Consumer Report: Fresh—and Fast—Food

c-store foodservice tendencies

The key to customers’ hearts is through their stomachs. Here are some regional tastes to consider ...

Northeastern mix and match

To-go coffee

These consumers are most likely to plan their c-store visits ahead of time, visit during the morning daypart and buy regular hot coffee. Loyalty programs that reward frequent purchases could prove potent, so take a page from Starbucks with an app that makes the morning coffee buy more convenient.

Northeasterners are also most likely to buy made-to-order food at c-stores. The region is rich with sophisticated c-store foodservice players, including Swiss Farms, which has been expanding its lineup in recent months.

Justin Vignola, director of fresh food for the Broomall, Pa.-based chain, says Northeasterners want customizable options, which is why the chain is launching a mix-and-match meal lineup in early 2017 with a choice of entree proteins and sides.

“Customers are not only looking for a fresh meal fast—they also want choices to reflect the healthier side, but still taste great too,” he says.

Southern speed

Eating food in the car

Southerners are most likely to make unplanned food and beverage purchases at c-stores, and eat their purchase in their car (or other modes of  transportation). Packaging—think car cups—and foods that are easy to eat on the go would appeal to these consumers.

Healthy in the West

To-go iced coffee

While they have a lower visit frequency, western consumers are also more likely to go into the store each time they buy gas. Retailers could make that store visit worth their while by highlighting their favored food and beverage items.

Westerners are the most health-conscious and are more likely to buy iced or specialty coffee. Focusing on combo meals, healthful options and iced coffee can help boost foodservice purchases.

Midwest comfort food

Doughnuts in a box

These consumers ranked just behind northeasterners in purchase frequency of hot dispensed beverages. And when it comes to food, pizza and doughnuts are overwhelmingly their top choices. A baked-in-store program—with its attendant aromas—would play well with midwesterners.

“[The findings] are spot-on with what we are seeing. We are going on our own path with burritos, salads, tacos, etc., to be differentiated.”

—Quinn Ricker, president and CEO, Ricker Oil Co., Anderson, Ind.

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