CHICAGO — The biggest convenience-store foodservice story of 2020 was also the biggest story of the year—period. The coronavirus pandemic slowed store traffic, drove new costs to do business and forced the shutdown of foodservice in many cases. But what really stands out is how the c-store industry reacted to these unexpected and entirely unforeseen issues.
Here’s a look at the biggest foodservice stories of 2020 …
By mid-March, retailers in the Northeast and other parts of the country were shutting down their self-serve foodservice and coffee offers in an effort do their part to stem the spread of COVID-19 and maintain safe operating procedures.
In August, foodservice research firm Technomic, Chicago, predicted U.S. foodservice sales would fall between 24% and 29% in 2020, equivalent to about $250 billion to $300 billion dollars lost across all channels.
During its virtual tradeshow in October, distributor McLane Co., Temple, Texas, reported its dispensed beverage portfolio dropped 40% in total volume between late March and mid-April, and continued to struggle to reach normal levels.
Delivery and curbside pickup
Dozens of retailers partnered with third-party delivery services. Retailers adopted new packaging to make delivery and curbside pickup more user friendly. Some planned how to make drive-thru and curbside pickup permanent additions to their retailing strategies.
7-Eleven became the first national c-store partner to Instacart. QuickChek and MAPCO launched delivery through Doordash. 7-Eleven and Casey’s General Stores developed their own delivery and curbside pickup apps. The list continues to grow.
Despite the challenges of getting food products to consumers, c-store retailers continued to invest in new and expanded foodservice programs.
7-Eleven extended its Laredo Taco Co. program to stores in Florida and Oklahoma.
Estimates are rough and still growing, but it’s said more than 17% of U.S. restaurants closed their doors permanently as a result of the pandemic. For many convenience stores, this meant opportunity. While self-service options were shut down in many parts of the country, c-store locations used to providing speedy service and packaged foods got a boost from consumers in need of a new place to pick up lunch (or dinner).
Perhaps no restaurant closing announcement was more significant than Dunkin’s. The Canton, Mass.-based quick-service restaurant chain—known for coffee and breakfast offerings—announced in August that it could close as many as 800 of its U.S. locations, including those in Speedway c-stores.
The effort was part of an effort to reassess the company’s real estate portfolio and shed locations that don’t fit with the company’s long-term plan.
By year’s end, Dunkin’ Brands would be acquired by Inspire Brands, an Atlanta-based company whose portfolio includes more than 11,000 Arby’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Sonic Drive-In and Jimmy John’s restaurants worldwide.