Topped with lettuce or not, sandwiches remain a staple of the lunch daypart, along with roller grill, chicken and pizza, as retailers emphasize traditional c-store foodservice items.

At Southwest Georgia Oil’s SunStop Markets and Eat’s Deli, Southern-style foods resonate. “We sell a lot of chicken, whether it’s chicken tenders or our eight-piece fried,” Weckstein said. “We were seeing people being a little more mindful of what they are eating, so we added a baked chicken option as an LTO.” The limited-time offer did so well that it will be a core menu item for the chain in 2023. “We’re still streamlining and keeping our menu as simple as possible.”

Biscuits are also a big seller in the South.

“We found a cornbread biscuit that has the texture of a biscuit with the sweetness of the cornbread, so we are going to be featuring that with our breakfast sandwiches,” Weckstein said.

Ray at Ruiz Foods said the manufacturer’s roller-grill Tornados and hot-case empanadas are top sellers. “We know consumers desire variety throughout the day,” she said. A recent launch of apple pie empanadas has been popular in the morning as an accompaniment to coffee, she said, as well as an all-day snack option.

The goal for most retailers is to transition as smoothly as possible from one daypart to the next. “During lunch, it’s a meat and one side. Then we include two sides and a roll for later in the afternoon,” Weckstein said.

At Kwik Trip, Servais said the dayparts have blurred. “We have breakfast items out all day now, and we have lunch items out 24 hours a day, too.” He said the biggest daypart adjustment at Kwik Trip stores happens later in the day. “As we roll into evening, we put more of an emphasis on our hot cases, whole [pizza] pies and eight-piece chicken to take home and eat.”

Consultant Jessica Williams, founder and CEO of Food Forward Thinking, said cold beverages fit nicely into these now-blurred dayparts. “Cold-brew coffee, cold espresso-based drinks, energy and fountain drinks will continue trending toward massive popularity in 2023,” she said. “As foodservice leaders, we will be wise to hop onboard that trend and offer food items that pair well with cold beverages in every daypart.”