CHICAGO — The coronavirus pandemic has shocked the foodservice industry, forcing operators to halt self-serve options, dine-in seating and more. But even as lockdowns end and states reopen, the state of convenience-store foodservice remains up in the air.
During the webinar, ‘The State of C-Store Foodservice: What's Now, What's Next,’ Donna Hood Crecca, principal for CSP’s sister research firm Technomic, Chicago, outlines how the pandemic has affected convenience-store foodservice and what operators can do moving forward. Here, Crecca illustrates new consumer behaviors and expectations amid the pandemic, Technomic’s foodservice forecasts and actionable ways for retailers to progress their businesses during this time.
The webinar is part of Winsight’s new Outlook Leadership Community
- Click here to register for Crecca’s on-demand webinar to find her full report and insights.
“Elevated safety and sanitation measures really are crucial to generating trust and making consumers feel comfortable in patronizing c-stores for foodservice,” Crecca said during the webinar. “But even with all this, who is coming through the doors may be different now, as more than two-fifths of c-store patrons say that their daily routine has changed as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.”
Here are six quick takeaways from Crecca’s webinar …
Foodservice was top of mind pre-pandemic
Premium foodservice was one of the hottest categories in convenience stores prior the pandemic. In fact, 85% of c-store operators said that foodservice was a strategic priority for their company, while 83% said they were currently investing in foodservice operations prior the pandemic, according to Technomic.
Self service took a hit
The investments in self-serve foodservice took a major hit once the pandemic arrived. By April 16, 12 U.S. states had mandated discontinuations of self-service, Crecca said. By July 10, that number spiked to 26—more than half the country. In c-stores, this paused self-serve roller grills, bakery cases, condiment bars, dispensed beverage fountains and more.
“The unevenness of the [reopening] process has put a tremendous pressure on operators, on suppliers and distributors, the entire supply chain,” Crecca said.
C-store food visits dropped dramatically
Not only did self-serve operations close during the pandemic, but customers also visited for foodservice less frequently than before. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of consumers who often shop at c-stores for foodservice said they have reduced their visits during the pandemic, according to Technomic.
Silver lining for self service
Despite the decrease in overall visits, early signs indicate that consumers are eager to use self-serve in c-stores. Nearly three-fourths (74%) said that they plan on returning to self-serve beverages bakery and roller-grill items in c-stores once restrictions lift in their areas, according to Technomic.
Tech amenities are crucial
Delivery and curbside pickup have become essential to c-store foodservice during the pandemic. While only 20% of consumers said that they had ordered c-store food via delivery prior the pandemic, that number has jumped to 29% during the pandemic, according to Technomic.
“These amenities are going to be increasingly expected by consumers going forward,” Crecca said.
While strides have been made during the pandemic, total c-store foodservice is expected to take a steep decline in sales during 2020. The best-case scenario for c-store foodservice by the end of the year is a decline of 15%, while the worst-case is 19%, according to Technomic. Prior to the pandemic, c-store foodservice was expected to grow 3.2% by the end of 2020.
“While convenience store is actually expected to outperform the total foodservice industry in 2020 through each of these scenarios, foodservice sales in the channel will be more impacted by COVID-19 than will be those for quick-service restaurants,” Crecca said.