Picture a lunch of hand-breaded and double-dipped Southern-style chicken, paired with made-from-scratch mac and cheese, and washed down with freshly brewed iced tea. This is the kind of meal only your mom or favorite restaurant might serve, right? Think again. These foods are a few items on the menu at Parker’s, a convenience store with 52 locations throughout coastal Georgia and the South Carolina Lowcountry. This is but one example of the great foodservice offers found in the industry today.
The time when c-stores relied solely on gas and a few retail items for sales is now securely in the rearview mirror. Today, c-stores are giving the quick-service restaurant (QSR) segment a run for its money with fresh and delicious food and beverages.
“Convenience store players are shifting into QSR market share because they are coming up with higher-quality foods,” says George Penyak, director of the convenience store segment with Restaurant Technologies, which offers solutions for kitchens at restaurants, c-stores, grocery stores and other locations. “You’re seeing convenience stores get much more creative with their offerings. I think many are surpassing QSR when it comes to quality.”
Still, embarking on a foodservice program does not necessarily guarantee success.
Implementing a turn-key program can help get the foodservice program off the ground. Turn-key food programs include Broaster’s, Champs Chicken, and Cooper’s Express, which are in the delis of over thousands of c-stores and supermarkets. Another fast-growing program is Krispy Krunchy Chicken, a convenience store-based QSR concept that is now in 2,300 retail locations in 46 states. The appeal? “A high-quality chicken that is never frozen,” Penyak says. “It’s freshly prepared, right from cooler to fryer.”
When choosing what foods to offer, it’s important to consider location and regional tastes to ensure that demographic needs are being met.
Other factors: foot traffic, retail sales and labor
Besides location, c-stores need to consider foot traffic, retail sales, and labor when implementing a foodservice program, Penyak says. Keeping food costs down while improving quality is a priority. For example, oil used in cooking is an expensive ingredient that if not handled properly can lead to injury and, by extension, workers’ comp claims.
Restaurant Technologies’ Total Oil Management solution provides a way to lower the cost of this ingredient. The automated solution involves the installation of two tanks, one for bulk fresh cooking oil and one for waste oil in the store’s backroom. The tanks are connected to the fryers, as well as an exterior wall. Automatic controls installed on the inside of the fryers allow employees to easily add, filter and dispose of oil at the push of a button. Once the equipment is installed, Restaurant Technologies’ service trucks deliver fresh cooking oil and remove restaurant grease via a lockable outdoor fill box. All grease picked up by the trucks is recycled into biodiesel.
“Restaurant Technologies system makes employees’ jobs easier and safer because the retailer knows they’re getting an automated program,” Penyak says. “We make it easy to maximize the oil life while driving quality and consistency to the customer.”
The future is here
Offering food just makes good business sense for c-stores today. “The days of the gas, cokes and smokes business model being successful for c-stores may not yet be over but is certainly declining,” Penyak says. Regarding foodservice, he says, it can turn a retailer’s store into a destination, increase trips, sales and store profits.
Customers appreciate the convenience of only having to make one stop. “Instead of stopping at Papa Johns or KFC and then going to a c-store store to fill up their car and purchase snacks and other items, they can make one stop and get great food,” he says.
This post is sponsored by Restaurant Technologies