Fuel prices are dropping and convenience stores are feeling the difference, as more customers come in for a bite after fueling up. And they’re often looking for hot food.
According to market research company Technomic, almost nine out of 10 c-store foodservice customers regularly purchase hot foods, and 69% do so at least once a month. What's more, 44% of them indicate they're buying hot food at c-stores more often now than a year ago.
C-stores are uniquely positioned to capture on-the-go dining occasions with hot foods, making them more of a destination around meal times.
“Convenience stores are directly competing with fast-food restaurants so they need adequate foodservice programs to capture those consumers,” said Teri Broyles, customer marketing manager for McCain Foods USA.
A study from Technomic this year shows that eight in 10 c-store operators report they’re investing in their foodservice programs. In fact, manufacturers such as McCain can help them with incentives and rebate programs to help offset the cost to purchase equipment.
“Our turnkey program includes everything from consumer packaging to merchandising, equipment incentives, training, customer support and culinary expertise,” Broyles said.
The manufacturer taps into its half a century of foodservice expertise to provide operators with insights into consumer demands and sales- and profit-driving tools.
McCain also offers products with long hold times for daylong hot foodservice, from hash browns and other hand-held items for breakfast to potato sides that can be bundled into combo meals or served as savory and sweet snacks.
Broyles also offered the following tips for a hot foodservice program:
- Make sure the products you’re offering have an adequate hold time—three to four hours is optimal—so foods don’t go stale or lose their taste or composition.
- Offer combo meals, which shows you’re a competitor to fast-food restaurants.
- Draw attention to your hot foodservice program and any specials (think combo meals) through window and pump signage. Also use signage inside at the point-of-sale and throughout the store, “so customers know you offer foodservice wherever their destination in the store,” Broyles said. “You’re upselling and enticing them at the same time.”
- C-store operators need to stay on top of the latest trends to ensure they are meeting consumers’ expectations. Millennials and Gen Z are the target consumers that are more likely to purchase prepared/hot foods from c-stores. Food offers must appeal to this generation.
- Dayparts are blurring due to demanding schedules, varying work shifts and time constraints. Consumers need all things available all the time (e.g., all-day breakfast offerings).
- Offer customization to compete with quick-service restaurants, because this is an expectation of millennials these days—to have it their way.
To get started with hot foodservice, you don’t have to make any big investments. “The easiest way for an independent operator to get started is via the breakfast daypart,” Broyles said. This is because, she said, 76% of consumers, according to Technomic, purchase coffee from a c-store at least once a month. “You already have loyalty, so you can just offer breakfast sandwiches that you pop in a microwave. That can be your starting point for hot foodservice.”
This post is sponsored by McCain® Foodservice