CHICAGO — As entrees such as pizza and fried chicken make noise in the convenience-store industry, it appears side dishes—something consumers purchase or want to purchase during most visits—have received less attention.
Fifty-five percent of consumers said they order sides, including those that come with meals, at least most times they visit a foodservice location—up from 49% a year ago, according to CSP sister research firm Technomic’s 2019 Starters, Small Plates & Sides Consumer Trend Report. Beyond that, 37% of consumers often choose entrees based on the side items that come with it.
“[Sides] provide the flexibility needed to meet increasingly personalized consumer need states that can help to drive incremental traffic,” the Technomic report said. “They are good platforms for innovation, as these are smaller and less expensive meal components that consumers may be more willing to take a risk on.”
It may be time for retailers who lack side options to start boosting this segment. To prepare, here are eight c-store chains that focus on side dishes in their menu development …
Maverik, Salt Lake City, offers jalapeno poppers and tater tots as hot side options. The poppers are filled with cream cheese and jalapeno peppers, and a serving of five poppers has 380 calories and 15 grams of protein. The tater tot snack box comprises crispy potatoes and has about 500 calories per box.
7-Eleven, Irving, Texas, offers various fried and fresh sides, such as mozzarella sticks, potato wedges and fruit cups. The mozzarella sticks come with a side of red sauce, and the fruit cups come in a variety of options, including strawberry; watermelon; a blend of red apples, green apples, strawberries and grapes; and a blend of pineapple, honeydew, cantaloupe and grapes.
GMP Investments, Richmond, Va., offers more than a dozen side dishes, including broccoli au gratin, collard greens, potato wedges, whole kernel corn, apple and blackberry cobbler, peach cobbler, cherry cobbler, macaroni and beef, macaroni and cheese, scalloped potatoes and green peas. The company has a page on its website that shows the total calories, fat content, cholesterol level, protein, sugar, fiber and sodium levels of each side dish.