C-Store Hot-Food 'Game Changer'?

New program allows for self-serve hot sandwiches

Abbie Westra, Director, Editorial, CSP

CINCINNATI -- Roller-grill customers may be some of c-stores' most loyal shoppers, but where do they go when they're not in the mood for a dog? Likely a burger or chicken joint for a hot sandwich. A new program from AdvancePierre Foods is meant to capture those customers with a hot-sandwich program that mimics the process of the roller grill, with minimal employee handling.

The Fast Fixin' Sandwich Bar program consists of a small-footprint hot-holding unit with wells to hold three prepackaged trays of fully cooked proteins: Angus beef patties, breaded chicken and barbecue pork rib patties. The proteins are brought to temperature in a microwave, conventional or convection oven inside the packaging (about 3 minutes in a microwave), eliminating any employee contact with the food.

All the equipment is component-based, so retailers can build the program based on their own equipment needs, be it bun warmers or condiment bars. The hot holder has inserts so it can be used for other products during off hours.

"We see this as the next level of hot food, being able to sell a product that's more like a fast-food restaurant chain," said Grant Wilson, vice president of convenience sales for the Cincinnati-based company. "We view this, to a certain degree, as a game-changer in the c-store industry."

The protein comes in six pieces per tray, and the packaging means operators don't need a food handler's permit or a three-compartment sink. The suggested retail price is $1.99, or $2.49 to $2.99 for double-meat sandwiches, already a popular option in the dozen stores where the program has been tested.

"Operators are really excited that this is an easy hot-food solution, and I see that as revolutionary in the business," said Tony Schroder, president for convenience. "Once we're able to sell hot, we're truly in the foodservice business and truly competing with fast-food chains."

Abbie Westra, CSP/Winsight By Abbie Westra, Director, Editorial, CSP
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