Marketing at the forecourt
The refreshed menu has allowed Café Orange to inject some fun into its advertising, with radio spots, signage and social media posts telling consumers they never have to pick between a cheeseburger and hot dog ever again. The forecourt includes branding and signage, like pump toppers, nozzle talkers as well as digital signage. “Every Orangestore is at a fuel site, and everything we see in retail is that customers are pressed for time, and so we wanted to let them know we have a one-stop solution for mealtime when they stop to fuel,” says Kennedy. “We also already had a lot of fuel customers coming into our convenience stores for things like lottery, and so the more we can offer inside, the more a gas station site can be that one-stop convenience for customers.”
Working with Curbex on digital outdoor signage at each site, in addition to various billboards in St. John’s metro area, foodservice messaging is also front and centre at EV charging stations. “The rollout of EV in Newfoundland has not been as robust as the rest of the country, but we do have a number of sites with EV charging, and when these drivers are there, we have a captive audience for the 20 minutes or so while their vehicle is charging,” says Kennedy. “And so, we’ve put menu boards outside charging stations to show the food offers inside the store so that people know they don’t just have to sit inside their car and watch Netflix. They can go inside and get themselves a tasty sandwich or a roller grilled treat.”
North Sun Energy doesn’t have the marketing budget for TV campaigns, but the forecourt signage along with the radio spots has proven cost-effective. “It’s a marketing medium that has proved very successful in driving awareness of our grab-and-go concept and our entire food service category,” says Mercer, who previously ran her own marketing communications agency before joining North Atlantic in summer 2021. She also has a strong background in retail and shopping mall marketing, working in Dubai, Toronto and St. John’s for the likes of Nakheel Properties, RioCan and Ivanhoé Cambridge.
“It’s really about ensuring we’re grabbing people’s attention while they’re filling up and driving by—just kind of stopping them in their tracks,” she says.
While keeping specific sales results close to their chest, Kennedy says he is pleased by the reception. “I expected our new foodservice to be successful, but I sort of underestimated how successful it would be and how many people would take to purchasing food at our sites,” he says. “But then again, we’re not a typical gas station. Our Orangestores are a step above when it comes to design, marketing and merchandising, and was always a strong brand that attracted people.”
Mercer and Kennedy—along with Shannon Brown, foodservice and merchandising manager, who joined North Atlantic in November 2022 from Wilson Fuel Co. and now part of the North Sun Energy team—are already thinking about Café Orange 3.0. “Sandy and I have already talked about it,” says Kennedy. “We have a whole plan for the next foodservice launch, but we wanted to make sure that this was successful and well-integrated before we layered new things onto our sites. We want to be careful because you can overwhelm your operators and their staff.”
Besides, Mercer adds that customers are still taking in all the new changes—and eating them up! “While we might be a little bored with some of the new menu items, the market has only been seeing them for about 12 to 16 months now. But we do have a plan for the next phase.”