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Food is forecourt future as 'fuel' for motorists drives sales

Problem Solver with Feargal Quinn


Feargal Quinn. Photo: Tom Burke

Feargal Quinn. Photo: Tom Burke

Feargal Quinn. Photo: Tom Burke

Q: What will the rise of internet shopping and other challenges mean for the future of food retailing?

A: This is an exciting topic. On one hand, it is easy to argue there will always be physical food shops as many customers simply prefer to touch, smell, and see the food they are buying.

Of course, there will always be people who want the convenience of online shopping, or at least those who, on certain weeks when they have a tight schedule, might prefer to use online channels.

What is more interesting is the pace of change. If, for example, you look at the forecourt sector and how food has evolved in that space.

A decade ago, the forecourt was somewhere you went to put diesel in your car. If you were lucky they might have had a small bakery.

I recently heard Joe Barrett from Applegreen describing their company as a food retailer which happens to sell fuel.

In effect, many forecourt sites have now become mini foodservice operations, with many people stopping only for fuel for their body rather than their car.

More interestingly in the forecourt sector, where petrol and diesel is one of their core revenue streams, is the advent of electric vehicles.

I read with astonishment recently that one of the Scandinavian countries has more than 50pc electrical vehicles and some of the forecourts have more than 100 charging points. Isn't that amazing?

What would be more amazing is how these operations reinvent themselves over the next decade to cope with one of the key reasons people stop (car fuel), possibly disappearing as a need.

That's a very good example of how food is going to have to evolve, and perhaps in the case of the forecourt, become the primary reason that people stop.

Whether it is electricity, or diesel or petrol fuel might be less relevant in the decision-making process.

I see the same changes occurring within mainstream supermarket shopping and there will be a strong need for retailers to strengthen their fresh food offer particularly so that they achieve destination status through the shopping experience.

Q: My business is growing very well and I now have several hundred staff, and I'm in the process of strengthening my management team. I have some family members in the business and my question to you is, do you think that family should take key boardroom positions, or should these be external people?

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A: The answer really lies in the skill sets that lie within the business, and those possessed by the family members.

Just because someone is a member of the family, does not automatically mean that they should be sitting on the board of the company.

My advice is that you conduct a needs analysis on the skill sets within the business and determine what skills you want on the board.

It would also be a good idea to get external help as part of the decision-making process with regards to who you should get to fill these roles.

An external company will be more objective and give you a more neutral decision-making process.

Send your small business questions to himself@feargalquinn.ie

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