C-Store Chicken Takes Flight

Fresh chicken programs help retailers boost foodservice offerings

fried chicken

Brought to you by Core-Mark.

Convenience store foodservice options are continuing to evolve beyond the roller grill or microwave. Today, more retailers are offering full-service foodservice programs, from pizza to fried chicken and beyond.

Freshly prepared food that’s offered up hot to satisfy any craving is becoming much more commonplace, driven in part by changing consumer preferences. Richard Hunt, Core-Mark’s Corporate Director of Fresh and Foodservice East, says, “Consumers are becoming more demanding in terms of quality level for fast food on-the-go.”

In fact, according to Technomic’s 2017 Center of the Plate: Poultry report, 36% of millennials are eating more fried chicken than they were two years ago, and nearly half of consumers ages 18- to 34-years old find fried chicken appealing as a lunch or dinner option.

But while these programs are becoming more common, plenty of retailers may think it’s out of reach or won’t be beneficial to their stores. For retailers who are skeptical about offering these types of programs, there are several misconceptions to dispel.
First is that they’ll have to come up with the entire program on their own, from recipe development to advertising and more—that’s not the case. Plenty of programs with existing branding can be successfully implemented in a c-store and sold under a c-store’s umbrella.

BirdShack Chicken, a turnkey fried chicken program offered by Core-Mark, offers operators the opportunity to entice more customers with a delicious, appealing product.

Hunt says, “It’s a full turnkey program. In other words, it’s got all the branded ingredients and side dishes, including branded packaging. We can provide all the equipment necessary to deploy the program, and we provide onsite training and support to get the retailer up and running.”

Chad Peterson, president of CJ Express, a retailer that recently launched the BirdShack Chicken program, says, “We liked BirdShack’s flavor the best.” Peterson also noted that the program itself had a smart, fresh approach when it came to marketing.
Implementing a fresh fried chicken program can also be great for fulfilling gaps in what consumers want from c-stores.

Alexis Lobodocky, brand manager of BirdShack Chicken, says, “It was a great opportunity to bring a fresh brand into the marketplace that would resonate with a millennial audience but also opened up the opportunity to create a program that really met the needs of operators.”

With BirdShack Chicken, retailers can choose an appropriately sized program for their specific stores and the corresponding promotional materials, and in quick order, they can be on the road to selling a great chicken product.

Competing with nearby restaurants with fresh, hot food

With BirdShack Chicken, vendors can supply everything from signage for the food, kiosks and equipment for food prep, to branded packaging, onsite training for staff and more.

And while a lot of c-store customers stop in only to fuel up their cars, at-the-pump signage can bring them inside and thus, food programs like BirdShack can thrive.

“Quality branding will draw the consumer into the store. Window clings, pump toppers, signage inside the store. It really is a comprehensive program,” says Hunt.

With a variety of menu options and a turnkey program, newer c-store foodservice offerings can help retailers compete with local businesses. In fact, the main reason CJ Express started offering fried chicken was due to customer demand. “People were asking for it,” Peterson says.

And, he says, “As far as customer reaction goes,” he says, “It’s been very well received with very positive reviews. People like the taste a lot. It’s easy to sell when the product sells itself.”

Peterson notes that the chicken program has greatly increased his stores’ sales, too, saying, “In our first two weeks of the program, we did about 50% more business than we did before, without the chicken. Overall, it’s been a tremendous success for our store.”

Hunt notes the program’s success as well. “We’ve had stores in college settings and urban settings that have gone through hundreds of pounds of chicken a week,” he says.

The quality of fresh, hot food is what today’s consumers are looking for, and more often, they’re going to c-stores and quick-service restaurants rather than a sit-down location. According to Core-Mark, 85% of millennial c-store foodservice customers come in at least once a week, and 62% of consumers want retailers to offer more ready-to-eat foods that are kept warm on display.

With a fried chicken program that’s tailored to a specific store’s traffic and demand, operators will be able to capture a larger segment of their consumers.