What’s Trash Got To Do With Food? A Lot.

Commercial Zone Blog

March 6, 2020

What’s Trash Got To Do With Food? A Lot.

At one time – and not all that long ago – hot food options at most fuel station C-stores included roller dogs, popcorn (if you’re lucky) and microwavable burritos. Eating healthy at those quick-stop retailers meant eating only half the bag of chips you grabbed on the way through.

Today’s rapidly changing consumer demographics and the growing preference for healthier food options are catapulting change in C-store offerings as well. That’s because a strong foodservice presence in C-stores is no longer a nice-to-have feature. It’s a necessary component to the retail mix if one wants to remain competitive.

But, it’s not only the offer of fresh produce and more nutritious hot food choices that will bring hungry customers in. Maybe just as important, the environment in which the food items are displayed must also be clean and tidy to encourage purchases.

With many people, there is nothing more personal than the food they consume. And for someone to buy and consume any food product, there needs to be a certain amount of trust that food is fresh and safe. That’s why prepackaged C-store snacks have always been customer staples; consumers trust the quality.

According to food and beverage industry expert Jessica Williams, keeping stores clean and free of trash – both inside and outside – is critical to convey to customers that the C-store is taking foodservice and their health seriously. That translates to trust.

Williams told Convenience Store Products magazine that in the minds of customers “If retailers can’t keep their stores clean, they surely cannot offer clean, fresh foodservice.”

Here’s a quick checklist of things to add to the routine when hot food is being offered:


Frequently inspect the hot food space in the store. Check for used napkins, wrappers, containers, stir sticks… Look for anything that is trash and quickly dispose of it. Nothing says to customers “our food is not fresh” like trash lying around. At the same time, adding attractive and functional waste containers encourages customers to use them and makes a statement that the business takes trash disposal seriously.


Customers are in a hurry; that’s why they’re shopping in a C-store. They don’t have the time (or maybe don’t feel like they have the time) to clean up after themselves. Condiments, salt & pepper, beverages, and creamers often hit the counter after missing the food item. Using a clean, wet towel to eliminate the messes customers leave behind creates an inviting environment for the next group of customers who come through.


Making regular checks on the food displays is especially critical in self-service areas. Items inspected and returned to the shelf by customers oftentimes are placed askew, in an incorrect location or partially opened. Walk through the area and look at it through the eyes of the customer to see what they see. Is it appealing? If not, straighten it. Has a wrapper been partially opened? If so, throw it in the trash.


If customers see hot items on display that are past pull time, they may assume that 1) the food item is unpopular, and/or 2) everything on display is past its prime. For the consumer, seeing fresh dates on wrappers is inviting and helps build trust that the other items are also fresh – and safe.