Editor’s note: Continuing our design coverage in this issue, here are insights and ideas from Tré Musco, CEO and Chief Creative Officer, Tesser:

Lead with Change
“Convenience store and supermarket customers will think of you the same way they always have - unless you break the gravitational pull of familiarity,” says Tré Musco, CEO and Chief Creative Officer, Tesser. “Lead with the new grocerant experience, whether it’s a freshly tossed salad at a gas station or a welcoming vibe at a grocery.

“Be bold. Shake up customers a lot,” he adds. “It feels uncomfortable, but I think it’s a good thing.  You may benefit from being more different than more similar to your overall retail format.”

Be a Place to Recharge (and not just your iPhone)
Retail store formats are functional and efficient.  But “if you want people to want to come rather than need to come, then focus on the emotional side of the experience,” says Mr. Musco. “Give them soft lighting, upbeat music, engaging design, an uplifting outdoor area, and comfortable seating that suits any visit. People want to feel cared for and want to forget they are at a gas station or what is on their to-do list, even if just for a short break. And, yes, you need plenty of outlets and WiFi.

“Restaurants are also functional – yet the great ones layer on a sense of taking care of their guests,” he adds. “They’ve gotten really smart about giving people a break in their day, whether its 15 minutes or two hours.”

Mr. Musco urges c-stores to orient towards a more youthful gray collar/blue collar vibe, and supermarkets to aim for early-family Millennials and GenX. “Outdoor areas are plusses,” he states.  “They dramatically improve people’s take on the brand. They should have real shading, not just umbrellas, and a barrier of greenery to shield car views.”

Go with the Flow
Dining guests expect to have an experience tailored to them – even if it’s not what store operations might initially prefer. “You can’t force guests into a set path just because it works better for ops,” notes Mr. Musco. “Grocerants need to provide a journey that is intuitive, sensible, and anticipates different guest ‘modes’ they may be in.”

Two examples: If they want to app order food while pumping gas, and pick up on their way out, they need to be able to do that. If they want to pay when it makes sense for them, enable it in that space.

“Amazon can’t seat customers after their shopping outing,” Mr. Musco says of an advantage retailers can leverage. “A CEO or President who sees the benefit of trip frequency - and knows this effort will pay off in the long run - can make the store efficient enough for ops, and consumer-centric enough to make people happy.”

Basics and Details Matter   
Open and run a grocerant – and customers will have the same high expectations as they do of restaurants.  Retailers get no slack just because their primary business is a store.  

That said, get the fundamentals right: Restrooms and hand wash stations near the dining area. Ample staff to keep tables clean and assist customers. Dedicated parking spaces for takeout guests. Then layer on details that impress – on the table, place salt and pepper grinders, a single fresh-cut daisy, and beacons so servers can “magically bring the right order to the right table,” says Mr. Musco.  Also, authentic local handcrafted materials, a fireplace for the morning coffee crowd, and lots of natural light from oversized windows.

“Large supermarkets are shrinking in size to be more efficient, and they have extra square footage with which to open grocerants. Yet the reverse isn’t happening – a 3,500-square-foot Wendy’s is unlikely to enter the add-on grocery business,” he states.

Dive into the Deep End
Dining guests gauge your commitment to “this new version of yourself. They want to see you’re fully invested in this being as good or better than their favorite coffee shop, quick-serve or casual eatery – and that you’re not just seeking opportunistic sales,” says Mr. Musco.

Don't give them reason to doubt. Place the grocerant where it gives diners confidence - dedicate a dining space away from the functional buzz of grocery shopping. In c-stores, a separate entrance to the fresh food side exposes freshness, quality and real food theater. Also, give diners a great outdoor space that feels like an oasis.  Embrace your expanded concept – and make it obvious to customers that you do.

Tesser is a brand strategy and retail design firm, with 24 years of experience in the restaurant, convenience store, grocery and retail industries with many Fortune 500 companies. Tesser's expertise lies in consumer insights, brand and design strategy and design across all key guest experience touch points including; store design, identity, and packaging. Among its national clients: Wendy’s, Popeyes, Sheetz, Quiznos, Bojangles, Ben & Jerry’s, Denny’s, Chili’s, KFC, Domino and Jamba Juice.