Growth in this segment knows no bounds. Expand your foodservice brand sales by getting in.
If you’re craving an authentic crab cake in Maryland, head to … the pump! Convenience stores today offer something fast, something filling, and – increasingly – something unexpected as the new face of foodservice.
In-store convenience store sales have been steadily climbing over twenty years. Sales reached over $256 billion in 2020. You could say c-stores are immune to a major slump by design:
As the lines between restaurant, supermarket, and convenience store continue to blur, c-stores are adding the service mechanisms that are becoming essential to foodservice today: Drive-thrus and delivery. Curbside pickup. Mobile ordering. Smart Kitchens with machine learning that can predict how much of a menu item will be consumed at any given time. Anything a quick-serve can do, a c-store can do … better?
In fact, C-stores are catching up to casual dining as a preferred foodservice destination:
Consumers’ restaurant preference to order from at least once a week:
Quick service: 62.6%
Fast casual: 52%
Grocery store: 48.7%
Casual dining: 40.5%
Convenience store: 28.2%
Fine-dining restaurant: 12.5%
Food truck: 11.5%
Foodservice accounts for 22.6 percent of sales and 36.4 percent of profits at US c-stores. Foodservice programs are increasingly essential to c-store profitability. That’s where your brand comes in.
As you look to craft foodservice solutions tailored to c-store customers, help them overcome specific constraints.
Low-labor. Offer meals with simple prep that doesn’t require culinary training.
Travel-ready. Build handheld, mess-free formats. The easier to eat on the go, the better.
Extended shelf life. C-stores typically get deliveries only 1-2 times a week, so consider single-serve packaging and other technology that maximizes freshness.
At the extreme end of the spectrum are foodservice destinations that also sell fuel. Such operations likely have the staff and equipment in place to offer more complex foodservice offerings. For these customers, focus on:
On the other end of the spectrum, c-store operators may simply be looking to supplement their hot-dog rollers to build incremental sales. In this case, consider:
C-stores practically invented the impulse purchase. And fresh food is inherently alluring. Play up this appeal by offering foodservice solutions with:
61% of operators are willing to try totally new offerings as long as availability and good pricing is assured. Given supply chain uncertainties, approach your customer with creativity about what you can guarantee based on mutual goals. Maybe it’s a breakfast sandwich with supply and price locked in, provided the bread may vary from English muffin or biscuit to something more specialty like a waffle carrier or brioche bun. Spin the unknown into something that fares well with consumers – the LTO.
Most Millennials (84%) use their phones to help them shop in-store. As always, a dish that prompts social shares is a meal that advertises itself. Consider vibrant grab-and-go dishes like Mediterranean salads with pops of color, or charcuterie-style selections. How can the packaging be compelling as well as practical? If customers have fun opening or unwrapping a meal, they’ll have more fun eating it too.
Help operators leverage in-store digital promotions that boost trial and cement their c-stores as consumers’ preferred place for a food fix any time of day.
There’s no single right way to enter the c-store market, but you won’t go wrong if you consider how c-stores are a rising player in today’s foodservice arena.