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Dom Casby light

BP is elevating its convenience offer big time. The fuel giant has pledged to pour $15billion into convenience and EV [electric vehicle] charging globally over the next seven years.

“The level of investment signals it all, to be honest,” says convenience offer director Dom Casby. “Convenience is a big priority for BP, it’s one of our five strategic transition growth engines, along with EV charging; hydrogen; bio energy; and renewables & power. Our ambition by 2030 is to double our convenience gross margin and that looks like 10% year-on-year growth and an increase of our strategic convenience sites globally to 3,500.”

And how will this be achieved? “We spent a lot of time talking to our customers in the UK and Europe … we asked them what they want today and in the future,” says Casby.

He claims it comes down to three basic requirements: food for now; groceries; and cleanliness coupled with accessibility.

Pre-packed food to go is well catered for thanks to the firm’s tie up with M&S, which has seen the retailer present at the majority of BP’s 300+ company-owned sites. Meanwhile, its Wild Bean Cafe already offers a solid snack food selection featuring breakfast baps, pastries and paninis. But the transition to electric cars is opening up a new opportunity for a more premium offer, explains Casby.

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“What we’re envisaging in the future is as we put more and more EV charging down, we’ll have more customers spend longer on our sites. We already see that customers when they’re charging do tend to spend more with us and we envisage that to be the case in the future. So we’re trying to make sure we build great food to go offers to capitalise on that higher basket spend. Of course it’s early days, we don’t know if it’s going to definitely play out that way, but that’s what we’re hoping to achieve. We’re just focused on building compelling offers that will mean they want to spend more with us.”

And so the firm is trialling a selection of foods freshly prepared on site. “Food for now is … where the biggest room for improvement is,” says Casby. 

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Having trialled a host of food for now lines at sites in Holborough, Snodland, and Byron, North Finchley, last year, by the end of this month, 10 new Wild Bean Cafes in southeast England will be offering a core hero range. Dishes include a Fish Finger Sandwich; Crispy, Herby Chicken Burger; and Avocado, Halloumi & Egg Bap, with customisable bread and sauce options.

“It’s hopefully a level above what people can get elsewhere,” says Casby. “We saw double digit growth in cafe sales and transactions at the first two sites and we were very successful at testing what customers wanted, learning what they’re prepared to pay and working out how we introduce the offers that customers will really value.”

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Further changes will be made to the menu over the coming months. “We’re going to use these ten sites in 2024 to really get it in front of as many customers as possible to learn and we’re pretty sure the menu will evolve over time,” states Casby. “We had a wider menu in those first two sites, so for example, we had things like loaded fries and salads and hot baguettes and there are some items that we will introduce into these sites later.

“But right now we felt the most sensible thing was to take the items that sold the best and get those in front of customers and not overstretch ourselves at this stage.”

So what does the new food to go offer mean in terms of staffing? “The more sophisticated your food service offer becomes, typically, the more labour intensive it becomes,” says Casby. “We are designing it in a way to be as labour efficient as it can be. But we believe that having a great offer is key and if we have the sales to warrant it, then we’ll be willing to put in more labour. It doesn’t come for free is probably the key point, but we’re doing it in a very labour efficient way. In our trial sites we are training existing staff, but we do also need to recruit slightly.”

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In contrast, the firm is targeting its dealer estate, which comprises just under 900 independently owned and operated sites, with its modular self service food to go Wild Bean Micro-market, which takes payment to help reduce queues.

Casby claims that operating self-serve food can pose difficulties for indies. “They quite often have challenges around the code life of products and keeping the product fresh,” he says. “Whereas we think we’ve put the infrastructure in place to enable them to offer a fresh product, baked on site, fresh for customers that day.”

Micro-market modules include coffee, slush, smoothies, milkshakes, and hot food to go. “It’s a fully integrated, modular design so retailers can choose which elements will work best in their stores,” says Casby. “I think in total there’s over 54 varieties of drinks and flavours, which is pretty cool! 

“It’s one supply chain, so it makes it very easy for our dealers and BP covers the costs of goods, waste, the consumables and delivery costs, so hopefully a very compelling offer for dealers and very much tailored to their needs.”

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He claims that the system can benefit a variety of different forecourts. “It’s aimed at a range of sites, so it can be those sites with high customer footfall or it can be those sites pressed to recruit enough staff to meet customers’ food and drink needs. So it works at both ends of the spectrum.” 

At the end of 2023, BP had 38 dealers signed up to the franchise offer, with 10 installing the Wild Bean Cafe Micro-market and then 28 sites just taking the coffee unit. 

“Our aim is to roll out the [Micro-market] franchise offer to 100 more dealer sites in 2024,” says Casby. “The reason we’re excited about it is … that where we had dealers that just had a coffee offer before with us and then we’ve added food, we’ve seen a 60% uplift in their coffee sales. So not only are they getting the growth from food, they’re getting a much bigger uplift in coffee and that for us is the winning combination that we can offer that other people can’t - food and coffee self-serve in a franchise offer. Those sites are now doing more than 80 cups per day. We think it’s got huge potential and hopefully our dealers will see the same.”