How to deal with meals

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Meal deals can come in many formats, but most c-store retailers will have at least one. Here our C-Store Champions discuss their benefits

Rav Garcha, owns five Nisa stores in the Worcestershire area

Rav says that meal deal success is all about offering customers variety to keep them interested.

Dan Cocks, Whitstone Stores, Cornwall

Now the extension to his store is officially open, Dan is concentrating on developing his evening meal solutions, including meal deals

Barry Matthews, manager, Spar Poyntzpass, County Armagh

Barry says that offering meals for tonight for busy mums is a huge part of his business.

Paul Cheema, co-owns three Malcolm’s Stores in the Coventry area

The Nisa frozen meals as well as his own dinner and drinks deals prove successful in Malcolm’s stores.

What meal deals do you have in your store/s?

Rav: We have our Subway franchise so there’s a number of meal deals available through that, plus people have the ability to create their own. Customers are familiar with that format and it’s a good solution. Then all of our stores have different variations of the ‘crisps, drinks and sandwich’ for a set price. In our largest store in Shrewsbury we have the space to offer different meal deals for different times of the day, so we have lunch, dinner and after-school deals. This ensures we are all things to all people. Our crisps, drink and sandwich deal is £3. The after-school meal changes each day as we’ve found that if you have a fixed selection of goods available all week you won’t sell much of it. It’s important to provide shoppers with inspiration for each day, but that does involve some effort from us in thinking what they might want that day. For example, on a Monday we might offer pasta with sauce, chicken and a side; then Tuesday we might do a pizza with a large drink and some peppers and onions to add to the pizza. Then Wednesday might be curry night – we have a local supplier of Indian curries who makes meal bags which contain a couple of curries, naan and rice for £3. We have a lot of people come in just for those. Thursday could be fish with fish sauce, veggies and maybe a dessert; and Friday we do something a bit more expensive with a bottle of wine. On top of that, for the past three or four months Nisa has been doing a frozen meal deal that offers a main meal, side and ice cream for £5 or £10.

Dan: It’s all change at the moment as we have extended our food service offer, but that aside we have the usual sandwich, crisps and drink for £4. We have a Costa Express machine and we offer a coffee and a cake for £3, which provides the customer with a 50p discount, and we also do a hot pasty, coffee and cake for £5, which is a great lunchtime deal. They’re fairly basic offers which most stores have and we are concentrating more now on providing evening meal solutions. One Premier promotion we have at the moment is the Sharwoods curry mix and rice and poppadums, which we merchandise alongside fresh meats so people can also buy their chicken for a further discounted price.

Paul: We have Nisa’s frozen meals for £5 or £10, which are based around an ice cream product. We also have our dinner meal for two with drinks deals. We vary this from one promotional period to the next, but it can include two Indian meals, a naan and two bottles of Avera beer for £10, or a fajita kit, chicken and a four-pack of Corona for £10. We created these in partnership with the guys from the brewery as a link deal to provide inspiration to shoppers.

Barry: Our meal deals are catered towards the busy housewives or busy households in general. People can come into the store and mix and match two meals for set prices, or a meal and side for a set price. We have our chippy evenings on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings where we offer a family feast for £10. Families can get a portion of fish, a portion of sausages, a portion of chicken bites and two portions of chips for £10. This is all made to order so it’s very fresh, and while people are waiting for their food they can wander round the store and pick up more items.

What are the business benefits of providing these deals?

Rav: It definitely increases footfall and increases the perception of good value for money. People are coming in especially for that frozen meal deal now, because it’s such a great deal. It might include a tub of Ben & Jerry’s that would usually cost £4 on its own, and in the meal it’s like you’re getting it for £1 or less, so it’s fantastic value. Customers are also more likely to come to your store if they know you can offer them inspiration and ease of shop. I’m finding that parents are coming in with their kids after school and they are lost for what to get for dinner, so they really appreciate us offering them inspiration and one clear price for the whole meal.

Dan: They increase customer satisfaction because they provide the appearance of good value for money. It also increases turnover and cash profit.

Paul: The biggest benefit is that it increases basket spend as we are encouraging people to buy drinks as well as meals. It’s also important to provide inspiration to shoppers and keep the offering interesting.

Barry: The benefit is that you create value for money for the shoppers and reasons for them to return. Also, if they feel they are getting good value for money then they are more likely to pick up extra items while they’re in the store. In the society we live in we have moved away from the weekly grocery shop and now people do a basket shop four or five times a week, so these fresh meal deals are the way consumers like to shop.

How did you choose the price point?

Rav: The price point for Nisa’s frozen meal deals are obviously chosen by Nisa. With the crisps, drink and sandwich deals, I didn’t choose the £3 price point as such, but we are living in an age where the £3 meal deal exists and we have to be able to match our competitors. But it’s not all about price, it’s also about inspiration and ease of shop. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a great price, but if you’re providing the customer with everything they need for that evening’s dinner in one hit, that’s appealing to them.

Dan: I get inspiration from trade magazines, which give great insights into best practice. But really the price has to be based on your shopper demographic and your pricing policy. You have to provide a discount without taking away too much from your margins. Generally, even though you are getting a lower margin you are selling a higher volume thanks to the promotion, so it balances out.

Paul: We felt it should either be £5 or £10 and with the value of the components in the deal it had to be £10 – and that’s providing a better deal than they would get if they bought each item separately. It wasn’t the M&S ‘two dine in for £10’ that inspired that idea, but we do take a lot of inspiration from there and Waitrose when it comes to meal deal ideas.

Barry: We only opened in February 2016 and there is no competition within 10 miles of the store, so there was no one for guidelines. We very much started from scratch when choosing our prices. We sat down and worked out all our costs, including packaging and labour, and decided what prices offered good value and what allowed us to make a profit.

Do meal deals work better at specific times of day, or for particular shoppers?

Rav: It’s important to be aware that not everyone needs their meals at the same time of day. Builders start their working day at 6am and they will need what you would consider to be lunch at about 9 or 10am, so you have to be able to offer a sandwich or pasty with Red Bull and coffee. If it’s a week day then it’s all about the lunch and dinner, but at the weekend it’s all about the breakfast.

Dan: It tends to be the working person who will come in for the lunchtime deals and the mothers who come in looking for inspiration for dinner that evening. People are generally much less organised when it comes to their food shop these days. They no longer do a weekly shop with a list of ingredients; they come in to grab dinner for that night and they don’t know what they want when they enter.

Paul: Because we are located on a housing estate the evening meal is the main occasion our shoppers are coming in for, so the key period for us is between 5pm and 7pm.

Barry: Being in a rural village environment with a couple of schools nearby and no offices, the lunch meal deal solution isn’t something that would be greatly popular here; the main time people come in is on their way home from work, to pick up their dinner for the night.

What are your plans for the future?

Rav: At the Nisa trade show I was talking to some suppliers of more premium sandwiches and salads and now I’m thinking of offering a more complex lunch meal deal as well with more options available.

Dan: With the newly extended store we will offer free top-ups of hot drinks with certain breakfasts and we will have a specific price for two courses. We will also have deals to bring people from the retail side, into the food service side – if you spend so much on your shopping then you get a discount on the coffee shop, for example.

Paul: We will just be concentrating on keeping our meal deals fresh in order to inspire shoppers.

Barry: To continue improving our offer and providing our shoppers with everything they need. Our aim is to be everything to everyone.

Logistics

What is the key to running them successfully?

Rav: To keep changing the items involved in the deals and keep it interesting and inspiring.

Dan: Promoting the deals using social media and POS throughout the store is important.

Paul: Keep varying the deal and keep it interesting. I think the round price point works well for us, but I don’t think it’s essential.

Barry: The key is to listen to your shoppers and make sure you’re providing them with what they want. We will change our offering to suit our shoppers and they know and appreciate that. It’s also important to keep the offering fresh from one day to the next and communicate the deals clearly through POS.

Promotions

How do you promote these deals?

Rav: We’ve been talking to Nisa about the frozen deal and how to promote it and they’ve created a video of the meal deal for us to simply drag and drop into our social media feeds. I post that on our Facebook and Twitter page and it’s in the leaflet that’s dropped to people’s homes. We also use a lot of POS throughout the store to make it very clear what the deals are that we are running and to offer inspiration such as ‘just add chicken’ or ‘just add mince’ next to our pasta and pasta sauce.

Dan: Social media is a big one for our store. I post on Facebook frequently. We also have multipoint POS material and digital media screens in store.

Paul: We have social media, displays in store and we have the Hi! Street Digital Media screens to promote deals.

Barry: I promote them mostly through our popular Facebook page, which has 2,000 likes, and through word of mouth.

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