David Mostovoy

Recent Posts

How Domino’s Plans to Stay Ahead

By David Mostovoy

Screen Shot 2017-05-16 at 11.25.09 AM.png

Image Source: Google

While other pizza chains struggle, Domino’s is thriving (Over 1300% stock price increase since IPO in 2004). That’s the subhed of this story on investment site The Motley Fool. Shares of Domino’s Pizza jumped more than 11% in October, according to data by S&P Global Market Intelligence. The pizza chain jumped 13% in same-store sales in the third quarter, making it the 22nd consecutive quarter of positive growth for its U.S. business. Domino’s is making bank, too, with net income rising to 24.8% year over year to $47.2 million in the third quarter.

We’ve already discussed what Domino’s is doing right in tech. Through an array of digital platforms, customers can quickly and efficiently place an order. In fact, more than 50% of Domino’s business comes from digital orders, compared to about 20% for the industry as a whole.

Those who have followed Domino’s transformation during the past couple of years know their success is not luck or coincidence. They’re a company that has invested heavily in technology and marketing, and realize how the two go hand-in-hand. Moreover, Domino’s has its operations down to a science, from the Pizza Tracker once an order is placed, to delivery. Combine that with a revamped and innovative menu, and Domino’s has created a recipe for success.

It’s also worth noting that Domino’s recently made history when it completed the first commercial pizza delivery by drone in New Zealand. The company is excelling in overseas markets as well, with same-store sales rising 6.6%—an impressive 91st consecutive quarter of international comps growth.

What Comes Next

When you’re experiencing the kind of success Domino’s is seeing, it can be tempting for a company to rest on its laurels. Complacency is one of the most dangerous states for a brand. Domino’s has avoided this by continually innovating in not only what customers can see, but also what they can’t see.

Domino’s franchises are using Zenput to maintain high customer satisfaction standards, food safety, and quality. Zenput mobile solution provides Domino’s the ability to audit operations, labor activities, and cash uses. Zenput is also a real-time notification tool that enables two-way communication between stores and management. For instance, Zenput can be used to audit vehicle inspections, request maintenance or supplies, and communicate customer or property incidents. From the top-down, senior district managers can use Zenput to assign tasks to his/her stores and track compliance among those locations. Domino’s has even used Zenput for customer care phone audits.

All of these components are part of customer service, and exceptional customer service—quite simply delivering a hot pizza to a hungry customer in time—is what will continue to set Domino’s apart from the competition. And Zenput plans to continue providing the real-time insights that will help Domino’s improve its business decisions.

To learn more about how one of the largest Domino’s operators uses Zenput to manage daily tasks and improve store productivity, download the case study.

Topics: Restaurants

What McDonald’s Needs to Learn from Starbucks’ Mobile App

By David Mostovoy

mcdonalds vs. starbucks.jpgOne of my least favorite phrases is “victim of its own success.” For instance, I remember that was the reason why a popular fireworks show on a riverbank was canceled. It was so popular and drew such large crowds that the police couldn’t handle the public safety demands. It became too costly—a victim of its own success.

I don’t know about you, but if a program is going to fail, I always want it to be an outright flop, not because it’s so popular that the infrastructure needed to make it successful isn’t there. However, that was the headline for Starbucks’ mobile ordering and pay app. By the numbers, 1,200 U.S. Starbucks locations saw a 20% jump in mobile pay and ordering during peak hours, which caused such bottlenecking at the counter, then sales were hampered and foot traffic fell. Let’s just say the spike in traffic got a little too hot for the coffee giant.

But a 20% jump in mobile pay and ordering? It’s an excellent problem to have, if you can handle it! As cited in the Chicago Tribune, a Deloitte study revealed that customer visits in fast-food increase by 6% and spending rises 20% when technology is used to place an order. You can see why more and more chains are pushing for mobile ordering.

When I heard that McDonald’s is about to jump on this bandwagon, I started to feel some mild level of concern. This is a chain that isn’t just preparing coffee, but a number of food items, and some of their problems with execution have, in recent years, been well-documented. But CEO Steve Easterbrook seems to understand the challenge ahead. "We've been very mindful that if we're going to be creating demand, can we meet that demand?" he told CNBC. “Can our kitchens keep up and our managers do a great job? So, we will actually link from end to end as you place your order, and it's integrated into our kitchen operation so we can actually meet the demand that we'll be creating, so we're confident there's no hurdles as we grow our business."

The Chicago Tribune reported on some specific adjustments McDonald’s is making as it tries to regain the 500 million U.S. customers it has lost since 2012, when it phased out the Dollar Menu. Kitchen assembly lines are getting shorter to allow for more volume, while rows of order kiosks are being added to scan phones and bring up personalized orders and custom offers. Parking lot spaces will be dedicated for curbside pickup.

Unlike Starbucks, McDonald’s will incorporate location-tracking technology to notify the kitchen when a customer arrives, and to therefore avoid filing an order too early. McDonald’s app will send a notification to mobile customers once they enter the parking lot, giving them a choice about how they pick up their food, counter or curbside. And perhaps the best feature—I say this as someone who once bought movie tickets for the wrong theater—customers can place an order and pick it up at any McDonald’s location. Now THAT is innovation and communication across a chain!

Meeting Operational Needs

Easterbrook has said mobile pay and delivery, which McDonald’s is also expanding, is about “meeting customers where they are.” I think McDonald’s has also learned it’s about meeting their restaurants’ needs where they are—hence all the preparation and store-level updates. From what has been reported, it doesn’t sound like Starbucks took enough precautionary measures to meet the elevated demand. Something was not measured and planned for correctly.

For McDonald’s specifically, this will come down to kitchen and counter execution because for fast-food, it’s really all about the food. Let’s face it: If you were going on a date, are you choosing the ambiance of Starbucks (and assuming it’s not a peak-hour rush) or a McDonald’s? But hey, maybe you ARE going to McDonald’s because you and your date want to try one of those new fresh burgers they’re cooking up. (In that case, you’ve found a keeper and my advice is to get married at the nearest chapel on the way home.)

But seriously, it all comes down to food and whether the customer wants to return. One thing you can say about McDonald’s: When you thought they were against the ropes, they’ve fought back by embracing new opportunities through technology. I’m rooting them on during their comeback.

Food for Thought

Are you a restaurant operator that’s exploring new technologies, particularly mobile technologies?

Zenput is used in more than 9,000 restaurants worldwide. Every day, we enable multi-unit restaurant operators to gain visibility into store operations by tracking and assigning tasks to store employees, identifying store-level problems, and analyzing location data to better understand employee and restaurant productivity.

Check out some of our mobile forms for restaurant operations, and if you have any questions/comments, feel free to reach out!

Topics: Restaurants

How to Stay on the Winning Side of Digital Disruption

By David Mostovoy

digital disrpution.jpg

If your high school was anything like mine, you were required to read the “7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens Workbook”.  I feel like this is very much an early 2000s/Millennial experience (we are the gold-sticker, trophy-loving generation after all).

From the Amazon excerpt: “In this interactive volume, teens will find in-depth tools to improve self-esteem, build friendships, resist peer pressure, achieve goals, get along with parents, and strengthen themselves in many other areas.”

I’m a firm believer that there are some things that can’t be taught in a handbook—like the natural ability to get along with people and not be a complete knucklehead. However, I do agree that improving one’s self-esteem, staying on task, and working towards goals do require some skills that can be improved with time and practice. This handbook, and our freshman year course in Leadership, was designed to prepare us to meet the pressures of being in high school and become young adults in—let’s face it—the traditional sense.

As we sat in that class, little did we know that social media platforms would change our lives forever, whether we realized the impact right away or not. The invention of social media platforms was about to majorly disrupt traditional systems. The idea of a 20-year-old digital influencersomeone who could personally reach more people than the CEO of any given companywas about to be a possibility.

If you think about it, social media platforms are “babies” compared to 100-year-old brands that are now suddenly forced to play by the rules of the digital age. This is what’s referred to as the “digital disruption.” Technology came along and threw a major wrench in traditional notions of advertising and networking. Say what you want about their cultural impact, but social networks might be why you’re reading this story on your phone right now! They get the content to the people.

So now a few years into this disruption, everyone has adjusted and is killing it on these exciting new platforms…right?

As it turns out, not so much.

Most Leaders Are Unprepared for Digital Disruption

To study responses and needs in the age of digital disruption, The Global Center for Digital Business Transformation (DBT Center) surveyed more than 1,000 executives across 20 different sectors. This study had “heavyweight” backing as an initiative of IMD business school, Cisco, and HR consultancy metaBeratung.

Perhaps not surprisingly, 92% of the leaders surveyed said they are feeling the effects of digital disruption, with one third rating the impact as “very significant.” Now here’s where it starts to get a bit uncomfortable for us in the mobile tech space:

-> Less than 20% of respondents indicated that digital technologies, such as analytics, mobile and social media, are fully integrated into their organizations.

->Only about 30% of respondents either rarely or only occasionally use digital tools and technologies.

Moment of truth: Are you trying to be a “cool” brand, yet not exploring options in digital?

While you’re in good company, according to this survey, you could be so much more...effective, if I may borrow the word!

Being a Highly Effective Operator

The DBT Center has identified four competencies and three behaviors that business leaders need in the era of digital disruption. (When 4+3 = 7, you can see why this reminded me of my high school workbook.)

I’ll briefly summarize the “HAVE” competencies:

Humble - Own what you don’t know about digital and seek help from inside and outside your organization.

Adaptable – Adapt or die. If you can’t adapt with new technologies, your competitors will take advantage of your weakness.

Visionary – Keep your “eye on the prize.” What is your end goal in becoming more efficient through technology? Navigating digital disruption can be demanding.

Engaged – Not to keep using cliché phrases, but don’t “lose the forest for the trees.” Your vision is important, but engagement—finding out what works and what doesn’t in practice—is how you’ll bring your business to the next level.

If you’re succeeding at the HAVE competencies, DBT calls you an “Agile Leader.” And when it comes to tech, they run circles around non-agile leaders.

According to the survey:

26% of Agile Leaders use digital tools and technologies frequently, compared to just 7% of non-agile leaders.

28% of Agile Leaders use virtual networks and forums

32% of Agile Leaders seek disruptive approaches to deal with challenges.

It takes an Agile Leader to say, “Hey, you know what? Let’s try something new with tech.” However, the smart Agile Leader has done their homework. Nearly half of those Agile Leaders (42%) said they were making more informed business decisions as the result of three behaviors:

  1.  Well-directed data gathering
  2.  Effective analysis
  3.  Good judgment

And logically speaking, they must occur in that order!

Collecting “well-directed” data starts with the right platform that helps you analyze and make better judgments. The right platform can also improve engagement and interaction throughout your organization.

For instance, a mobile app like Zenput encourages managers and store-level employees to communicate about their everyday challenges in real-time through a streamlined platform. Communicate with tasks and forms, and send a photo or video to get your point across faster. Get out of email and create a better chain of accountability than phone or fax.

The 21st century has arrived and with it, so have digital disruptions. Will you resist the change or start using technology to your advantage?

Topics: Business Operations

Where Yelp Doesn't Help: How to Stop Restaurants from Failing Health Inspections

By David Mostovoy


Once you hear a story (good or bad) about a restaurant, you never quite forget it. For instance, I still remember how my friend walked past a deli she regularly frequented—closed at that hour—to see an employee smoking a cigarette behind the counter. And then there’s my friend in another state who went to order ice cream from a small shop where the employee was a on a cigarette break. The same employee scooped the ice cream without washing her hands. And then I’ve already told you about a friend on the East Coast who was in the awkward situation of attending a company dinner knowing that the restaurant was recently cited for a health citation.

Even though I don’t live in those cities, I still remember these stories well. No city is above these kinds of problems. In fact, I recently saw an article about the 54 businesses that failed health inspections right here in San Francisco.

Now it’s no secret that we San Franciscans love our restaurants. In fact, in 2012 (if you find more current data, drop us a note) real estate website Trulia found that San Francisco is the top city for dining out, with 39.3 restaurants per 10,000 households. So in the grand scheme of things, the restaurants that failed are a small representation of our culinary empire. For those who don’t know how San Francisco’s restaurant rating system works: The city’s Department of Health rates San Francisco restaurants on a 100-point scale that’s similar to school grades. If you score 100 or in the high 90s, you’re the equivalent of an A+ student. But unlike Los Angeles and New York, letter grades aren’t posted in the windows, so it’s less apparent how restaurants scored.

And that’s where a local technology company stepped up to the plate. In 2013, restaurant review site Yelp added San Francisco’s health inspection information to its platform in an effort to improve transparency around food safety. Then, in 2015, Yelp began testing consumer alerts to warn customers about the results of recent health inspections. And in 2016, Yelp began flagging businesses that sued customers for leaving negative reviews.

Bottom line: Technology is changing how people learn about restaurant safety. Yelp brings attention to the problem, and in that way, it’s a great industry watchdog. However, it doesn’t provide the actionable insights that help restaurants fix their problems.

If you are the restaurant operator, you need to use technology to improve your operations. It’s the 21st century—there’s no reason not to! The saying “there’s an app for that,” is absolutely true. Here at Zenput, we set out to develop the app that would help remediate common problems that retailers, including foodservice operators, experience.

Take a closer look with us….

Use Technology to Help the Process of Improving Standards

In a related posted, I highlighted the 5 standards to uphold in order to maintain a clean restaurant. For every recently cited restaurant—and for other restaurants who are concerned about being named in the future—the issue comes down to staff retraining.

Develop your procedures, disseminate them to managers, train staff, start documenting progress, and follow up on progress. Then “rinse and repeat.”

Maintaining restaurant cleanliness is not only about changing behaviors, but also about making individuals accountable for their own behaviors. If you’re a restaurant operator who is concerned about the time commitment or extra manpower needed to implement these changes, you are probably not considering what’s available to you in the mobile technology space. And if you’re a restaurant operator in San Francisco, that’s where another locally-based technology company, Zenput, is here to help!

Our platform helps restaurant operators communicate better at a store level to improve their execution. Get a bird’s eye view of compliance while also having the ability to virtually check into a store to find out why benchmarks aren’t being met. You don’t need more employees or equipment to do this. You simply empower your current staff with a cloud-based, real-time technology on the mobile device of their choosing.

Whether you want all your managers to review new guidelines with employees, or want a specific location to clean up its act, Zenput allows users to issue those directives and follow up on compliance.

We’re used in 9,000 restaurants and growing… Is your business next?

Click here to see what Zenput offers to restaurant operators.

Topics: Restaurants, restaurant cleanliness, health inspections

How C-stores Can Turn Social Media Interaction into Employee Action

By David Mostovoy


Social media convenience stores

Chances are that your convenience store chain has an active social media presence. Considering that the “big guys” like Wawa, Sheetz and Speedway have well more than 1 million followers, you definitely want to get in on that extra brand visibility, if you haven’t already.

But being on social media is more than just posting your new products and promotions; it’s about being a good community member. And like any other aspect of your operations, it requires a good strategy.

As part of their Social Media Awards, Convenience Store Decisions recently addressed the fact that studying the data of your social media following can pay off when it comes to promotional and partnership opportunities. Data can also help you to understand where your base customer spends the most time, so you can tailor your paid media accordingly to further extend your reach. It can also help you target the social media followers known as “influencers,” the people who share posts. Inviting followers to give their feedback on promotions, offering contests on social media and asking trivia questions are all valuable ways to engage your audience and ensure that visibility.

CSD also discusses the benefits of being an “active listener” on social media. Again, using data can also help you “cut through the noise” of competing viewpoints over a product update or promotion. If you’ve made a decision to change a yearly promotion or pull a product, it could very well be that the complainers are going to be the most vocal. Not overreacting to the naysayers and taking your quieter social media followers into account is important, and data can help inform those decisions and essentially make your brand a better listener.

However, there’s another important part of being an active listener, and that’s being an active responder.

Turning Complaints into Store-Level Action  

How does a convenience store brand respond to a customer complaint? A look at any Facebook comments section for an active retailer shows you plenty of “love” (great for sharing with your audience) and “hate” (wish you could bury it). DO NOT, and I repeat DO NOT, delete negative feedback. There’s nothing worse than being accused of censoring customer feedback because it shows an unwillingness to address real concerns and improve your brand. Plus, no one likes being ignored or flat out rejected!

To that point, streamline your interactions. Most convenience store operators with a regular social media presence are in the habit of asking customers to send them a private message with their contact information. The assumption is that the convenience store operator will offer the customer a coupon or discount off their next purchase. This can turn a negative interaction into a positive outcome that reinforces customer loyalty.

So once you’ve addressed an individual customer’s concern you can close the book on this interaction, right? Not even close!

Chances are that when you’re asking the customer for their personal contact information, you’re also asking them to provide the store number from their receipt. This is a prime opportunity to follow up with the store in question. For instance, if an employee forgot the bacon on a customer’s sandwich, you don’t have to play “Big Brother” and immediately fire off a message directed at that foodservice team. However, if several complaints are being logged against one store, then that indicates a more significant operations problem that’s worth addressing.

With the right platform, you can follow up easily and, if necessary, in real time!

With Zenput, it’s possible for a senior management team to take the social media interactions log, break it down by location and assign tasks to the regional manager and/or store manager. A senior manager may choose to start with a directive to the regional manager: “Multiple customer complaints about missing sandwich components at store #14. Please visit store and report back.” The directive would appear immediately on the regional manager’s mobile device and would remain an open task until they reported back.

Upon investigation at the store level, the regional manager may find a staffing problem or an inventory problem. They could report this in their notes to senior managers, who might then ask the regional manager to address the issue and provide an update in a couple of weeks. Hopefully, in that same time, the resolution will be evident through a lack of customer complaints on social media.

Assigning tasks creates a chain of accountability and improves communication. It’s also collaborative and supports teamwork. If a customer reports that a store manager or employee made their day, be sure that message gets relayed at the store level as well!

Consider taking your social media interactions to the next level by turning comments into real action. Learn more about Zenput’s checklists, audits, forms and reports by clicking here.  

5 Musts for Every Restaurant Inspection

By David Mostovoy

restaurant inspection photo.jpg

When a city’s health department decides to inspect restaurants, they can cover a tremendous amount of ground in what seems like a relatively short amount of time. For example, the Philadelphia Department of Health inspected nearly 500 restaurants, delis and other eateries between Nov. 9 and Nov. 21. Good news for local restaurants: they only found a few serious offenders.

In today’s click-bait world, restaurant health inspection stories seem to be on the rise. The Business Journal publications are especially in tune with the latest reports in various municipalities across the U.S. Some of these journals make it a point to publish the findings as they’re reported. Years ago, if a restaurant was cited for an offense, it could make the paper, but then eventually it would go away. The restaurant would fix the problem, reopen if it had closed, and life would go on. In today’s news environment, bad publicity has a permanent home that’s just a quick search and a click away. It’s imperative for restaurants to not wind up on the “naughty” list anywhere because it can do irreparable damage to their brand.

Based on our experience working with restaurant operators, these are the top 5 things to audit weekly in a restaurant:

  1. Food Safety/Cleanliness – Well, this may get a “duh” response since it’s a restaurant, but you’d be surprised with what turns up in some reports, especially when it comes to food that isn’t stored at correct temperatures. This is one of the most egregious offenses because it’s so simple to avoid, yet so costly to all involved parties if not appropriately addressed. It all comes down to working thermometers (for food storage and cooking of meats), adherence to food preparation guidelines, and adherence to proper cleaning procedures.

 P.S. If the food thermometer issue is a sticking point, you can use the BluTherm food thermometer to digitally record readings, which makes auditing process easier.

  1. Make sure employees are adhering to rules – Because that’s the reality: there are rules that are more than guidelines or suggestions. You may have heard this past week that Hawaii may become the next state (among just a handful) to require food handler certification at either a state or county level. If you are in one of those states, your restaurant audit needs to include employee records. Other routine tasks, that include cleaning and inventory management, must also be accounted for on a regular basis.

  2. Ability to report to management. How many times do you mean to send that email or follow up by phone, but something comes up and suddenly you’re pulled away from the task at hand? It happens to all of us. But not reporting issues as they arise in restaurants is where it can get dangerous or, at the very least, negligent. “If you see something, say something” needs to apply to restaurant operations and managers need real-time tools to confidently report any issues they encounter during audits.

  3. Restaurant condition – To the point of reporting any issues, part of the restaurant audit needs to address the condition of the facility. “Standing water” can appear as a note on a health inspector’s record because it can lead to mold, mildew and invite pests. Routinely check for leaks on the interior/exterior walls, ceilings and other permanent fixtures. Also be sure to check the lighting and utilities like gas and water.

  4. Ensure marketing materials are in compliance – Restaurant audits aren’t just about the nuts and bolts of the facility. Have the menus been updated to reflect the latest items? Is there signage in the store reminding customers of the latest promotion? Are prices accurate? The restaurant audit is the perfect opportunity to check these finer details, as they reflect on your brand.

Zenput is the mobile, cloud-based solution that helps restaurant operators gain location-by-location insight on key metrics and maintain accountability across the organization. Learn more about Zenput’s functionality for restaurant operators by clicking here. 

Topics: Franchise, Restaurants

Contactless Payments: A Passing Fad or Slow Adoption?

By David Mostovoy

NFC pic.jpg

Just a couple of years ago, it seemed like contactless payments—Apple Pay, Android Pay and Google Wallet—were the way of the future. These mobile payment systems rely on near-field communication (NFC) technology. Essentially, holding up your smartphone at the point-of-sale terminal digitizes and replaces the credit-debit card chip and PIN, or the (now outdated thanks to EMV) magnetic-stripe transaction at point-of-sale terminals. Just tap and go, and you’re on your way. Seems easy, right?

So why hasn’t this technology gained more traction? Computerworld recently interviewed industry analysts and asked them that very same question. Nitish Patel of Strategy Analytics narrowed it down to two reasons: 1. Conventional payments are not broken. 2. Consumers aren’t clear on the benefits of switching to mobile payments. Another analyst, Jordan McKee of 451 Research, put it even simpler: Mobile wallets haven’t yet proven they are measurably better than incumbent payment mechanisms, “which generally work quite well,” he added.

Indeed, getting the average U.S. consumer to adopt contactless payment technology may be like teaching an old dog new tricks. I have to admit, recent retailer hacks and ongoing credit/debit card fraud makes me think twice about using my card at certain locations like gas stations. But just because a technology is slow to take off doesn’t mean that it can’t be more widely accepted later. Case in point: the personal computer, which took decades to evolve and gain traction. Analyst Bryan Yeager of eMarketer told Computerworld that he believes we’re still in the early-adopter phase, while yet another analyst believes it will take another three years before NFC payment terminals are widely available in the U.S. Not surprisingly, the biggest adopters of mobile wallets are under the age of 35, according to a study by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Three key facts about mobile payment technology from the Computerworld report:

  1. Not every store accepts mobile wallets.

  2. Coffee chain competitors Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, as well as big-box retailer Walmart, are successfully using QR codes via smartphones for transactions.

  3. NFC payments have yet to integrate with loyalty/rewards programs in a way that incentivizes mass market adoption.

Widescale change may happen only if credit card companies and backing banks get on board because so far, mobile device providers have not yet been able to sway the market by themselves. As convenience store retailers are well aware, the current regulatory and legal environment often puts retailers at the mercy of banks.

The most convenience store retailers can do is keep an open mind and consider adopting new payment technologies. We already see some retailers, including QuikTrip, Sheetz and Buc-ee’s accepting Apple Pay, as reported by CSP. Sheetz and QuikTrip previously backed the retailer-led, mobile-payment effort from MCX, which worked in conjunction with Visa and other major credit cards. However, the MCX platform has struggled to gain traction. Retailers, unfortunately, are just along for the ride at this point.

The key takeaway from the Pew report: The biggest obstacle to mobile payment use is concern about financial security. And it’s not your aging parents or grandparents who are most concerned—Millennials led the pack at 74%!

Where Retailers Are Responsible

While retailers may be at the mercy of payments industry forces, they do have direct control over one important aspect of the point-of-sale: The security of payment terminals.

In a time of transition, when customers are increasingly concerned about adopting new technologies, make payments at your store a secure and smooth process. Security is a pillar of customer loyalty in the 21st century, and there’s simply no excuse for not regularly auditing payment terminals. If retailers regularly conduct POS audits, and are generally transparent about security policies and protocols, they will be better positioned to transition their systems—and their customers—to the next technology.

Zenput helps store-level employees ensure the functionality of payment systems and report issues to senior managers. Learn more about how Zenput helps retailers conduct their own security audits in our whitepaper, “Minimizing the Risk of ATM and Gas Pump Skimming with Security Audits." Or check out our Credit Card Reader Audit – POS Form by scheduling a demo.


ATM Skimming: An Old Battle in Need of a New Solution

Prevent C-store Robberies With Regular Security Audits/Inspections


Topics: payment, nfc

Using Technology to Preempt the C-store Customer’s Path to Purchase

By David Mostovoy


It’s the age-old proposition in the convenience store industry: How do you move customers from the forecourt/gas pump area inside to the store?

There are so many factors here working in tandem. If you write a flowchart, it may look something like this:

Clean, well-lit, inviting environment for the customer to want to fill up →  well-placed and accurate promotional signage → (if available) working TVs/digital signage at the pump.There’s a similar flow inside the store:

Clean, well-lit store → well-placed, accurately priced products and promotions → adequate customer service and POS technology to complete the sale.

You begin to see that upselling to an in-store purchase basically comes down to 3 components:

  1. The manual component: a clean, well-maintained forecourt and a clean, well-stocked store
  2. The technology component: ensures vendor/retailer promotional prices are properly reflected
  3. The labor/staffing component: for exceptional customer service

The reality is that in-store sales software is just that—in-store. It can tell you how many iced teas you sold in the summer, but it’s not going to tell you if the promotional signage in the forecourt told customers they should come inside for a buy-one-get-one free deal. Software won’t tell you if your employees at the foodservice counter promoted the new food item or handled the food with the proper food storage and handling techniques.

Software doesn’t provide information on the environment—it only informs about the result.

Pre-Empting the Result

So who are the retailers that answer the age-old proposition? They’re the ones who manage to pre-empt the result by creating informed processes based on what they know works. They’ve broken the 3 key components down to task management as follows:
  1. Processes to clean the store to maintain a welcoming and safe environment.

  2. Working technology—and that doesn’t necessarily mean digital pumps. It could mean conducting a security audit of payment terminals, especially in a time of targeted criminal activity. These are the kind of safeguards that are crucial to your brand.

  3. Real-time store-level insights that could note staffing levels and any other issues that may occur. Say for a period of a month, you send a district manager to a group of stores to complete an operational audit during the peak time of the weekday. Sample questions could be:

- Are there enough attendants at the pumps?

- Are the foodservice attendants following safe food handling and preparation procedures?

- Are there at least two cashiers manning the registers?

- Are gas pump payment systems secure and showing no signs of tampering?

Using a mobile solution like Zenput, senior management can not only create the audit to ensure key tasks are completed, but they can also customize the parameters and get automatically notifiy the appropriate employees when exceptions arise. These are the actionable insights that help retailers improve their operations and as a result, their bottom lines.

Learn more about Zenput’s real-time retail execution capabilities by clicking here.

See Also:

Converting Your Forecourt into a Moneymaker

Today’s Forecourt: Opportunities to Convert Customers from the Pump

Auditing Branded Gas Station Forecourts Can Increase Supplier Payments 

Topics: C-store

5 Standards to Uphold for a Clean Restaurant

By David Mostovoy

clean restaurant.jpeg

What do you do when you haven’t been at a company very long and your CEO wants to go to a favorite restaurant that was recently flagged for unsanitary practices? Well, because the practices were well publicized, you go and hope they acted on the message. This was the awkward situation a friend of mine on the East Coast found herself in this past week. A restaurant in an upscale New Jersey town was one of the cited offenders, according to inspection reports that were collected and published on NJ.com. So there she was, trying to enjoy dinner, knowing that an inspector had recently discovered there was no hand soap in the kitchen restroom. Yikes!  

But it got worse when she realized her favorite sandwich shop not only lacked hand soap at the sink, but also had no visible thermometer in the reach-in refrigerator. Her favorite sushi destination had an unclean food prep service area and floor. At that point, she was ready to stop reading… but how can you?

Ignorance may be bliss if you’re the customer, but it’s not a happy-go-lucky time for the restaurant owner. It’s embarrassing to be called out for things that are easily recognizable and fixable. Health inspections aren’t a trivia game show with mystery questions—operators know in advance what officials look for prior to inspection. It’s time for smarter operations!

Here are 5 standards you should uphold in order to maintain a clean restaurant:

  1. Develop clear and regular cleaning procedures. Cleanliness is not only a safety issue—in some cases, it could impact the quality and safety of food. Check out this story of an employee in Eugene, OR, who starts off her day by cleaning the oven of a pizzeria.

  2. Make sure store-level employees understand and are constantly reminded of the importance of cleanliness. The general manager from the pizzeria in Eugene has a corkboard that keeps up-to-date with food handler cards, so she can check to make sure her employees’ cards aren’t expired. If they are, she hands them off to her kitchen manager to address the issue. The employees must be re-certified before returning to work.

  3. Start documenting progress. Documentation isn’t just a nice-to-have; it creates a vital paper trail that can be vital in documenting important information. And if you have the right tools, you can go paperless and have all information, including past audits and inspections, stored securely on the cloud.

  4. Track the progress of locations to see which stores are clean, which stores aren’t, and why. Communication is key. The point isn’t to dishearten or shame restaurants into submission. It’s to keep customers satisfied. By educating foodservice employees and encouraging managers to develop effective procedures, restaurant operators can keep their customers consistently coming back for more.

  5. Have the ability to follow up on and fix issues at individual locations. What was the point of conducting an audit in the first place? Health inspectors in my friend’s NJ town and elsewhere will return to make sure restaurants are making progress. When it comes to health regulations, restaurant managers need to follow up once a directive is given. It’s not enough to assume these problems have been resolved. Again, documentation and communication is critical.  

The Takeaway

Creating, distributing, and collecting a baseline audit for cleanliness can be a time-consuming process without the right tools. With Zenput, restaurant operators can create a mobile form, edit, and send it out to the appropriate employees as needed. That form is automatically distributed to employees’ mobile devices, and when they answer each question, the results are aggregated in an easy-to-read dashboard. Moreover, a senior manager can set up real-time notifications of any unsanitary condition discovered during the audit. To ensure accountability, the auditor can upload a photo of a problem and the senior manager can follow up with that store to make sure the issues were resolved.

For more examples on how Zenput helps restaurants uphold standards and clean kitchens, visit Zenput's website or request a demo.

Topics: Restaurants, restaurant cleanliness

Rethinking Product Placement for CPG Vendors

By David Mostovoy

cstore pic.jpg

There’s a local, mom-and-pop convenience in my town that gives me an unsettling feeling every time I visit—in fact, I’ve written about it once before for this blog. I live in a small town off the beaten trail, so my options are limited. The truth is that I never know how much I’m going to pay on any given visit to this store because none of the prices are clearly marked. There is also no “flow” to product placement in this store.

Chips, snacks and candy are scattered around the store, with a non-edible, housewares aisle interrupting the product flow. The front of the store has an alcove that would be perfect for grab-and-go beverages. Instead, it’s dedicated to ice cream (off-peak in winter) and shelved beverages, separate from the cold beverages and dairy in the adjacent aisle. The back freezers seem to be underutilized with frozen food packages. And most of the customers seem to order from the fresh food counter anyway. That is one unique feature of this store—a deli/bakery setup that has become somewhat of a fixture in this small town. Indeed, with no marked prices and seemingly no rhyme or reason for product placement, this mom-and-pop store seems to do alright anyway.

But it’s not a good environment to discover new products, which is a lost opportunity for both the operator and CPG vendors. I don’t see many of the “new” snacks and beverages that I see in other stores. If the local town population isn’t demanding better product placement, who is?

This is an industry where retailers and vendors have pay-for-space and pay-for-entry agreements.

So it makes me wonder: Are vendors of new products fighting for shelf space? Do they have the ability to follow up with retailers on product pairings and placement?

Barking Up the Right Strategy

At the start of 2016, the National Retail Federation’s STORES magazine published “20 Ideas Worth Stealing in 2016.” One idea came from the brand barkTHINS, a chocolate snack food company that seemingly came out of nowhere in 2013. For those unfamiliar with barkTHINS, it’s thin, dark chocolate bark made with premium “better-for-you” ingredients, including almonds, pumpkin seeds, blueberries and quinoa. This product came to market so quickly and aggressively (and probably was such a thorn in the side of the big confectioners) that Hershey acquired them in 2016. This wasn’t by luck—barkTHINS fought for it and earned it. Their strategy basically came down to three points:

  1. Area brand managers were stocked with samples of the product.

  2. Brand managers were given freedom to negotiate with retailers when necessary.

  3. barkTHINS equipped brand managers with a dashboard to monitor account visits, product demonstrations and incremental retail sales.

Zenput Helps C-Stores Fight the Good Fight

Whether you’re an established CPG company or a newcomer fighting your way into stores, Zenput is a mobile solution that’s ideal for enterprises that have field reps. It provides a cloud-based mobile platform for account managers to check in and report promotional execution (or lack thereof) in real time. Auditing tools help to ensure compliance with product facings, pricing and promotions. Take a photo to verify shelf placement and easily share it with your team. Zenput also provides historic analysis of data that not only helps CPG companies learn from trends, but also helps them communicate with retail partners.

<p>Both expanding and already-established brands use Zenput during their store visits. Learn more about Zenput’s CPG functionality by clicking here or downloading one of these case studies for more information:

- Learn how Zenput helped Jack Link’s verify compliance for its planogram and rebate program, all while eliminating manual processes. Download Jack Link’s case study.

- Learn how Zenput helped neuro drinks gain better store-level insights for improved quality control and communication with retail partners. Download neuro drinks case study.