CHICAGO — To remain relevant, many c-store operators are testing new tech and product offers.
In the foodservice space, ovens, grab-and-go coolers and other premium, compact equipment often found in limited-service restaurants offer the ability to deliver food faster. Parker’s kitchen has three fryers; multiple full-size ovens; walk-in coolers and freezers; breading tables; and ample space for shelving and storage. Its equipment is data-driven, allowing the kitchen staff to manage everything that’s being cooked at once.
Screens show when the oil filtering process begins and ends, and the ovens have screens that show what is being cooked, the current temperature and the time. These screens also save the item’s history, so the oven sets the temperature and time to that specific item with the push of a picture button.
“Every item we roll out is tested in this equipment,” Davis says. Maverik tests new equipment at its headquarters before launching nationwide. The chain has recently explored coffee equipment such as bean-to-cup machines, nitro coffee makers and frozen-coffee machines, Hancey says.
“We ask ourselves, ‘Would this be exciting for our customers to interact with and keep product fresh?’ ” she says.
Seventy-one percent of c-store retailers offer proprietary foodservice—food and beverage programs under their brand, according to Technomic.
More c-store operators offer private-label foodservice compared to receiving it from a national QSR brand (35%) or distributor-branded turnkey program (6%). This is a key differentiator from other c-stores and restaurant chains, Technomic said.
Irving, Texas-based 7-Eleven offers a variety of private-label foodservice items through its 7-Select brand, such as protein cookies and grilled chicken skewers. Its proprietary packaged beverages include cold-pressed juices, sparkling waters and energy drinks. The chain plans to pursue bean-to-cup coffee, iced tea, nitro coffee, cold brew and more through 7-Select, the company told CSP.
Savannah, Ga.-based retailer Parker’s, on the other hand, has every foodservice product item under its private-label line. This includes everything from chicken and breakfast sandwiches to sauces and dips.
“Our brand has a powerful reputation for quality, cleanliness and service,” Davis says. “We use that to push our foodservice program.”
“We’ve always looked at ourselves as a QSR.”
New Category Close-Up
Cannabidiol (CBD), a nonpsychoactive component of hemp and cannabis, continues to emerge in retail. At the same time, the pressure to stock the controversial ingredient—and remain relevant in the process—has been building for c-store retailers.
Twenty percent (20%) of c-store operators said they plan to offer CBD products in the future, and 51% of those retailers said gummies would be their item of choice, according to Technomic. This outpaced beverages (38%), baked goods (36%), candy (33%), oils (31%), concentrates/drops (28%), capsules/pills (26%), dissolvables (23%), vapor (18%) and topical creams (15%).
Parker’s sells CBD-infused gummies, lollipops and drops, but the chain remains hesitant to explore food and beverages that contain the substance, because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has yet to craft a set of guidelines for its handling and selling in this category, says Heather Davis, director of foodservice for Parker’s.