Convenience retailing is an increasingly important component of a college dining program that NACUFS has recognized annually with its Best in the Business C-Store Awards, presented at the annual NACUFS Conference. The awards are separated into five categories that focus on different aspects of store innovation, from design and renovation to merchandising, prepared foodservices and product mix. (The judging committee for the 2013 awards included Dean Wright of Brigham Young University, John Lawn and Tom McIntyre from Food Management and Convenience Store Decisions magazines and Jason Gilbert from sponsor PepsiCo.)
NEW STORE DESIGN INNOVATION AWARD
District Market, University of Washington
Opened: September 2012
Size: 17,000 sq.ft.; Gross Sales/Day: $27,000
District Market is a complete grocery store located on the street level of a brand new 588-bed residence hall. It includes full-sized spaces for dairy, meat/seafood, produce, bulk nuts/candy, housewares and other traditional categories, plus a complete in-store café and a full-service deli.
The store sources local artisanal products, organic produce (using a state contract that allows it to sell for less than what local privately owned chain groceries do), organic milk and cheese, non-homogenized milk in glass bottles that students return for a refund, fair trade organic chocolate, organic breads and freshly roasted whole bean coffee varieties. These are locally custom-roasted from imported green coffee beans. The fresh fish and meats are sourced from local farms and sustainable fisheries.
The store is located in a dense housing area with UW-managed residence halls and apartment complexes, and administrative, support services, academic building and research facilities nearby. The Market also supports private local housing, since the closest commercial markets of comparative size are more than six blocks away.
The Market was part of UW’s strategic plan to support new residential construction on the west end of the campus.
THE HYBRID C-STORE AWARD
Sunshine Market, University of California-San Diego
Opened: 2008; Gross Sales/Day: $12,000
Sunshine Market has a 34-year history at the University of California-San Diego, but has been at its current location only for the past five. A renovation last year has boosted daily sales by about 20% by adding an in-store coffee grinder and private label coffee program. It also added an improved layout with end caps that feature high-ring, high-margin impulse items located where customers queue up.
The store aggressively merchandises its natural, gluten-free, vegan and fair trade products. To stay fresh and appealing, it also frequently introduces and promotes new items and product lines via social media. Sampling is conducted extensively and the feedback used to determine product mix.
The store also offers hot dogs, soup, a 24-ft. grab-and-go cooler with sandwiches and salads, 18 beverage doors, a pastry case with cookies baked in store and private label spring water and snack lines.
UPDATING YOUR EXISTING C-STORE AWARD
Tween The Pages, University of Georgia
Opened: 1980; Gross Sales/Day: $2,000-$2,500
Located in the Main Library as one of eight c-stores operated by UGA Dining Services, Tween the Pages received a full renovation over the summer of 2012. The makeover doubled the retail space and changed the venue from a simple grab-and-go eatery dispensing prepackaged cold-cut deli sandwiches, bottled drinks and sweet/salty snacks to one also offering specialty coffee and gourmet hot food using a hoodless high-speed toaster oven.
The menu now includes specialty coffees featuring the local Jittery Joes roast coffees, fresh Angus burgers, Nathan’s hot dogs, chicken biscuits, specialty salads, calzones and daily hot specials like baked ziti and chili.
The renovation also added a kiosk that allows customers to order while customizing their choices. They can then browse and select add-ons while waiting for their name to be called that their order has been completed. They then pay at a new DSL connected touch-screen register that is much faster than the old dial-up system used previously.
The renovated Tween the Pages has seen a 28% increase in sales with an increase in check average from $3.00 to $3.47.
MERCHANDISING YOUR RETAIL VENUES AWARD
Cascadia Market, Oregon State University
Opened: September 2012; Gross Sales/Day: $5,500
Size: 3,000 sq.ft
Cascadia Market, OSU’s campus grocery store, was designed to provide students and staff with the same experience that they would get in full commercial grocery stores. Since its partial opening in its new location in 2011 and full launch last September, sales have quadrupled over what the store had been generating previously.
The inventory features a full gamut of grocery product categories. Twenty feet of refrigerated produce space features locally grown items as well as exotic fruits and vegetables considered comfort food for many international students. The full service deli provides made to order sandwiches, a hot foods selection, home meal replacement items and a soup bar featuring premium local flavors.
The grocery aisles feature traditional items found at community grocery stores with special emphasis on gluten- and dairy-free, vegetarian and international foods, allowing students to supplement their meal choices from the dining centers. The store was designed to provide ingredients as well as ready to eat foods that give the campus community an opportunity to have more control over what they are consuming.
FOODSERVICE APPLICATION AWARD
Market 16 & Noodle Bar, Drexel University
Opened: September 2012
Size: 4,500 sq.ft.
Located on the first floor of Drexel’s 800-stall parking garage, Market 16 has transformed the high-traffic corner into a high-volume dining location, with sales through the first half of its first year of operation totaling more than $360,000.
A serving bar retailing custom-made noodle bowls, sushi and tea is the signature touch. It generates about 35% of location sales.
The market itself carries a selection of food products from around the globe, including exotic items like Thai instant noodles, Korean seaweed with wasabi, Italian crackers and black truffle sauce, French baguette bites and black cherry fruit spread, Spanish caperberries, English lemon curd and Indian chana masala.
There are also traditional groceries as well as specialty items like kosher and gluten-free. A series of seating options ranging from counter seats and barstools to storefront seating and a community table facilitate lingering and social interaction.
New Store Design Innovation: California State Polytechnic University-Pomona – Pony Express @ CBA
Updating Your Existing C-Store: University of Oklahoma – Xcetera
The Hybrid C-Store: Ohio University – Nelson Market
Merchandising in Your Retail Venues: Vanderbilt University – The Campus Store