Behind the Development of Circle K’s New Menu

Brett Dworski, Associate Editor

Circle K convenience store

COLUMBUS, Ind. -- Several new or remodeled Circle K convenience stores stand as prime examples of how the chain—the second largest in the United States—is putting a renewed emphasis on made-to-order food.

In July, Circle K’s Midwest division, based in Columbus, Ind., opened new c-stores in Troy, Ohio; Jeffersonville, Ind.; and Indianapolis, in addition to remodeling existing stores in Seymore, Ind., and Louisville, Ky. The stores are focused on enhanced menu items, including fresh, made-to-go burritos, pizza and doughnuts, as well as the Polar Pop fountain beverage and fresh-brewed tea program.

Here’s a look at how the new offer came together …

Photo by Xnatedawgx

Circle K burritos

Circle K Director of Marketing Mark Dalesandro said acknowledging consumer demand for made-to-order foods instead of prepackaged items convinced the chain to introduce the newly renovated menu.

“When we opened these stores, we found immediate success among our customer base,” Dalesandro told CSP Daily News. “Our new made-to-go menu enhanced the perception of our existing roller-grill and hot-dog program.”

The key to that success, Dalesandro said, has been the chain’s increased attention to detail regarding food production.

“Having more awareness of fresh food and its demands brings a heightened quality awareness to our operators,” he said. “[For pizzas,] we make sure we keep our dough, cheese and sauce fresh all the time. This focus on fresh has helped create quality product.”

Circle K pizza

Scott Scharfenberg, human resources director for Circle K, said the fresh menu can complicate the preparation process, requiring more attention to detail.

“When you’re making fresh pizza and fresh dough, you’re adding levels of complications and this brings upon the heighted awareness,” he said. “The more items you have, the more complicated this becomes.”

Scharfenberg also noted the fresh menu’s benefits from a human-resource standpoint, as the increased kitchen workload opens more job opportunities. “The fresh offerings staff three or four additional employees that work in those areas, so it’s a win for our employee basis,” he said.

When asked to give advice to c-store operators wanting to implement or change a foodservice program, Dalesandro praised consumer feedback as the starting point.

“Listen to your customers; they’ll tell you what they want,” he said. “When you put your product out there, customer demand will tell you if it resonates. We hit a home run with our products based off what we’ve been told. They [consumers] keep coming back, which tells us we’ve done [it] right.”