Segment resurgence a win for c-store impulse sales.
Guests customize their treat at the 30-item toppings bar, which includes fresh-cut fruit, sauces, assorted candy toppings and nuts. “Children love the gummy bears and worms, while the adults go for the more indulgent toppings such as caramel turtles, peanut butter cups and malted-milk-ball toppings,” says Wacker.
The stand-alone Swirls n Sweets opened last September, and earlier this year FastLane brought a scaled-down version into one of its c-stores. Three hundred square feet were set aside near the front, which houses four machines, 12 flavors (including twist combinations) and a 30-topping bar.
Customers pay 45 cents per ounce and have the choice of a 16- or 20-ounce cup or a waffle cone. The company continues to monitor both concepts to see how to expand the concept to other locations.
Meanwhile, in Savannah, Ga., Enmark Stations Inc. is testing a self-serve frozen-yogurt program in 10 of its 62 stores. Two locations were new builds that had the frozen-yogurt program designed into the floor plan; at the other locations, slow-moving products or programs were phased out to make room for the new offer.
Enmark uses Italian-made Bras B-Cream machines, which take up about 12 inches of linear space each. Toppings use another 2 to 5 linear feet depending on the store, says Matt Clements, director of marketing.
Like FastLane, Enmark offers a wide variety of flavors, from the traditional to the trendy, such as birthday-cake-flavored frozen yogurt. Toppings include hot syrups, cold fruit, nuts, sprinkles, cereals and candy.
So far, the company sees the program as a success. Clements anticipates the chain will adjust to have more machines in higher-volume stores and take machines out of slower-moving locations.
Getting the Word Out
While c-stores can rely on a frozen-yogurt program as an impulse purchase, it can—and should—become a destination through thorough marketing and promotions.
A couple of Enmark’s stores have become a destination for self-serve frozen yogurt; for the rest, “it’s purely impulse,” says Clements.
“We haven’t done a lot of outside marketing,” he says. “That’s when we’ll know if these machines are going to be long term.”
Enmark’s frozen-yogurt customers span all demographics, says Clements, from women and children to blue-collar workers. The offering is found in various markets, from suburban to small town, though the busiest location happens to be very close to a high school.
High school kids are an important demographic for FastLane, too, and the chain takes advantage of that with its Sprinkle on the Spirit promotion. Students from two local schools are encouraged to show their spirit by using the sprinkle mix with their school’s colors. The school that uses the most sprinkles over a period of time wins a trophy displayed in the store. The store also offers a 20% discount on Thursdays for customers who wear the school colors into the store.