CHICAGO — To stand out from the crowd with better offerings, retailers across the nation in just the last few weeks have been spreading their collective wings in the foodservice skies.
Click through for a closer look at what each convenience store did to attract the hungry and boost business …
Westborough, Mass.-based EG America opened its second Sbarro restaurant in the Columbus, Ohio, area. The retailer aims for seven new pizza places in its c-stores in that area in 2021.
The company hopes the move will capitalize on pizza’s growing popularity in c-stores.
“Foodservice sales have been the fastest-growing segment in the convenience-store industry, generating over $60 billion in revenue and 22% of profits,” Sbarro CEO David Karam said. “Most of the major convenience-store chains have been working to optimize their foodservice offerings, and we believe Sbarro is an ideal fit.”
Columbus-based Sbarro, which serves pizza and other Italian dishes in more than 600 restaurants in 24 countries, opened in 1956 as an Italian salumeria in Brooklyn, New York.
- Click here to read CSP’s September 2019 exclusive cover story on EG Group.
Market Express and TA Travel Center
C-store chains Market Express and TravelCenters of America both added new Naughty Chile Taquerias. It is Market Express' fifth quick-service restaurant (QSR) kiosk, this one in its Wesley Chapel c-store. The TA site is the first taqueria for the chain, this one on Interstate 84 in Huntington, Ore.
Naughty Chile Taqueria, a licensed Mexican food concept scalable to any size convenience retail location, was founded in 2014 in Denver. Its three-daypart menu features street tacos, burritos, bowls, quesadillas and nachos. A foodservice clerk uses Quickie Burrito Mixes in preparing burritos, commissary style, for each upcoming daypart. The foil-wrapped burritos are then stocked in hot merchandising units.
"I was introduced to Naughty Chile Taqueria at the NACS show, and the vibrant colors immediately caught my eye," said Jay Sergio, food and beverage director for Market Express, a division of Brewer-Hendley Oil Co., Marshville, N.C. "We were looking to replace an outdated food concept that wasn't drawing customers like it used to, and as soon as I tasted the Naughty Chile Taqueria menu, I knew the product would be a hot seller."
Market Express, established in 1988, operates 14 c-stores in the Carolinas.
Across the country, Deep Singh, owner of the franchised TA location, said, "We knew that a superior foodservice program was going to be vital to our customer base, and Naughty Chile Taqueria's menu fit perfectly. Naughty Chile's high-quality Mexican food covers all dayparts, so already we have regulars."
Jane Hartgrove, Naughty Chile Taqueria president, added, "It was heartwarming to see such support for the new store on opening day. The enthusiasm of both travelers and locals was overwhelming. It seems they have been starving for good, authentic Mexican food."
Quick Stop in Meadville, Pa., an independent convenience store, recently completed a $1 million renovation that included upgrading its foodservice to include a Krispy Krunchy Chicken QSR last month. Krispy Krunchy, which features Cajun-style chicken, is based in Alexandria, La., and started in 1989. It has locations in 47 states, American Samoa and Mexico.
“It’s doing pretty good for us,” store manager Indy Patel said. “I’m doing more business than what I thought I would. I’m having a hard time finding employees.”
Patel said prior to the remodel, the store included a small kitchen and would prepare food they purchased frozen and half-cooked. Now, however, as a franchisee, “It’s all from raw.” Patel plans on adding more to the menu, such as burgers and Philly cheesesteak subs he’ll sell under the Quick Stop name, but he first wants to perfect the chicken aspect of the business.
Krispy Krunchy provided a week of training when they set up the QSR.
Pilot Co., Xpress Fuel
Pilot Co.'s Xpress Fuel travel center in Eloy, Ariz., rounds out the list with a vintage dine-in atmosphere provided by the new Trucker Burger restaurant, an “urban Western” cuisine concept from celebrity chef and restaurant owner Tim Love.
The restaurant, which opened in January and is inspired by those who drive America, offers freshly made-to-order gourmet burgers, sandwiches, griddled hot dogs, stacked nachos, hand-cut fries and soft-serve ice cream.
“We spent many months perfecting the menu, and I can’t wait to share our great new burger with you all!” said Love (pictured, right, with Mark Benner, general manager and CEO of the Eloy Chamber of Commerce). Love owns restaurants from Knoxville, Tenn., to Seattle, but his roots are in Texas.
In an Instagram post, Love, whose other establishments include the Woodshed Smokehouse and the White Elephant Saloon, both in Fort Worth, Texas, said, “This gourmet, hearty, and delicious burger stop is made specifically for the men and women who keep this country moving, pro drivers. So if you’re hauling freight near Eloy, AZ or in the area and looking for the best burger around, come check out the nation’s FIRST Trucker Burger off Exit 203 I-10.”
Trucker Burger and this Xpress Fuel location are both owned by the Pilot Co. and its One9 Fuel Network.
Pilot Co., Knoxville, Tenn., is No. 12 on the CSP’s 2020 Top 202 ranking of c-store chains by number of retail outlets.