Single Store Owner

AUG-SEP 2016

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22 / Convenience Store News for the Single Store Owner / AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2016 cover story blue-collar workers — landscapers and construction workers on big, beautiful homes. So, we sell a ton of chicken against all odds." Open 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends, Hinsdale Shell's primary food- service business is lunchtime. "The absolute busiest time is 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.," explained Gabriel. "We do some business in the morning, but for whatever reason, we haven't been able to generate much of a dinner business." Gabriel and Archer estimate that 5 percent to 10 percent of their overall customers visit Hinsdale Shell specifically to order food. "It could be a little higher," said Archer, noting this translates to approximately 180-200 foodservice customers per day. "We're look- ing to get as many food customers in here as we can get. You can never be too busy." Convenience distributor Eby-Brown Co. LLC is one of Hinsdale Shell's primary suppliers, but most of its deli products are purchased from Gordon Food Service, Lipari Foods and Sysco. And most of its deli products are prepared fresh in-store. "We make all our salads fresh on premise every day," said Gabriel. That includes Greek salads, pasta salads, potato and macaroni salad, and fruit salad. Hinsdale Shell's sandwich business is made to order. "The customer can have it however they want — cold, toasted or grilled. Paninis or anything grilled is huge. That seems to be the big thing, grilled or toasted items." Salads, too, are significant among Hinsdale Shell's menu offerings. "We make a chef salad, a Caesar salad, garden salad, a spinach salad — all fresh, every day," continued Gabriel, who added that yogurt, par- faits, fruit and granola are currently among her most popular items. "And all that is done every single day. We make fresh breakfast sandwiches in the morning with eggs and cheese along with sausage, bacon or Canadian bacon." The fact that Hinsdale Shell maintains booming made-to-order sales does not discount the store's huge grab-and-go business, either. "We have a beauti- ful deli case that is wide open," explained Gabriel. "I've got one employee we call the 'Sandwich Queen' who stands by the case at the counter and makes sandwiches all day long." As for consumer trends, Gabriel said everything right now revolves around fresh and healthy foodser- vice products, and she expects this to continue for the foreseeable future. "We'll make a breadless sandwich or a lettuce wrap if the customer asks," she said. Perhaps the thing that differentiates Hinsdale Shell the most from its c-store and QSR competi- tion is Gabriel and Archer's ability to communicate effectively with their consumer base. "Reaching out Hinsdale Shell, Hinsdale, Ill. Proprietors: Robin Gabriel & John Archer Robin Gabriel and John Archer have been running Hinsdale Shell, an independent convenience store with a Shell-branded gas business, for nearly 35 years. Located in the western suburbs of Chicago, the two purchased the store from the previous owner, for whom they had worked, and rebuilt it 19 years ago. There was a small deli in the original store and when it was rebuilt, the deli took up a much larger footprint with a new, expanded menu offered. From the outset, Hinsdale Shell was known for sandwiches. "We were a bread-and-butter deli and started out with your basic ham/turkey/roast beef with Kaiser rolls, white and wheat bread," explained Gabriel. Today, Hinsdale Shell is better known as an overall food destination, rather than simply as a deli. Gabriel credits the addition of Krispy Krunchy Chicken to the menu for boosting her store's brand recognition. Interestingly, Gabriel and Archer were warned that fried chicken would not be in great demand in the upscale area their store serves. "Studies concluded that fried chicken would never work here," she said. "It's an affluent area, but a large percentage of people who come in here are Hinsdale Shell has evolved into a total food destination that offers made-to- order sandwiches, chicken and a huge grab-and-go business.

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