Our American sister publication, Convenience Store News (CSNews), recently profiled Foxtrot. Born in Chicago, the ‘modern c-store’ is the brand of founders Mike LaVitola and Taylor Bloom, who started the store in 2014. In less than a decade, the store made its way across a number of states. As of now, the chain stands at 26 stores across Chicago, Washington, D.C., Dallas and Austin, Tex., offering a place for patrons to grab coffee, c-store staples and vibe out for a few hours. Combining the traditional fare of c-stores with an early-evening happy hour and wines selected by an in-house sommelier, it’s no wonder this c-store has caught the attention of CSNews, and now ours.
The following is part of Renée M. Covino’s report for CSNews, along with photos of Foxtrot.
The idea was to marry a modern convenience store with a local café in such a way that when patrons walk in during any daypart, the vibe to stay awhile would be extraordinary.
In the morning, the neighbourhood place would be hopping with coffee connoisseurs and breakfast sandwich grabbers. Hours later, customers would munch on salads, chicken bowls and other freshly prepared foods, while sitting with open books, laptops, friends and colleagues. In the early evening, after a quick ambiance change of dim lighting and "happy hour" music, the space would be transformed into the ideal spot to meet up for a glass of wine or beer, accompanied by gourmet dips and snacks.
Foxtrot is this idea come to life. Currently a chain of 26 stores across Chicago, Washington, D.C., Dallas and Austin, Texas, the retailer's offering ranges from a signature all-day café experience to local craft beers and fine wines selected by an in-house sommelier, to everyday essentials. All of its offerings are available to enjoy in-store, for pickup or for on-demand delivery through the brand's proprietary app.
"It is modern c-store meets café meets modern coffee shop, plus rapid delivery mixed in," said Liz Williams, who was recently promoted to CEO. She joined the Chicago-based company in June of last year as its president and chief financial officer.
"The space is inviting, welcoming and really thoughtful for each of the neighbourhoods that we're in," she told Convenience Store News. "We're so excited about bringing convenience retail and the local café together; we want to create places where people can congregate and enjoy a meal or snack."
At the same time, e-commerce is what the company was founded on nearly 10 years ago and so when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, rapid delivery really kicked off at its stores. "Our e-commerce core really helped us thrive and since COVID, we've kept the momentum up," Williams said. All Foxtrot stores offer five-minute pickup, 30-minute delivery of goods from its locations through the Foxtrot App or website, and nationwide shipping via Foxtrot Anywhere.
Company co-founder, former CEO and current chairman Mike LaVitola credits Williams, who has roots in the food and beverage industry, with taking Foxtrot to new heights and new neighbourhoods. She will oversee continued growth of the brand within its current markets, as well as in new markets across the country.
"We continue to alter the format based on neighbourhood and local needs," Williams explained, noting that the team recently learned that some locations would benefit from adding more seating space, while others needed more grab-and-go food factored into the mix. The retailer quickly adjusted accordingly.
"Some sites had customers that wanted to congregate more, and some needed more on-the-go delicious foods and snacks," she said. "In both cases, there was less of a need for take-home ingredients, which we cut back on. Store by store, that's been the macro trend."
[Read more: "Foxtrot promotes Liz Williams to CEO"]
During the height of the pandemic, more consumers were cooking at home and seeking out a convenient place to pick up grocery items, which Foxtrot accommodated. But now, the need state has reverted to pre-pandemic times, according to Williams. "Our lives somehow got hectic again, and it's more of a grab-and-go world," she said.