CHICAGO — Sales of foodservice in convenience stores are growing faster and more consistently than in quick-service restaurants (QSRs), according to recent data from CSP sister research firm Technomic. Technomic's Wallchart shows foodservice sales in c-stores grew 3.6% in 2018, and the research firm projects similar growth this year, compared to 3.1% growth for QSRs in 2018 and a projected 3.4% increase this year.
“The battle for share of stomach is intensifying,” Technomic Principal Donna Hood Crecca said during CSP’s C-Store Foodservice Forum in Chicago. “Six in 10 consumers say they're going to QSRs less often, and many of those trips are moving to c-stores.”
That movement is opening the door for c-store retailers to grow, said Aimee Harvey, managing editor of Technomic, who outlined these four growth opportunities for c-store foodservice …
1. Target the grab-and-go occasion
“We’re seeing a strong focus on executing grab-and-go at a high level,” Harvey said, noting intentional moves to “shorten the lifespan of products on the shelf to show freshness.”
Fifty-two percent of grab-and-go foodservice purchases are planned, according to a recent Technomic C-Store Foodservice Study. The most in-demand timeframes for c-store foodservice are lunch (51%), afternoon snack (49%) and breakfast (31%), times when consumers said they “need something fast and easy” (67%) and don’t have time to wait for a made-to-order meal or snack (32%).
2. Leverage changing consumer usage
The past five years have shown significant changes in how and where consumers eat. In 2015, 76% of consumers reported eating the food they purchase from a c-store in their cars. In 2019, that’s dropped to 68%, and it’s as low as 64% for consumers ages 16-34, according to Technomic. Instead, eating “at my or someone else’s home” is on the rise, up 5 points to 59% overall and at 70% for those 16-34.
“We’re seeing indications that consumers are beginning to use c-stores differently for foodservice,” Harvey said. “This points to potential to grow the dinner daypart through menu development and marketing initiatives.”
3. Answer the demand for delivery
“We’re seeing explosive growth for third-party delivery,” Harvey said. With $10 million worth of business being delivered, third-party delivery would be one of the 10 largest restaurants in the country if it were a single chain.
In c-stores, 40% of consumers say they are “likely to use delivery service if available,” according to Technomic data, and that number leaps to 53% for consumers ages 16-34. “Delivery is an opportunity to convert a moderate c-store customer into a heavy c-store customer.”
4. Prioritize food safety
In 2012, only 5% of consumers told Technomic they were “very confident” in the safety of food sold in convenience stores. Today, that number has grown to 15%. Unfortunately, the number of consumers who are “very concerned” about food safety in c-stores also has grown, from 10% to 16%.
“There is heightened awareness of the [c-store] channel,” Harvey said. “That’s led to a 10-point improvement in consumer confidence.”
She offered a few action items to improve safety perceptions at the store level:
- Cleanliness of prepared food area.
- Overall convenience-store interior cleanliness.
- Appearance/hygiene of foodservice staff members.
- Cleanliness of the coffee/hot beverage station.
- Bathroom is clean.
- Foodservice staff members are pleasant/friendly.
- Staff is knowledgeable about foodservice items.
- Safety training/certification posted.