Limited-Time Offers ‘Workhorse’ of C-Store Foodservice Promotions, Technomic Says

Spring update also notes competition is growing, as is consumer awareness of costs, category growth
Butterfly Shrimp-Eats Southern Cookin menu offering
Photograph courtesy of SunStop

This is a year with intense competition for foodservice occasions and limited-time offers serving as the workhorse of convenience-store foodservice promotions.

These observations come from CSP sister research arm Technomic and its C-Store Foodservice Update for spring 2024.

In addition, Chicago-based Technomic said, there will be continued consumer cost-consciousness and innovation growth across foodservice categories.

Bright Side

Overall, c-store operators are optimistic, with 37% expecting foodservice traffic to increase in the next six months, 63% expecting it to remain steady, and none expecting a decrease.

Meanwhile, 26% expect foodservice sales to increase in the same time frame, 73% expect it to remain steady, and 1% expect a decrease.

Limited-Time Offers

Limited-time offers at c-stores dipped in 2023 after growing each of the previous three years. Technomic tracked activity in LTOs and found c-stores offered 1,603 LTOs in 2023. There were 3,209 in 2022, 2,241 in 2021, 1,720 in 2020 and 1,438 in 2019.

However, 50% of surveyed c-store retailers said they are featuring more LTOs in 2024; 43% said they’ll offer about the same amount, and 7% said they are offering fewer.

The most important reasons for presenting LTOs:

  • Drawing in new customers
  • Boosting the frequency of current customers
  • Differentiating from the competition

When it comes to planning LTOs:

  • Nearly seven in 10 operators develop an annual calendar
  • More than a third began planning in 2023’s second quarter
  • The median number of LTOs planned for 2024 is 10, with five food and five beverage

The primary sources of information and inspiration are internal:

  • Marketing team
  • Sales data
  • Foodservice/culinary team
  • R&D team

Meanwhile, 69% of LTOs feature national and/or regional brands

Check It Twice

Planning an LTO also requires supplier input. Technomic suggested the following checklist:

  • Suggested price
  • Fit for one’s brand
  • Supply chain/availability
  • Fit for one’s consumers
  • Expected impact regarding traffic, sales, margin
  • Item/ingredient cost


Finally, Technomic noted c-store operator concerns. More than seven in 10 are worried about:

  • Rising item/ingredient costs
  • Rising packaging costs
  • Supply chain/availability
  • Staffing/labor 

The good news, however, is this is down from eight in 10 in October 2023. However, 74% remain concerned about their ability to boost in-store traffic.

Speed, ease and multitasking give c-stores the edge over QSRs, Technomic said. When asked why they buy at c-stores over quick-service restaurants (QSRs), 64% of surveyed consumers said it’s faster/easier to stop at a c-store during their commute, running errands, etc., while 52% said they can buy “other items like gas, retail items and household goods at the same time.”

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