Grab impulse sales with the right menu mix

October 19, 2016

Grab impulse sales with the right menu mix

Operators partner with branded snack suppliers to maximize merchandising, marketing opportunities.

Brand-name snacks can help operators differentiate themselves from competitors, add an aura of quality to a menu, drive customer loyalty and lead to incremental sales.

Working with snack food suppliers, operators can optimize their limited assortments and craft promotions that drive sales and traffic.

For most operators, offering snacks should be a no-brainer — 81 percent of consumers are eating snacks at least once a day, according to research from Wichita, Kan.-based marketing firm Sullivan Higdon & Sink. Among millennials frequent snacking throughout the day is even more common, with 44 percent saying they snack a few times a day or more, SHS reports in “Snacker Nation,” a white paper from the agency’s FoodThink research initiative.

“Operators should be working with their suppliers to make sure their snack offerings are hitting on key consumer motivators that are driving snacking behavior,” says Christy Niebaum, senior FoodThink researcher.

Those motivators include a desire for “fun” and variety in their food choices — 63 percent of consumers say snacking allows them to have fun, and 55 percent say it allows them to try different things, the FoodThink research says.

Operators say working closely with branded snack suppliers helps them capitalize on the products’ built-in appeal.

“We partner with trusted brands,” says Michael J. Manzo, chief operating officer at Jersey Mike’s, the Manasquan, N.J.-based sandwich chain. “I believe it brings incredible value when consumers see those names across the counter.”

As a quick-service sandwich concept, Jersey Mike’s has little room for in-store merchandising, but features its partner brands prominently using signage, on its website and in its email blasts.

Refining assortment

Noncommercial operators similarly tend to have minimal space available for snack merchandising, but make the best of what space they do have by narrowing their selection down to the top selling items from the top manufacturers.

Gregory McCall, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Chattanooga, Tenn.-based Five Star Food Service, which provides vending, micromarkets, coffee and dining services for corporate accounts, says his company meets with top snack companies and brokers twice a year to refine the planograms it uses to merchandise snacks in its micromarkets.

“We’ll have them come in and present all of their new items, and our folks will test their product for taste profile, look at pricing, and also any advertising that the supplier is doing in the marketplace that might help us draft off of that,” he says.

The micromarkets themselves run about 50 promotions a year, which can include point-of-sale signage offering discounts and messages at the self-checkout kiosks.

As new snack products are introduced in between planogram reviews, Five Star evaluates them to identify potential “home run” items, and tries to cut them into the planogram.

Sometimes it merchandises snacks in shippers — temporary cardboard displays provided by the manufacturer. “A shipper is a great way to actually try a product out for a month and promote it, and in some cases, we will decide to bring that item in for full distribution,” McCall says.

Five Star also is sometimes leveraging the display shipper opportunities it identifies for its micromarkets by bringing them into its on-site dining accounts.

“It makes perfect sense to have in-and-out promotions with snack items that have really strong brands,” says McCall.

Five Star also is testing 40-inch TV screens that display promotional messages in 10 of its micromarkets, and is preparing to test them in its foodservice venues as well. The screens could carry ads from suppliers, according to McCall.

Impulse displays

The company is also experimenting with new snack impulse displays at the cash registers of its dining venues. The displays, which hold about 15-25 items, could end up carrying a mix of both branded snacks from manufacturers and items made in-house, such as cookies, muffins and donuts.

“We are in the process of finding those key items that we can bring in through our foodservice distributors that we can merchandise in those racks right next to the cashier,” says McCall.

Jersey Mike’s also recently discussed with its branded cookie supplier the possibility of creating special display racks at checkout to help drive impulse sales. The chain also features a “cookie for a rookie” promotion that offers a free snack for first-time customers.

When it comes to promoting branded chips and beverages with its sandwiches, Manzo says Jersey Mike’s is active in promoting its branded partners in email blast promotions. In the first quarter of next year, Jersey Mike’s is planning to launch a combo-meal promotion that includes a sandwich, chips and a beverage for a special price. The promotion tested well at the company’s Florida stores, according to Manzo.

“Our cashiers and crew members did a nice job of promoting it,” he says, noting that employee-customer interaction can be helpful in promoting products such as snacks and beverage brands.

“We try to encourage them to banter, and to have a dialog,” says Manzo. “Rather than just saying, ‘Would you like to supersize that?’ We like to get more involved with the transaction, [saying things like] ‘This is my favorite chip; would you like to try it?’”

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