Since it will take months—maybe years—for c-store foodservice to rebound, now is the time for operators to plan their entrance strategy for once the pandemic slows.

“Operators would need a plan for returning to work,” says Jessica Williams, CEO of c-store consultancy Food Forward Thinking LLC, Louisville, Ky. “Who knows how many habits, systems or products would have changed by the time they’d be back.”

Developing an entrance plan goes beyond current sanitization efforts and seizing self-serve operations, Williams says. It also includes monitoring auto-replenish orders; adjusting food and supply orders; reeducating sick or absent employees on food prep and other operations; and leveraging buying power of overstocked and near-expired frozen foods. C-store operators should also consider rebuilding their menu. Williams suggests beginning with a limited number of items, since retailers will likely have less customers entering the store.

While more than half of c-store operators said that they think delivery, mobile ordering, curbside pickup and other technologies will become more common than in-store foodservice purchasing down the line, 15% or less have actually implemented these services into their foodservice programs. Operators must also rewrite foodservice procedures to include any new food-safety practices. According to CSP’s April survey, 85% of retailers expected the pandemic to increase the importance of food safety and sanitization methods.


What long-term effects do you think the pandemic will have on the way c-stores operate foodservice programs?

Source: CSP COVID-19 operator survey

About the Survey

Winsight’s 2020 State of C-Store Foodservice survey was conducted online from Feb. 4-March 6. Of the 90 operators who participated, nearly 80% have fewer than 50 locations, 79% have company-owned stores and 16% have a combination of the two, while only 6% of participants operated franchise-owned stores. Nearly all (90%) participants made food on-site; 60% offered supplier-prepared food and 31% operated through a commissary.

CSP’s recent COVID-19 operator survey, conducted in April 2020, included responses from 70 retailers.