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  • Making Safety Convenient & Effective

    Making Safety Convenient & Effective

    Take these three steps to develop and implement a safety program.

    Whether you are a new convenience store owner or a seasoned franchisee, one of your top concerns should be the safety of your employees and customers. That is why it is so important to develop a safety plan to protect your business and your most valuable asset — your employees.

    According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), for every $1 invested in a safety and health program, a business owner can save $4 to $6 in insurance premiums, lost productivity and other business costs. Beyond being a best practice, promoting a safe workplace allows employees to feel confident in their ability to conduct their jobs with a minimum amount of risk.

    The following is an easy three-step approach to develop and implement a safety program.

    STEP ONE: RISK ANALYSIS

    The first step in creating a safety plan is to assess and document any known or potential store hazards that could result in a workplace-related injury or illness.

    Knowing where and how possible accidents could occur enables you to take proactive measures to prevent them. Many business owners involve their frontline employees in the risk assessment since they have firsthand knowledge of the overt and hidden dangers in their workplaces.

    By far, the most common cause of employee injury in convenience stores is workplace violence. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that robbery-related assaults and homicides are the leading cause of death in retail businesses. Even more staggering, the CDC also reports that workers in convenience stores are seven times more likely to be the victims of a work-related homicide than people who work in other industries.

    According to OSHA, there are several factors that put late-night retail workers at risk. These include:

    • Access to cash;
    • Isolated, solitary work;
    • Selling alcohol;
    • Poorly lit workplaces; and
    • Lack of staff training in identifying and de-escalating violent behavior.

    Business owners should establish clear policies for employees in cases of workplace violence, threatening situations or unstable customer behavior. OSHA provides a comprehensive handbook for owners of late-night retail establishments, including detailed information on specific steps to develop an effective violence prevention program.

    Store design and procedural modifications can also reduce robberies and make employees safer. A recent study indicated businesses experienced a 30-percent to 84-percent decrease in robberies and a 61-percent decrease in non-fatal injuries when they increased cash controls and processes or updated their lighting and store design to improve visibility.

    Beyond workplace violence, other risks common to the convenience store industry are:

    Slips, Trips and Falls. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, across all industries, the most common workplace accidents are slips, trips and falls. In a busy convenience store, there are several areas on your property where liquids might pool and create a slick patch, including the areas around entryways, restrooms and self-serve soda fountains.

    Make sure employees regularly monitor these areas for spilled drinks and splashed water. Keep a mop and bucket in an easily accessible place, along with signs cautioning wet surfaces. Place non-skid mats at entries and exits, and encourage workers to keep them smooth and flat, with no buckles or folds where someone could trip.

    If your convenience store also has a gas pump, treat fuel spills with caution. If gas spills, immediately cover the area with cat litter or corn starch. Once it is absorbed, sweep up the remaining debris and dispose in an outdoor trash can. And although it should go without saying, never allow employees or customers to smoke near a fuel station.

    Cuts. Frequent freight deliveries mean staff are often opening boxes of inventory and stocking shelves several times each week. To reduce the risk of injury, workers should use sharp, clean box knives that have a protective, retractable handle. They can also wear cut-resistant gloves to reduce the potential for a laceration. Keep a first aid kit stocked with bandages, gauze, tape and antibiotic ointment nearby in case any employee needs to treat an injury.

    Back Injuries. Heavier freight (goods weighing more than 50 pounds) requires using proper lifting techniques. Items weighing more than 50 pounds should involve two people, or using a hand truck.

    Burns. Hot coffee pots and food warmers can expose workers to potential burns. Make sure employees are trained to use tongs and wear gloves anytime they are interacting with a heat source to reduce the risks of burns. Safety gloves should be replaced anytime they become worn or develop holes.

    If any accident results in a severe injury or illness, immediately seek the appropriate medical care.

    STEP TWO: PLAN DEVELOPMENT

    An effective safety program does not need to be extensive or time-consuming. It should, however, document each potential hazard identified in the risk analysis phase and provide clear, understandable steps to address each one. OSHA has several online resources to help business owners develop a safety plan. Your insurance carrier or agent can also help identify and manage workplace risk.

    At a minimum, a safety plan should be reviewed at least once a year to make sure all employees understand proper procedures. The plan should be updated whenever new procedures or equipment are introduced in the work environment.

    STEP THREE: TRAINING & REINFORCEMENT

    Once the plan is developed, business owners should regularly review their policies and expectations with each employee. On average, convenience stores experience 77 percent turnover annually, with the average leave occurring in the first 90 days. As business owners are likely onboarding new staff throughout the year, new employees should receive a copy of the safety plan on their first day, as well as comprehensive training on the right protocols.

    All employees can also benefit from regular refresher training. The easiest way to do this is to conduct the training outside of store hours so that everyone hears the same message at the same time. If your convenience store is open 24 hours a day, training sessions can be held in between shifts.

    During the training, consider conducting “dry run” mock accidents to allow employees to put the plan into practice. Doing so also gives managers and/or owners the opportunity to observe workers in action and course-correct any missed steps or procedures.

    Beyond the training, promote a culture of safety by emphasizing its role as a key business imperative. Safety rules should be prominently displayed in common areas, such as a breakroom, to reinforce expectations and demonstrate management’s commitment to fostering a safe work environment. Managers and owners should model ideal behaviors, and everyone should understand his or her role in keeping the workplace safe.

    Source: CSNews, By David Quezada

  • 9 Out of 10 Customers Now Use Online Reviews – How do you Rate?

    9 Out of 10 Customers Now Use Online Reviews – How do you Rate?

    We’ve all shopped at c-stores that made a bad first impression and have vowed not to return because of that experience. As store operators and managers we often overlook the very items that matter the MOST to the customer experience when it comes to evaluating your own store. That’s why it’s important to step back and look at your store from a customer’s point of view.

    Your site will likely only receive 1-10 official mystery shoppers this year, but did you know that every minute Yelp! users post 26,380 reviews?  Your location already has an online reputation through Yelp, Facebook and Google and it only takes between 1 and 3 bad reviews to deter up to 67% of shoppers from using your location. (Source: Vendasta 2017)

    Without realizing it, customers are evaluating every store they enter from the moment they drive up to your forecourt, use your bathroom, or walk into your store. Worse yet, dissatisfied customers will rarely direct their negative feedback to you, instead they mention it to their friends or post it to their social media accounts on Yelp and Facebook.

    So how do you keep these customers loyal and returning to your store? One place to start is seeing your c-store through the customer lens and evaluating it the way they do. Create a checklist (or use the one CAF has provided) and score each item from 1 (horrible) to 5 (excellent) for each of the below categories:

    According to C-store Yelp reviews the top 5 categories for generating a 5-star experience include:

    1. Friendly
    2. Fresh Food
    3. Clean
    4. Low Prices
    5. Drink Options

  • Cleaning Smarter, Not Harder!

    When Preparing Your C-Store For Warmer Weather, It's About Working Smarter, Not Harder.

    The status quo for convenience retailers has evolved over the years and having a dirty fuel station displaying dirty fuel stains, food and beverage spills and growing bacteria and mold is no longer acceptable to a new generation of customers. You can’t afford to overlook cleanliness any longer because your customers aren’t. Unfortunately, many retailers understand this and are focused on being clean but have found that doing so can be very costly and very difficult to achieve real results.

    We want to help! We have provided some ideas on how to save you time and money on the two most common challenges that you face in your forecourt cleaning efforts.

    What We Don’t Recommend

    Pressure Washing

    Pressure washing is the way that most retailers chose to clean their concrete pads, dispensers, and canopies but it comes with its fair share of disadvantages. Pressure washing can be costly, damaging, time consuming, and involve a lot of risk. Also, it forces you to shut down your fuel lanes being cleaned and that can be an extremely inconvenient and costly.

    Most retailers chose to pressure wash and that comes with a steep price and the results accomplish little more than a couple weeks of having clean forecourts. The average cost for a standard pressure wash is about $250. If you are in an area that requires reclamation to conform to strict environmental regulations, then the cost can exceed $1000 each time. Not to mention each time you pressure wash you are weakening the cement and damaging other areas leaving you with more costs to bear.

    Recommendation:

    The better option is to find a product solution that helps eliminate or significantly reduce the frequency of pressure washing and that minimizes your fuel lane’s down time and does not damage your forecourts.  Find a product that your store’s employees can apply in-house and that doesn’t take up valuable time and cost a fortune to do.

    What We Don’t Recommend

    Using “Off the Shelf” Cleaners

    Did you know that many of the commonly used household cleaning products such as Windex®, 409®, Bleach, and Simple Green® are not meant for industrial cleaning?  Did you also know that they can actually be damaging your equipment too? I am always amazed at the amount of people who still use these products to clean their fueling equipment. You probably wouldn’t use them to wash your car, so why clean your expensive fueling equipment with them?

    Cleaning with inferior products makes cleaning harder and takes more time. This causes those tasked with this responsibility to get discouraged and accept sub-standard results. Also, these cleaners are NOT recommended for cleaning dispensers, fuel nozzles and other surfaces. Many ready to use “off the shelf” cleaners contain alcohol or ammonia which can discolor, haze, dry-out, and even melt many exterior surfaces like plastic, vinyl, plexiglass, oxidized finish coats on metals and more. They could ultimately be doing more harm to your equipment than good.

    Recommendation:

    Look for products that are designed specifically for the industry cleaning challenges that you face and that have been tested safe for the equipment that you are using them on.  Having the right tools for the job can make all of the difference and doesn’t necessarily mean you will have to pay more.  Many retailers are often surprised to find out that by switching to cleaning products that are meant specifically for their fueling equipment, they actually save money both in direct costs and labor savings.

    Download your free cleaning checklist now!

  • Merry Christmas!

    caf-christmas-card2016_mycaf

    Merry Christmas and Seasons Greetings

    As the year draws to a close and we take time with our families and loved ones, we would like to say thank you to all of our clients and partners with whom we have worked throughout the year.
    In 2016 we reached significant milestones for the company.

    • Marking our 13th year in business
    • Winning our 4th consecutive NACS Cool New Products
    • Adding dedicated, proactive staff
    • Reaching over 2000 additional c-stores and other verticals

    We will duly celebrate the occasion with you, but we are also excited to announce that 2017 will also see:

    • A new website that is more user friendly and mobile centric.
    • New products and training support
    • Additional company location (East Coast)
    • Expanded to new global locations

    We look forward to continuing the company’s working relations with you, and building a solid platform for growth for the next 20 years.

    To you and your families we wish a Merry Christmas and happy New Year!

  • Last Best Customer Experience

    customer-experience-graphic-headerIn the past, customer experience expectations were set by a customer’s next best choice, namely the experience provided by a competitor not too far down the road.

    However, with the evolution of online reviews and the new emphasis food service, today’s customer expectations have skyrocketed. It’s a game changer. Your old competition is no longer the benchmark. Now, you compete with the best, recent retail experience anywhere and from any industry. How do you stack up against your recent retail experiences?

    New industry leaders like Amazon, Uber and others have conditioned your customers to expect more in return, and in some part, more than maybe you are willing to deliver. Take for instance some of the following principles from Marriott Hotels founder, J. Willard Marriott:

    • “It’s the little things that make big things possible. Only close attention to the fine details of any operation makes the operation first class.”
    • “Take care of your people and they will take care of your customers.”
    • “Great companies are built by people who never stop thinking about ways to improve the business.”

    These guiding principles continue to permeate Marriott’s company culture. They expect each employee to take a customer-centric focus (from housekeepers on up to management) who take pride in responding to customer social media complaints in real-time. Upholding company core values has seemed to pay off for this customer experience champion!

    Customers expect experiences that serves their needs first. Experiences that promote giving first before they take. They expect that you provide the necessities of meeting their goals and desires with the least amount of friction possible. Customers do not want to navigate through a labyrinth maze of loyalty programs, cheap fuel incentives or processes that serve operational excellence vs. customer excellence.

    We recommend looking outside your industry. Look for the highest end of the hospitality industry. In other words, look for your customers’ last best experience, not their best alternative. It’s your customers’ last best experience that will help inform you of what they expect from your company.

    At CAF, we have found that most c-store operators simply aren't aware of the solutions to meet customer expectations. That is why it is necessary to have a partner that can help provide you the tools needed to help navigate customer experience challenges concerning a cleaner store.

    Ask yourself how you can effectively increase customer experience and brand loyalty. Ask yourself how you can be your customers’ last best experience. Ask yourself how you can be the best in your industry.

    1. Is my customer service and engagement a high priority?

    2. Does my store promote exterior/interior cleanliness (these can include bathrooms, forecourts and food areas)?

    3. Am I taking advantage of using mystery shopping to receive feedback and provide brand value?

    4. Do I need a cleaning program aimed at reducing employee absences and health concerns?

    5. How do I become my customers’ last best experience?

    6. How do I make a positive difference in my industry with standards that are highly favored and sought after?

    In order for you to meet the demands of the customer experience and to improve your sales, you must find real solutions to these real challenges listed above.

    A CAF representative is available to help you increase your customer experience. Contact us today!

  • Clean Stores. Sell More!

    It has been proven over the years that Clean Stores Sell More than their unclean competitors. But HOW do they attain this success? ISSA (International Sanitary Supply Association) provides one example where having a clean store actually provides a return of investment for decision makers to stop thinking of cleaning as a cost and start thinking of it as a profit center.

    cssm-stores Clean Stores Sell More!

    CAF Outdoor Cleaning, Like ISSA, promotes cleaning as a necessary investment in better health, a better environment and a better bottom line.

    Let take it from a health perspective. Sick employees cost businesses money but cleaning can reduce that risk. Employees get sick about 7.7 days a year and that averages out about 225.8 billion dollars a year.

    These unplanned absences cause further workplace problems with an average 54% decrease in productivity which equals to a 39% drop in sales and customer service. But in a clean facility occupants reduce their chances of getting sick by up to 80% and absenteeism dropped by nearly 46%. Clean isn’t just healthy it equals green and by green we mean money! Workers are more productive and that produces nearly a *125,000 in savings.

    Employees are not the only ones who benefit from a clean environment, in fact, customers prefer cleanliness as the most important customer satisfaction metric among quick serve, retail settings. Customers prefer cleanliness over all other environmental attributes. 60% of shoppers would buy more in a clean store.

    Let’s not forget restrooms, 94% of people would avoid a business in the future if they encountered dirty restrooms.

    The bottom line is that clean facilities are not just a cost. They generate revenue and that’s the Value of Clean!

    To start your cleaning program and to learn more about CAF products such as OTIS, OTIS Wipes and OTIS Tabs we recommend you contact a CAF representative today. We have a solution to every cleaning problem with results towards positive customer experience.

    *a typical 100-associate office with an average salary of $25,000.

  • How to Clean Fuel Dispensers - EASY

    Wipe away your most difficult cleaning challenge!

    Cleaning off hardened diesel can seem impossible and waste energy trying to remove. With new OTIS Wipes, one of the most difficult tasks just became the easiest! The following process will ensure a clean forecourt and is effective on eliminating diesel stains on dispensers, fuel pads, and garbage stains. For use on stainless steel, plastic laminate, rubber, concrete, painted metal, wood surfaces, cooking surfaces, and more.

    What You Will Need:

    • OTIS Wipes

    Steps:

    Preparation

    • Remove entire lid off of OTIS container. Pop open the center cap on top of lid.
    • Gently pull the first wipe through the cap “loop” so that it pokes through the center of the lid. Reseal lid to the container.
    • Pull out one wipe through center hole.

    OTIS Wipes Pics

     

    To Clean

    1. Applying even pressure, use one OTIS Wipe to clean hard surfaces. For detailed cleaning, squeeze excess solution from wipe and then begin cleaning.

     

    luxss wipes

    1. Repeat using as many wipes as necessary.
    1. When you are finished, close the cap on top of the OTIS lid so the wipes don’t dry out.
  • How to Remove Oil Stains from Concrete (without pressure washing!)

    Oil stained concrete is among one of the most prevalent eyesores found at c-stores, gas stations, or just even your own garage or driveway. Instead of attempting to remove these oil stains with harsh chemicals or pressure washing, here is an easy, eco-friendly alternative that is proven to be more effective and environmentally safe. Follow the instructions below to get rid of heavy duty oil stains on your concrete!

    What You Will Need:

    • Push Broom
    • EXIMO Waterless Concrete Cleaner

    Steps:

    1. Before starting process, make sure the affected concrete area is dry and free of any debris.
    1. Apply one scoop of EXIMO directly onto the oil stain (scoop provided).
      • TIP: One scoop = ¼ cup. This is enough to cover an area as big as one parking space (55 ft2)

    eximo2

     

    1. While applying light pressure, spread EXIMO evenly with push broom across the stain without lifting the broom off the ground.TIP: Keeping broom in contact with the ground, sweep EXIMO forward and backward across the oil spot. Then sweep perpendicular to the previous motion to ensure EXIMO is evenly distributed to the area.

     

    eximo3

     

    1. Continue spreading the EXIMO until the powder appears translucent. Once product is brushed into surface, that’s it! No need to rinse off the area, but water will not harm the effectiveness of EXIMO.

    eximo4

    1. Repeat this method once a week and stain will disappear in one month or less!
  • Are Your Sales Going Down The Toilet?

    moneyintoilet

    Summer is in full swing and with it, summer activities! Camping! Boating! Hikes! And most importantly...road trips! Throughout the summer months there will be no shortage of travelers making a stop to your business to refuel and/or grab a quick bite to eat before returning to the road. Many of those travelers will be making quick decisions based on brand recognition but more importantly, the influences of your bathrooms and forecourts will weigh heavily towards a customer experience in generating more revenue towards food and retail purchases.

    For convenience store chains, maintaining a brand standard is essential for securing repeat business. Cleanliness plays a large part in shaping a brand, as well as customers’ purchasing decisions. A Harris Interactive poll found that 94% of more than 1,000 people who regularly visit a c-store would avoid a business in the future if they encountered dirty restrooms. Forty-five percent of those respondents named gas stations as a specific place they would avoid.

    Also keep in mind travelers this Summer rely not just on word of mouth but also using social media and travel apps towards planning towards their road and travel destinations. Seeing negative reviews and topics of uncleanliness will adversely impact business.

    Consistent results can be accomplished by integrating a continuous improvement process involving four simple steps:

    1. Define cleaning standard – What do you want the customer to experience when they visit each store? The standard of cleanliness should encompass the key areas of your c-store that will have the greatest impact on customers’ buying behavior. This includes restrooms, your forecourts, entrance ways and floors. C-stores that offer fresh food and specialty items should ensure these areas mentioned are kept clean. Additionally, cleanliness can influence employee satisfaction and reduce the occurrence of and costs associated with slip-and-fall accidents.

    2. Define a cleaning plan – CAF Environmental Solutions is a company that provides c-store customers with training and education towards a comprehensive cleaning program. We have products that are environmentally friendly and tailored to target petroleum based services and convenience store facilities. Our products and cleaning program reduces facility costs, increase employee retention and downtime, increase revenue all while increasing cleanliness for increased customer experience.

    3. Implement Training - Training all employees at one time and in one place is not feasible when managing multiple stores across several cities or states. Turnover can add a further hindrance. At CAF we have several training program options: Online training, digital and collateral instruction, on-site management and team instruction and webinars Our training sessions ensure employees who perform cleaning duties have the correct knowledge, tools and products to do a consistent job. Check out FastTRACK!

    4. Monitoring Cleaning Performance – You want to continually improve your service to your customers, and without feedback from your managers and stores, you may not have the information needed to know if your cleaning program is working, or if adjustments need to be made.

    Use real-time data to make decisions. Learn about the tools that can help you find out if your cleaning program is working the way you envisioned. We like to introduce you to CAF FastTRACK! FastTrack is a culmination of the best practices we’ve learned and processes we’ve developed that give your stores the best chance of success when rolling out a new cleaning program.

  • How to Increase Your Sales in Just 18 Minutes!

    increasesales

    The question of whether or not social media can result in sales is pretty much as old as social media itself. What we’re seeing recently is an increase in social commerce – where both aspects are able to live happily next to each other and companies can track ROI for time and money invested in social media.

    A recent online study, conducted by Minneapolis-Based General Mills, of about 360 c-store shoppers aged 18-64, c-stores lagged behind in connecting with consumers via texts, alerts, emails or social media deals. It’s simply not enough to build loyalty and drive traffic with a great app or email program to get noticed or used. By using a social media marketing strategy to build awareness and actively market your services or products is critical in building participation through social media channels.

    Key findings in this case:

    • C-stores reports on 30% shoppers visiting websites vs restaurants which are up to 58%.
    • Emails from c-stores average 24% of shoppers vs 44% from a drug local store.
    • Texts/apps from c-stores average about 13% in responses while other retail organizations receive 20% or more in active engagement.

    If social media is everyone’s job in retail, your managers and employees need concrete actions to get them going. By implementing an 18-minutes plan to help them build the skills they need. Ideally, if you work at a large brand with local stores you’d created dashboards (with your social relationship platform) for each location, Of course, you would also want to offer training for managers as well as educate about your social media policy, security and industry best practices.

    This process includes downloading social media platforms such as Hootsuite and Hootlet in addition to creating accounts for Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Blogger, Instagram and any other social media you are comfortable in using.

    (4 Minutes): Local Listening

    Find local conversations near your store’s locations. A good approach is to download Hootsuite.com and create a new search stream using keywords you want to monitor. The goal is to find people searching for things on social media. That way, your store can reach out, assist, and bring them into shop.

    (6 Minutes): Search and Share

    This is where you surprise, delight and provide reminders. Simple solution to this is to download Hootsuite.com and download the extension Hootlet.com. By searching a specific location on Google maps, a button called “tweets near here” appears. By clicking on the button brings up local tweets which can be adjustable in range miles. Look for happy customers and surprise them with special deals.

    (6 Minutes): Be Likable and Friendly

    Provide pre-approved social media content, images and national campaigns. That way, thousands of frontline employees can extend the reach of your branded content. It also helps your store share interesting and valued information and engage with your customers.

    Promote social contests and launch Instagram, Facebook or Twitter campaigns for new products or services. You can even amplify your promotions by reaching out personally through your social media on local levels.

    (2 Minutes): Wrap -Up

    Within Hootsuite you have the ability to also monitor your competitor. By creating a new stream in Hootsuite tracking you can monitor your competitors @username. This will show you what others are saying to your competitor and keywords they are using to attract. But also imagine this, in analyzing your competitor, you will find that they are not answering their customer’s questions but maybe you can!

    Look for perceptions and specific issues such as positioning that isn’t resonating with customers. This can help you in avoiding making the same mistakes. In the same manner also look for unusual activity or spikes in volume. Use real time data to conduct competitor benchmarking.

    By taking the short time to use your social media tools you can help engage your customers to participate and drive your sales further. Here are the top 5 reasons cited by shoppers for connecting with a c-store:

    • Receiving coupons: 67%
    • Finding out about sales or special deals: 62%
    • Updates on new products or offerings: 55%
    • Seeing what products are offered: 48%
    • Locating the nearest store: 47%

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