that.”

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New apps emerge amid COVID-19 to tackle gripes with popular delivery services

Screen Shot 2020-05-05 at 1.00.59 PMWhen the weekend rolls around, Torontonians won’t have to miss the White Lily Diner’s thick-cut bacon, organic corn grits and toast smeared in rhubarb hibiscus jam just because the country has plunged into a pandemic.

The east-end diner is selling its brunch staples and offering to drop them at customers’ doors, but the process won’t involve any of the familiar delivery apps whose couriers have become a fixture on busy streets in recent years.

Instead of relying on Uber Eats, SkipTheDishes or DoorDash, White Lily is using a new entrant to the market: Tock To Go.

“The biggest draw off the bat was probably just the fact that they’re so much less expensive,” said White Lily co-owner Ashley Lloyd, who laid off her entire staff when she closed the restaurant to dine-in meals amid COVID-19.

“Restaurant margins are slim…I can understand people turning to (their delivery competitors), but honestly I don’t know how they do it.”

Tock To Go is part of a new wave of food delivery companies hitting the Canadian market, hoping to attract vendors with features like lower commissions and fill the hole Foodora will leave behind when it shutters its Canadian operations in mid-May.

The services – Ottawa’s Love Local Delivery, Vancouver’s From To, Toronto’s volunteer-run iRover and new delivery features on Montreal’s Eva – have been created to help out in a tough moment, when restaurants are barely scraping by – even as demand for food delivery surges.

These services want to do things differently from the household names, so they have eliminated commission fees or offered rates well below the 10- to 30-per cent charged by Uber Eats, SkipTheDishes, DoorDash and others.

Tock To Go, a Chicago-based service from restaurateur Nick Kokonas that evolved from his Tock reservation system, only takes a 3% commission from restaurants in Vancouver and Toronto.

Tock first appeared in the cities in 2018, but didn’t launch Tock to Go until the pandemic started. Tock to Go doesn’t have couriers to deliver meals. Instead, it asks customers to pre-order food, helping restaurants arrange their own delivery.

“Ordering apps take up to 20 to 30 (per cent), which simply is not sustainable for restaurants,” Tock’s director of marketing Kyle Welter said in an email.

“Tock allows each restaurant to specify the number of orders for any set time range, so the kitchen doesn’t get overwhelmed and they can responsibly manage the flow of customers.”

Over in B.C., Brandon Grossutti from Gastown restaurant Pidgin will launch From To, a delivery service with a handful of Vancouver eateries, in May.

In the weeks before restaurants in Canada closed to stop the spread of COVID-19, Grossutti realized Pidgin would need a takeout option, so he signed up with Uber Eats and Burnaby-based Fantuan Delivery.

“Then the reality of it hit. We did fairly well gross wise, but you see the checks coming in and…the first week was a lot of money out the door in commissions,” said Grossutti, who had to lay off workers

“It’s a weirdly parasitic relationship where you have a parasite basically eating its hosts until it dies and it’s not a sustainable relationship.”

Grossutti decided to put his software industry background to work. He made From To, which gives restaurants the ability to decide if they want to pay for, split with or pass on customers’ delivery costs.

From To currently takes no commission.

“We had talked at certain points about taking like 5%, which would be much less than what’s out there, but we realized that during this time we need to make this sustainable because people are already losing money,” Grossutti said.

The lower commissions don’t seem to have bothered rivals.

“We welcome new competitors to the market, as it raises awareness of the industry and promotes even more traffic to restaurants to stimulate growth,” Winnipeg-bred SkipTheDishes said in an email to The Canadian Press.

“It is natural for competitors to see value in this market and we’re confident in Skip’s position as Canada’s homegrown food delivery company.”

SkipTheDishes is offering a 10.5% commission deal to restaurants wanting to do their own deliveries but still use the platform and is expediting payments to all businesses using its services.

Meanwhile, San Francisco-based Uber Eats is eliminating its fees on pickup orders and reducing its usual 30% charges to 15% for restaurants who choose to use their own delivery people.

DoorDash, also headquartered in San Francisco, is waiving April commission fees for new, independent clients. Existing independent clients can have those fees waived on pickup orders, and 100,000 clients were added to DashPass – its subscription program which offers $0 delivery for consumers – for free.

Harriet Clunie, the executive chef at European-style bistro Das Lokal, said that is not enough because the moves put the onus on restaurateurs to offset costs or hire their own delivery staff to take advantage of benefits.

She banded together with other members of the Ottawa restaurant community to found Love Local Delivery, a service that launched in March and will courier food within 5 kilometres of restaurants for a flat $5 fee, or more for longer distances.

There are no commission fees right now and the service focuses solely on independently-owned restaurants.

While it might have to charge commission when it launches an app in the near future, Clunie said the service is committed to keeping that potential fee low.

“It’s all people that are in the same boat and we’re trying to help everybody that’s struggling, restaurants or small businesses or drivers that are unemployed and just trying to make some money to feed the family,” she said.

“It’s an approach that’s really trying to lift everybody up.”



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Sinclair Cleaning Systems: Combat COVID-19 with a proven cleaning and disinfecting combo


Optima Steamer XD

Clean, disinfect and knock-out viruses with the one-two punch of dry vapour steam and an EPA-approved botanical disinfectant.

In order to properly clean and disinfect, even tiny nooks and crannies, Sinclair Cleaning Systems recommends the Optima Steamer XD in conjunction with Concrobium Disinfectant Cleaner II. The two work together to offer an effective cleaning and disinfection strategy that both sanitizes and deodorizes.

Ideal for many uses, from general retail cleaning to foodservice and automotive detailing for fleets, it’s the perfect combination to help protect your staff and customers.

unnamedConcrobium Disinfectant Cleaner II is next-generation botanical disinfection technology that safely and effectively eliminates viruses and bacteria.

The Optima Steamer, which reaches a temperature of 275°F at the sprayer tip, even cleans and sterilizes hard to reach areas. This next-level steamer uses the latest technology to remove stains, grease, dirt and odours in a quick and efficient manner, all while generating no waste water run-off.

Steam is proven to be safe for a variety of surfaces, including upholstery, vehicle interiors and exteriors, and floors, as well as other non-porous surfaces – indoors or out.

Contact Hugh Sinclair TODAY at:

1-800-265-0505 or 1-519-436-9539

For more information, visit Sinclair Cleaning Systems


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C-stores adjust foodservice offerings during COVID-19 crisis

Convenience stores across Canada are scaling back foodservice operations during the COVID-19 crisis.

Self-serve food items are closed or modified under provincial health guidelines and mandated closure orders. For instance, roller grill and some frozen drink and ice cream options are on pause. Customers are being asked to prevent the spread of germs by using disposable beverage cups only for hot beverages.

In an effort to keep customers and staff safe, many c-stores are reducing the selection of ready-to-eat, grab-and-go items and in-house restaurant menus. Sites nationwide have shuttered eat-in areas.

Some operators are adapting by expanding delivery and curbside pick up options.

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Instagram post from March 17.

For instance, Leslieville Pumps, a convenience and gas bar in Toronto, is known for its poutine and barbecue. The operators are offering delivery through UberEats and phone-in curb-side pick-up right to customers’ cars.

7-Eleven is also upping its delivery game through UberEats and Foodora. In addition to Slushees and oven-cooked pizza, customers can order staples like milk and bread and over-the-counter medicine to their door.

Screen Shot 2020-03-31 at 9.25.26 AMCircle K continues to make changes to its food and beverage sales. “In some provinces, guided by health official mandates to close buffet-style restaurants, we have stopped selling roller grill items,” the company said in a statement. “We also have placed all fresh bakery items in individual paper bags. Regarding beverages, we have asked our customers to stop bringing in their reusable cups to our stores and instead to use disposable cups for dispensed beverages.”


Foodservice fights back after 800,000 jobs lost due to COVID-19



Restaurants Canada estimates that 800,000 foodservice jobs have already been lost nationwide due to COVID-19 and might not return if current conditions continue.

Canada’s $93 billion foodservice industry represents 4% of the country’s GDP and many run in tandem or share sites with c-stores and gas stations.

Nearly 10% of the country’s restaurants have already closed permanently, and many more might close by the end of April if conditions don’t improve.

With businesses now struggling to pay rent and other bills due in April, the national association has conducted a survey to shed light on the state of the industry. Responses from foodservice operators across the country revealed:

  • Four out of five restaurants have laid off employees since March 1.
  • Seven out of 10 foodservice operators will further cut back on staff hours or lay off more employees if conditions do not improve.
  • Nearly one out of 10 restaurants have already closed permanently and another 18% will permanently close within a month if current conditions continue.

“Not only was our industry among the first to feel the impacts of COVID-19, we’ve been one of the hardest hit so far, with nearly two thirds of our workforce now lost,” Shanna Munro, Restaurants Canada president and CEO, said in a statement. ”In our 75 years of existence as Canada’s national foodservice association, these are by far the worst numbers we have ever seen.”

If conditions do not improve, Restaurants Canada estimates that foodservice sales will be down nearly $20 billion for the second quarter of 2020.

“Restaurants are vital to the social and economic fabric of communities across Canada, but operating a food service business is tough, even in the best of times,” said Munro.

Screen Shot 2020-04-16 at 5.39.07 PMIn response hundreds of restaurant owners are being joined by celebrities and culinary leaders to support a new initiative – Canada Takeout. It kicked off last week and every Wednesday from here on out is to be Takeout Day.

Canadians are encouraged to order from their favourite local restaurant offering takeout or delivery. In tandem, Canada’s Great Kitchen Party — Home Edition is hosting a variety show on Facebook live, featuring musical entertainment an d appearances by celebrated athletes.


C-stores and grocery turn to foodservice to stand out

Consumers on the go are turning to quick and easy food options outside of restaurants



Supermarkets and convenience stores are turning to foodservice to drive growth and keep pace with multitasking consumers looking for easy meals on the fly. And it’s paying off.

On-the-go is no longer an eating occasion, it’s a lifestyle, which means consumers are searching for food solutions beyond restaurants, said Donna Hood Crecca, a principal at Technomic, during a session this month at Restaurants Canada’s annual trade show and conference in Toronto.

“They want prepared food and beverages wherever they happen to be,” said Crecca.

Herein lies the opportunity for convenience and grocery store channels, each of which is currently faced with its own set of economic challenges. Convenience is looking for strategic growth opportunities as tobacco sales continue to decline, while grocery stores contend with the ongoing consumer shift to online.

Retail foodservice in the U.S. pulled in $72 billion in sales in 2019, said Crecca. Grocery foodservice accounted for half of that figure ($35.6 billion), convenience stores accounted for approximately one third ($24 billion) while drug stores, warehouse clubs and mass merchandisers made up the balance, she said. And sales will continue to grow.

Total foodservice sales is projected to increase in the U.S. by 3.6% in 2020, said Crecca. “When we look at the growth rates for retail foodservice it’s really driven by that grocery or supermarket segment, which actually is the second fastest growing segment of foodservice in the United States, growing at twice the overall rate.”

New build convenience stores in the U.S. are now foodservice centric, and many operators are upping their game in terms of the quality of food they’re offering and also the restaurant-type equipment they’re adopting, said Crecca.

Supermarkets are further along in the process and focusing on the consumer experience, she said. “[Supermarkets] are getting into open kitchens, they’re leveraging the theatre of food to make it inviting, to make it a destination. So, a lot of investment, a lot of excitement, a lot of prioritization, this is what they need to do to grow their business.”

The commitment to providing restaurant-quality food is paying off for both sectors. In a recent poll conducted by Technomic, 50% of consumers said C-stores are just as capable as restaurants in offering fresh food and beverages, and 41% said convenience store private-label food items are as high in quality as food from a restaurant.

And with supermarkets, 77% of consumers said the prepared foods department was really important in determining which store would become their primary destination. “Obviously this is where these supermarket operators are going to put their money as it goes to the long term growth and viability of their stores overall,” said Crecca.

Though foodservice enhances a store’s relevance, drives visits and spend, it’s important to build initiatives around the brand’s core competency, said Crecca. “Make sure what you’re offering is something the consumer gives you permission to do,” she said. “Play to your strengths–don’t offer full-service menu if you’re good at grab and go.”

Originally published at Canadian Grocer.