'Thrilla on the Grilla'

Restaurant Business presents "C-Store vs. QSR"

NEW YORK -- With much news and trending in the convenience store industry focusing on retailers upgrading their foodservice offerings to restaurant-quality levels, Restaurant Business, one of CSP Business Media's Food Group publications, recently took a look from its perspective at the contest between c-stores and quick-serve restaurants (QSRs) in the foodservice arena.

Major convenience chains such as Wawa and Sheetz are beginning to call their stores "restaurants." And there has even been talk of the c-store industry "eating QSRs' lunch."

"Wawa has always been viewed as a c-store, but we now want to be viewed as a restaurant that sells gas. We want to be more like you when we grow up," Howard Stoeckel, CEO of Wawa, told attendees of CSP's Restaurant Leadership Conference in March.

Echoing those words, National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) spokesperson Jeff Lenard told The Gazette, "Food is the future of our industry. Our stores will become food stores that happen to sell gas rather than gas stations that happen to sell food, as they are perceived today."

(See Related Content below for previous CSP Daily News coverage.)

With such "in-your-face" talk, Restaurant Business decided to engage in some "trash talk" of its own: "There' s a new competitor in town. And we wanted to see what all the fuss is about. We sent a team of tasters from around the country to find out if this threat is for real or if it’s just so much hype from folks whose most notable recipe is 'leave on roller for three consecutive turns'," it said.

"In one corner, c-stores, trying to reinvent themselves and steal customers from restaurants by beefing up the quality and quantity of their food. But can they shake the image of microwaves and roller dogs? And in the other corner, QSRs. They're taking the brunt of the c-store infringements. Have they gotten flabby around the midsection, or are they back to their fighting weight and ready for the competition? It's time to find out.

"Convenience stores aren't what they used to be. In fact, they're starting to look a lot more like you. And they're not shy about it."

The "fight card" included:

  • Kwik Trip Ham & Swiss on Sourdough Bun vs. Starbucks Ham & Swiss Panini.
  • Kwik Trip Egg Salad Sandwich vs. Starbucks Egg Salad Sandwich.
  • RaceTrac Rollerdog vs Sonic All-American Dog.
  • Wawa Italian vs. Subway Spicy Italian.

The contestants were judged on presentation and taste.

(Click here to view the full story and to see who won).

What are your thoughts on this "grudge match"? Do you agree or disagree with the results as determined by Restaurant Business? Please post your comments (be civil!) below or send us an email at [email protected].