Convenience stores have gone through an evolution. Gone are the days when c-stores were only suitable for a pack of gum or a cold drink. With more than 148,000 locations nationwide, serving 165 million customers daily, c-stores have become a destination rather than a pitstop. From packaged food and fuel to hot meals, merchandise, and more, shoppers view their local c-store as a viable option for fulfilling essential, everyday needs. The pandemic has further cemented this shift in consumer behavior, with many people preferring to shop closer to home and in smaller crowds. As this growth continues, c-stores need to develop dependable strategies for equipment and energy management and cope with the labor challenges plaguing today’s job market. This is where automation and the Internet of Things (IoT) can significantly improve c-store operations.
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C-stores use a jaw-dropping amount of energy—anywhere from three to seven times more per square foot than other types of commercial spaces. Connected equipment is a great option for increasing efficiency and decreasing energy costs, but the benefits don’t stop there. IoT-based solutions like Open Kitchen® can also reduce maintenance, maximize equipment uptime, and alleviate labor challenges. Here are three specific ways connected equipment can improve c-store operations.
1. Energy and Equipment Management
An energy and equipment management system that addresses HVAC, refrigeration, kitchen equipment brands, and lighting can have a positive impact on energy costs. Traditional systems designed for larger facilities have not generally proven cost-effective for c-stores, but a new generation of options are available with solutions like Open Kitchen. Now c-stores can connect, analyze, and control key equipment to automate essential facility functions.
For example, remotely controlled thermostats make it easier to manage HVAC costs in smaller facilities such as c-stores. For c-stores with hot bars, quick ovens, or shake machines, connected equipment can decrease human error and offer better visibility into operations. Facility managers can also alleviate employee stress by using connected equipment. Texting and emailing staff about equipment issues, automating lighting and heating, and ensuring compliance with cleaning and other safety practices through the use of a mobile app and workflow templates, are just some of the benefits.
2. Real-time Access to Data
Integrating critical equipment like ice cream, shake, or coffee machines into a solution such as Open Kitchen can provide the visibility and analytics required to reduce challenging situations. With centralized access to equipment data, operators can:
- Benchmark equipment uptime and downtime and find the outlier locations with problematic equipment that needs to be addressed
- Have real-time automated alerts sent to the appropriate maintenance technicians so they can react quickly to equipment problems
- Diagnose system capacity for more effective operational and capital planning, identifying bottlenecks by location, usage, and time to develop best practices
- Provide essential information to the equipment manufacturer about onsite use across locations to assist them in improving the product
3. Labor Challenges
In a previous blog, How Automation Reduces Labor Challenges, we talked about how connected equipment is proving that automation is key to reducing labor pain points. With The Great Resignation and hiring challenges plaguing most businesses, many are seeking ways to maintain performance. Using connected equipment to prevent cognitive overload and automate workflow management helps employees focus on what really matters. Connected equipment can provide alerts, automated checklists, reporting, and more.
Open Kitchen can control energy use and temperatures (which helps optimize HVAC performance) so workers are comfortable and less distracted. It can also alarm workers when food is not being stored or prepared at the proper temperatures or for the right amount of time, which reduces their stress level.
The popularity of c-stores is undoubtedly on the rise, but with growth comes challenges. By using connected equipment, c-store operators can reduce costs, increase employee happiness, and improve overall business performance.
Interested in how connected equipment can streamline operations and reduce costs for your c-store? Email one of our experts to start the conversation.