Cool Crisp Profits
By Meline Beach
You don’t have to be vegan or vegetarian to enjoy a medley of plant-based ingredients showcased in a freshly made salad.
With a little creativity, you can top it with nuts, seeds, eggs, beans, cheese, fish, or meat to add some protein to the mix. Drizzled with dressing and you have yourself a work of art that’s cross-cultural, colourful, flavourful, and suitable for any occasion as a side dish or meal by itself.
Many c-stores include salad as part of the foodservice program. Made fresh on order or available as a grab-and-go option from the cooler, salads are a year-round simple or complex culinary creation of choice for countless consumers.
Fresh is best
“Salads are a great way to attract new customers,” says Joseph Belcastro, general manager of Classic Group of Companies. With roots dating back to 1962 and four divisions serving the foodservice industry, Classic Group knows a thing or two about fresh salads. “Fresh is the most important thing when bringing salads into the market. Green lettuce, fresh vegetables, and great presentation. Ask your distributor if they have ready-made salads, but if not, then inquire with a local commissary.”
Classic Group’s salads have a three-to-five-day shelf life to ensure optimum freshness. Salads, especially green leaf varieties, are very delicate. Maintaining a consistent fridge temperature is also key, especially in the summer months.
Ping Tan, owner and operator of Tanny’s Convenience in Matheson, Ontario, has been serving salad as part of her foodservice program for several years. She orders her salad fixings from Gordon Food Services, a family-operated, North American foodservice distributor, established in 1897, and assembles her menu items in her store’s newly expanded kitchen. Fresh produce, including deli leaf lettuce, is one of the many salad ingredients they offer, noting that some foods require time and temperature control to safely avoid bacterial overgrowth and the spread of food-borne illness.
“Fresh presentation is very important,” says Tan, who discards any salads that don’t sell within two days. “We focus on fresh and clean ingredients and our customers prefer we keep it simple, not fancy.”
“When it comes to salad, everything is fair game,” says Troy Boyko, director of sales at Gordon Food Service. “Put a cheeseburger on a salad, now it’s a cheeseburger salad. It’s really up to a chef’s creativity that defines what goes in a salad. The possibilities are endless.”
Garden, Greek, Caesar, coleslaw, macaroni, potato, and fruit salad are just a few of the varieties that Tan serves fresh regularly. The most popular is her chicken Caesar salad wrap which appeals to the miners and office workers who represent a high percentage of her customer base and frequent her store before their shift or during their lunch period. Tan makes a couple of portions (sized small and large) of three to four different kinds of salads daily as grab-and-go options displayed in the cooler. Their snack pack of fresh-cut vegetables with ranch dressing is also popular with customers.
Classic Group, through its Classic Touch Foods division, has a team of well-trained professional chefs who focus on exceptional flavour and innovation, including menu customization and development for customers across wholesale/retail outlets, including convenience stores.
“We offer grilled chicken Caesar salad, garden salad, Greek salad, chef salad, fruit salad, potato salad, Italian pasta salad, marinated bean salad, and quite a few others,” says Belcastro. “Our most popular are grilled chicken Caesar, Greek, chef, fruit, and potato salads.”
In terms of seasonal preferences, Belcastro says their green leaf salads are very popular through the spring and summer seasons but slow down in the fall and winter months. “A rotation that includes other salads, such as potato salad or pasta salad is more beneficial.”
Placement, marketing, and promotion
When it comes to boosting sales, Belcastro advises that salads are placed in a position easily seen by customers. “They need to be promoted and easily accessible. Without promotion, a customer may never know that they’re there and if they’re surrounded by drinks and other items then they can get lost in the shuffle.”
Prominently located in an open area of her store, Tan’s foodservice counter is clean and visually appealing. She leverages her store’s website, Facebook page, and in-store communications, including a chalkboard menu and TV monitor as a means of promoting her foodservice program with customers. Consider posting good quality photos of your salad offerings, along with encouraging customer testimonials. With limited budgets available, word-of-mouth advertising is the best form of endorsement.
Knowing your customers is an important factor when marketing to their needs. Features like low-fat or fat-free, low-sodium, low-carb, or cholesterol-free might be of interest. As food is a big part of our everyday lives, showcasing fresh food effectively sparks interest, builds appetites, and creates loyalty.
For a suggested retail price of $6.99 to $10.99, salads are a profitable item for c-stores. With good quality fresh ingredients, the right level of variety and customization, ideal in-store placement, along with effective marketing and promotion, customers will know where to go for their fresh veggie fix.
Meline Beach is a Toronto-based communications practitioner and frequent contributor to Convenience & Carwash Canada. In addition to freelance writing, Meline provides communications and public relations support to businesses across Canada. She can be reached at www.mlbcomms.ca