Foodservice

More Consumers Turning to Convenience Stores for Food Over Fast-Food Outlets, Report Shows

This trend, up 11 percentage points in last 2 years, ‘is driven by improved food quality and variety,’ Intouch Insight says
Maverik’s Two-Meat and Mac Bowl
Photograph courtesy of Maverik

Consumers increasingly see convenience stores as a viable option for food over traditional fast-food restaurants, according to a new report from customer experience solutions company Intouch Insight, Ottawa, Ontario.

“This trend is driven by improved food quality and variety,” according to Convenience Store Trends Report 2024: Powering the Next Era of Convenience Stores, which shows the percentage of consumers who will consider c-stores as an alternative to fast food is 56%, up from 45% over the last two years.

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One problem for c-stores, however, is that 78% of respondents prefer to pay at the pump, presenting the challenge of driving customers into stores.

“One way to do this is by offering made-to-order options and coffee,” the report said, adding that its data shows 93% of consumers (versus 76% in 2022) have tried such offerings, “with sandwiches, wraps and paninis being particularly popular.”

The made-to-order meals most popular at c-stores:

  • 66%: Sandwiches, wraps, paninis
  • 44%: Breakfast items
  • 29%: Hot meals
  • 20%: Salads
  • 9%: Soups
  • 16%: Other

“With the growth in restaurant-quality food options at convenience stores, the industry has moved way beyond roller grill hotdogs and coffee urns,” the report said. “More than half of the consumers we surveyed (62%) believe that the made-to-order food being offered at convenience stores offers good value for their money.” This compares to 31% who think it does not offer good value and 7% who said they have never tried it.

Coffee

In looking for ways to draw more customers into their stores, retailers have found success by enhancing their coffee offerings.

“With these improvements, convenience stores are becoming a popular alternative to traditional coffee shops, appealing to a growing number of consumers,” the report said. In the survey, 65% now view c-stores as an option for coffee over coffee shops due to better offerings.

Motivation

Finally, retailers must understand what drives their customers’ choices to capitalize on the growth in foodservices sales, the report said.

When asked what motivates them to buy made-to-order food at a convenience store, the primary reason by far was “convenience”:

  • 61%: Convenience
  • 8%: Store location
  • 7%: Promotions/discounts
  • 6%: Price
  • 6%: Taste
  • 3%: Variety
  • 9%: Other

Most respondents consumed the food in their vehicles, either while driving or parked, though from 2023 to 2024 there was a slight increase in those choosing to eat in the store.

When asked where they usually eat their made-to-order c-store foodservice purchase, respondents said:

  • 49%: In car while driving (versus 44% in 2023)
  • 22%: In car while parked (versus 32% in 2023)
  • 18%: At destination (versus 21% in 2023)
  • 5%: In store (versus 3% in 2023)
  • 7%: Other (no 2023 percentage given)

“Providing a comfortable space for quick dining, especially for customers waiting for their car to charge, can attract new customers and enhance their experience,” the report said.

The report also said integrating made-to-order food options and effective loyalty programs “proves essential in driving both traffic and revenue, positioning convenience stores not just as quick stops but as essential parts of daily life. We encourage store operators to leverage these insights to refine their strategies and operations, ensuring they not only meet but exceed customer expectations in this dynamic retail environment.”

For this report, Intouch Insight included data from consumer perception surveys that provide insights into consumer preferences and their impact on shopping decisions. Each survey received upward of 1,200 responses from respondents across North America.

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