Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc., parent company of Circle K, will embark on the second implementation wave of its "Fresh Food, Fast" foodservice concept as part of its evolution into a more innovative and differentiated retailer, the company reported during its earnings call for the third quarter of fiscal 2021.
Having hit its target of 1,500 locations in the United States last fall, the second wave of implementation will expand the program to 3,000 more stores throughout North America during fiscal 2022.
"Our focus on ease, safety and the quality of the offer are clearly resonating with our customers, and I am pleased that we are meeting our food-development goals despite the challenges of the pandemic," said President and CEO Brian Hannasch.
The Fresh Food, Fast program saw an early delay due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, as Couche-Tard did not consider it prudent to conduct training at the time or allow food sampling. Once the rollout began, the retailer set an initial target of 1,500 installations for the 2020 calendar year.
Since then, Couche-Tard has seen consistently positive results at stores with the program compared to control stores in the same markets that do not offer it.
"We're continuing to improve and simplify the offer," Hannasch said during the retailer's latest earnings call. "And our focus remains on quality and the ease of the offer, both for the customer and for our store team members."
In addition to bringing the program to 3,000 more stores throughout North America, the company plans to develop the Fresh Food, Fast concept as a platform for future growth at its stores in Europe. This will include introduction of a self-service option that adds grab-and-go elements to the freshly prepared offers available in the stores.
Another significant step taken in Couche-Tard's "innovation journey" during the third quarter was the opening of its first frictionless store: Couche-Tard Connect.
The company debuted the cashierless store in January. Located on the campus of McGill University in Montreal, the store serves as a unique retail laboratory for Couche-Tard in partnership with McGill.
Since its opening, Couche-Tard Connect has received very positive feedback from customers, according to Hannasch.
"We're impressed by the technology and how we're delivering our fully frictionless experience in a timely manner and with great accuracy," he noted.
The company expects the lab store to provide important insights and information as the retailer seeks to expand its frictionless capabilities.
"We will be piling many technologies in the coming months, both inside the store and in the forecourt, and feel we can differentiate our offer and truly make the shopping experience at Circle K easy in the future," the CEO added.
Laval, Quebec-based Alimentation Couche-Tard operates in 26 countries and territories with more than 14,200 convenience stores.