With no end to the coronavirus pandemic in sight, consumers are staying close to home and developing new habits. Most people are eating out less and looking for ways to buy groceries safely by avoiding large crowds and trusting that where they shop is taking every precaution to follow health and safety guidelines.
As a result, convenience stores have seen an increase in shoppers stopping in for prepared foods usually purchased at traditional food service stores. According to one study, 44% of retailers expect to end 2020 with increased food service sales. This change in consumer behavior is an opportunity for c-store retailers to meet consumer demand while building a strong and lasting customer experience.
Many retailers have expanded their services to include online shopping, curbside or fuel-pump pickup and home delivery. Regardless of how customers are served, to thrive both now and beyond the coronavirus pandemic, c-stores are figuring out how to implement long-lasting safety solutions that are transparent and feel natural to their customers.
Customers want to trust that places they shop are taking every possible precaution to keep both customer and staff safety at the forefront their business. Ensuring staff safety includes new precautions such as temperature checks, mandatory mask- and glove-wearing, new cleaning procedures and other modified systems. Antimicrobial gloves, for example, give staff a measure of germ protection that is visible to customers, but with the added benefit of allowing managers to allocate hard-to-procure disposable gloves for vital tasks. Seeing a sanitized surface label, which is applied by staff to newly cleaned, high-touch surfaces, can also be reassuring.
In the the same study, 84% of respondents said that installing social distancing markers was at the top of the list of ways to protect customers and employees from contracting the virus and limiting spread. Wall signs and floor decals that demonstrate proper social distancing and easily adhere to various hard indoor floor surfaces serve to remind customers and staff to keep a safe distance between themselves and others.
Additionally, 59% of the survey’s respondents said that implementing other protective measures, particularly at self-service areas, is key. The availability of hand sanitizer in such areas provides staff and shoppers with an extra measure of protection—and peace of mind.
Food delivery is still not widespread among c-stores, but it has become more prevalent during the pandemic. While delivery requires the least amount of contact in a food service transaction, tamper-evident labels such as the TamperSeal line can further help ensure the safe delivery of food items. TamperSeal labels feature security slits that cause the label to lose its integrity if someone attempts to open the container. If the seal is broken prior to delivery, it is a clear indication that the food may have been tampered with. This label system also guarantees that food is appropriately labeled and handled, so customers feel safe eating c-store grab & go products.
By using these and other products, c-store operators can demonstrate to customers how they are working to ensure the safety of their employees, the food they sell, and their customers. The COVID-19 crisis will end at some point, but by making necessary changes now, stores can ensure that customers will remember their experience and continue to return where they know it is safe—even after the pandemic is over.
Article originally appeared on the CSP website.