CSP Magazine

Foodservice: Eat, Drink and Be Varied

Better! Cheaper! Customized! Diverse! You gotta have it all

We know we’re in the foodservice game. For some of us, that means multi-day-part roller grills, warmers and prepackaged sandwiches. For others, it’s manning an active food court with made-to-order panini, pizza, soups and more.

We also know that by and large we’re behind quick-serve restaurants (QSRs) on both food and beverages. But here’s the good news: Customers, particularly those 49 and younger, are prepared to purchase their next sub and soft drink from you instead of the QSR down the street. Incredible foodservice opportunities are ripe for the picking.

“Nearly 50% of those polled believe c-stores are capable of delivering restaurant-quality fresh food,” says Donna Hood Crecca, Technomic’s senior director. “They want retailers to up their game when it comes to variety, taste and healthfulness of prepared foods and beverages along with made-to-order and grab-and-go items.”

So here’s the deal: If you want it bad enough, you have the burgers and soft drinks to go up against McDonald’s and Wendy’s; you have the fresh offerings to vie for the Panera patron; you have the fresh subs and sides to stare Jimmy John’s in the eye. And your foodservice specialties are as diverse as the overall convenience channel.

But you need to adopt a holistic approach to prepared-food offerings if you seek to amp up rings. To boost prepared-food sales, aim for cheaper prices (favored by 55% of respondents), improved quality (53%), better-tasting options (53%), a wider range of options (52%) and healthier choices (50%).

And pay close attention to the victuals of choice among patrons. The munchables you want to target are hot dogs (52% of consumers purchase most often at a c-store at least once a month), breakfast sandwiches/wraps/quesadillas (36%), doughnuts (36%), pizza (34%) and custom sandwiches/wraps (32%).

Customers’ made-to-order wish list is equally important. That means keeping burgers (72% of consumers’ top made-to-order choice), sandwiches/wraps (70%), pizza (62%), and french fries (60%) on your radar.

“I was surprised that burgers topped the list of desired foods, and further surprised that they are one of the least-purchased food items,” says Rich Green, customer fanatics director for Maverik Inc., North Salt Lake, Utah. “However, the order of food-item [purchase frequency] is about the same for us, as reflected in the data.”

About three out of five shoppers are inclined to use made-to-order food or beverage stations at your store, so make this a priority. In fact, more than half of your customers are more likely to buy prepared foods if you offer a made-to-order food station where items can be fully customized.

Bundle Up

If you’re truly vying for the QSR consumer, think combo meals. More than 40% of your food and beverage customers will frequent your store more if you offer them.

If food is not your strength, don’t forfeit the fountain. Our survey shows fountain, coffee and frozen beverages are top of mind, with fountain iced tea growing in popularity.

If proprietary foodservice isn’t for you, here’s another avenue: Add a QSR. Two out of three of your shoppers (particularly Super Heavy Users and those 18 to 44 years old) are more likely to visit your store if it has a restaurant chain housed inside.

Here’s your wake-up call: Foodservice beverages and food are the second and fifth most common items purchased at c-stores at least occasionally. And 76% and 69% of food and beverage patrons, respectively, will decide whether to buy from you based on quality and variety.

The moral of the story? According to Crecca, “The pressure is on to cater to increased consumer demand for better, cheaper, tastier, customized and diverse fare that whets the appetite and imagination more than packaged products can.”

Click here to view the supporting data for this analysis.

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