Fried chicken never seems to get old.
In fact, according to Technomic, the classic staple of American comfort cuisine continues to rank among the top five most sought-after fast-food or quick-serve concepts in the convenience channel.
Here’s a look at some of the advantages and considerations for offering fresh-fried chicken prepared in store for your customers.
While most consumers favor Southern-style fried chicken, Nashville-style hot fried chicken has been gaining ground with an almost cultish following, led by the likes of Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken and Big Shake’s Hot Chicken & Fish, CSP reported in its latest Foodservice Handbook, produced in conjunction with Technomic.
C-stores have an opportunity to introduce new, exciting flavors in the form of sauces and sides, from timeless favorites such as barbecue, ranch, honey-mustard and Buffalo sauces to more interesting hot sauces, bolder barbecue sauces and herb infusions.
Sandy Carritt, deli manager at PetroMart in Missouri Valley, Iowa, uses BirdShack, a fresh-fried chicken solution from Core-Mark. The concept includes prep/frying/holding equipment, ingredients (chicken, breading, frying oil and sides), marketing supplies and employee training for frying fresh, bone-in chicken pieces and boneless tenders in a 300- to 700-square footprint.
Carritt has recently been running a Cajun Chicken LTO with her BirdShack program to offer customers bolder flavors in addition to the more straightforward, Southern-style fried-chicken menu.
“We cook eight-piece tenders using BirdShack’s Cajun Breader mix so we don’t need to add any additional ingredients on our end,” says Carritt. “Our customers love it. We’ve even had a line at times, so people will call ahead to make sure we have the chicken. I think they enjoy something different and the Cajun flavoring offers just that.”
Through the program, Carritt is also able to offer popular side items like steamed green beans, baked beans and coleslaw, which results in an increased basket sizes. Since the addition of the BirdShack program and Cajun Chicken LTO, Carritt says she’s definitely noticed added in-store traffic.
Penchant for profits
One of the main benefits of offering fresh food items is the menu differentiation they offer. “The majority of c-store customers just fuel up and go, which challenges the operator to entice in-store visits where higher margin products are available. Offering quality, fresh-fried chicken gives them a reason to stop in the store,” says Richard Hunt, Corporate Director of Fresh and Foodservice for Core-Mark International Inc.
Chicken dishes remain the most menued entree-style food at c-stores after sandwiches, Mexican dishes, pizza, hot dogs and burgers and above things like salads, combo plates and more, according to CSP’s Foodservice Handbook. But chicken’s middle position on that list means c-stores serving it can differentiate themselves among other food items, particularly since Chicken rises near the top in per store sales dollar contribution.
Hunt agrees, and notes its potential for added profits. “When operators are looking to offer that type of fried-food offering, they’re fairly limited in terms of a quality program and often have to resort to prebreaded, precooked and/or microwaveable products,” he says. Being able to offer a fresh-to-fried menu item, therefore, can give c-stores a leg up on their immediate c-store competition, but even in some cases, their quick-serve competition.
“BirdShack is a turnkey solution for retailers wanting to offer fried chicken; it’s flexible and it’s made fresh daily with a delicious recipe made with simple ingredients,” says Alexis Lobodocky, Brand Manager at BirdShack. “Plus, the wide variety of featured sides bring in customers craving more than just fried chicken.”
According to the same list mentioned earlier, average prices for chicken dishes ranked at $3.91, well above burgers, hot dogs, Mexican and sandwiches. A family-style fried-chicken meal, complete with sauces and sides, however, could be sold for upwards of $10 for a much bigger profit potential.
Chicken all day
While bone-in fried-chicken pieces and sides help recruit customers during the peak lunch hours, they also offer a quick, easy and delicious solution for families on the run closer to dinnertime.
In fact, 45% of c-store foodservice consumers would be likely to order hot chicken-breast sandwiches for lunch from c-stores at least occasionally, and 55% of c-store foodservice consumers say the same for dinner, according to Technomic’s May 2016 Menu Trends report.
Offering smaller pieces and items such as fried chicken nuggets and fried chicken tenders can also help entice between-meal and snack seekers during those slower times in the afternoon. Technomic’s November 2016 Menu Trends report found that 30% of c-store customers say they typically purchase chicken strips, nuggets or wings as a snack.
“Offering something like fried chicken can help retailers push past the breakfast sandwich and processed, microwaved foods,” Hunt says. “While those foods are still important for c-stores, many customers nowadays are looking specifically for fresh food items at all times of the day.”
Milennials and Gen Z customers in particular are looking for non-sandwich, fresh items, so fresh-fried chicken with clean ingredients and cooking on-site is a natural fit for those meal-seekers, Hunt says. And, with the equipment for fresh-fried in place, it’s possible to add additional items into that sandwich category, like fried-chicken biscuit sandwiches for all dayparts, including breakfast.
Finding the right turnkey solution for offering freshly cooked, piping-hot fried chicken in-house offers c-stores a leg up among their competitors when it comes to satisfying both existing and new customers in today’s increasingly competitive market.
This post is sponsored by Core-Mark