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Best Convenience Retailing Concept: College takes retail services off campus

Best Convenience Retailing Concept: College takes retail services off campus

Each year Food Management honors operations for excellence and innovation in our Best Concepts awards program. Read more on this year’s winners.

A catering outlet definitely off the beaten campus path—it’s in an old bank building about a mile from the main campus of Brigham Young University (BYU)—Food To Go combines convenient pickup with last-minute flexibility for customers. A drive-thru area allows cars to pull up and have their preordered catering requests loaded, while the former bank foyer works like a retail store where customers can come in and get what they need, from dairy to bakery items, without the need to preorder.

Food To Go replaced an older catering outlet facility located on the BYU campus last November and has since generated a 20 percent increase in sales. The retail portion of the store alone does about $4,700 a week in business, says Kirk Rich, general manager of hospitality and restaurants for BYU Dining. 

“The previous location sat in the midst of student housing on campus and didn’t really fit that area,” Rich says. “It was hard to get to, it didn’t have a permanent address, and those were all challenges for our customers. Now we have a street address, we’re located on a street, signage is available and I think that has helped us increase our sales.”

The location where Food To Go now sits already had several other BYU properties, including a recreation center and a museum, and both now share a parking lot with the catering outlet. “We already owned two buildings there, so when the bank building became available the university purchased it,” Rich says.

The biggest convenience the new location offers is the drive-through for preorders. “They don’t even have to get out of the car. We bring their packages out to them,” he says.

About three-quarters of the business currently comes from off-campus customers such as local businesses that use Food To Go for meetings and employee gatherings.

“Most of our campus customers want deliveries while most off-campus [business] is pick-up unless it’s a really large order,” Rich says.

The retail store, which is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. six days a week (Monday to Saturday) mainly stocks BYU-produced items, either milk-based products from the school’s own dairy operation or bakery items and packaged foods like sandwiches and salads made in the campus commissary that are trucked over daily. 

A growing product line is soup in quart containers, Rich says, an option that has become a favorite item for older couples who find it a convenient and comforting evening meal for two all year. BYU’s tomato basil soup, a traditional favorite in the school’s dining halls, is especially popular, he notes.

The stock carried in the store has grown since its initial opening to meet customer requests for grocery staples like bread and eggs. Food To Go also now carries raw meats like roasts and chicken. 

When it first opened, the store was merchandised with door hangers on nearby homes and businesses, including a coupon for a gallon of BYU milk, but the store’s location on a fairly busy street (a major artery leading to the BYU campus) where its signage is clearly visible helps generate awareness.

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