Bringing Breakfast to the Convenience Consumer

Four steps to streamline service to boost morning sales

grab and go breakfast sandwich

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OAKBROOK TERRACE, Ill. -- There’s no question: Breakfast is where it’s at. With the breakfast market breaking over $30 billion, convenience stores know they need to get in the game. The real strategy-making, aside from menu selection, revolves around speed of service, streamlining costs and upping the convenience factor.

Making Convenient More Convenient

Some 37% of consumers say they lack time to eat breakfast away from home, and that’s why they tend to skip it. However, by tailoring morning meal offerings to on-the-go customers, c-stores can capitalize on some of these opportunities. “If the location or packaging makes the stop fast, operators can take advantage of that convenience,” said Mary Chapman, senior director of product innovation for Technomic.

Expanding the grab-n-go section with a variety of prepackaged items can help speed up service and sales. Family Express positions its wide range of individually wrapped breakfast sandwiches, croissants and burritos at easy access points throughout the store. Customers can pick up a sandwich in the Cravin’s Market cooler section and either take it to go or warm it in the microwave located directly next to the cooler. They can also pick up a prewarmed sandwich right at the cash register.

“For some reason, our customers prefer heating up the sandwich themselves, but it only takes 30 to 40 seconds, so it’s still very convenient for them,” said Dimitri Olympidis, foodservice category manager.

The store’s cold-stocked breakfast items take up the front-and-center, middle part of an 8-foot case and this helps improve visibility and sales as well, he noted.

Stocking the Self-Serve

Consistently replenishing the stock sends a message of freshness to customers, which can help improve morning sales.

“We rely on our managers heavily to keep a close eye on the cases and make sure they’re well-stocked,” Olympidis said. “We never want an empty basket; we want our displays to look like they’re full of fresh food.”

This also helps imply that the store offers a wider variety of hot breakfast items, which can help retailers compete with quick-service restaurants (QSRs), which are ever-expanding their own breakfast menus.

“We have about five different SKUs of egg, sausage and ham sandwiches, and we try to keep a steady flow of new items to keep things interesting,” said Olympidis.  White-paper, deli-style packaging also extends the fresh factor, helping the sandwiches retain their integrity when warmed in the microwave oven.

Connecting with Coffee

Offering premium beverages, and premium coffee especially, can also open up opportunities for extra breakfast food sales and help c-stores compete not only with QSRs, but also with bakery/cafes.

“Our Java Wave gourmet coffee program is a real draw right now,” said Olympidis. The self-serve barista station allows customers to make their own cappuccinos, lattes and other specialty coffee drinks with optional sugar cane-based flavors and fresh milk (delivered each morning).

The station’s close proximity to the Cravin’s Market cooler section helps bring extra visibility to the breakfast offerings. The c-store also heavily advertises its coffee-plus-sandwich concept through signage and banners inside and outside the store.

Value and Cost

Budget breakfasts have always appealed to consumers; in fact, almost half of consumers grabbed breakfast at a QSR last year, according to Technomic. “Other than time, the main reason 57% of consumers don’t eat breakfast out is because it saves money,” Chapman said.

Offering two-for prices can help boost volume sales and sends a value-added message to customers. Family Express occasionally offers two breakfast sandwiches (originally priced $1.99) for $3.

Reducing waste also helps keep operator costs and customer prices down. Family Express uses a state-of-the-art software program to stay on top of sales and know exactly how much to order for each day. Managers even know which days are the busiest and which days are not.

“All of our orders are predetermined by an ordering system based on what we want on hand coupled with what we have sold, and also takes into consideration what we had to waste,” Olympidis said. “We also update our inventory once a week to make sure we’re on par, and that automatically updates the ordering system.”