The COVID-19 pandemic has proved to be one of the most challenging environments c-store owners ever have faced. And no category felt the struggle more than foodservice.
Prepared, branded food menus had been seen as the “next big thing” in c-store operations, and the sector was skyrocketing at the beginning of 2020, fueled by consumer demand, efficient foodservice solutions, and creative store opportunities.
And while the regulations of a COVID-19 environment have restricted c-store operations for months, 2021 is looking brighter, as consumers begin returning to work and vaccines become more readily available.
Retailers can set themselves up for success by feeding their shoppers’ desires for quick, high-quality prepared food that breaks the barriers of drive-thru options and competes with local restaurants.
Here are a few key strategies.
Value and quality at the forefront
The combination of delicious food at a decent price is now a higher priority for c-store foodservice than ever. High-quality food is the No. 1 reason consumers say they’re increasing their c-store foodservice purchases, with 38% citing it as a sales driver, as reported in Technomic’s Q4 2020 Marketbrief. Similarly, 86% of consumers say quality is important to them in choosing where they order from c-store foodservice, according to Ignite consumer brand metrics data.
Retailers who provide a balance of affordability and quality are gaining a competitive edge.
“Foodservice isn’t just another category,” says Sharon Kuncl, Vice President of Merchandising for Eby Foodservice. “It’s a business within your store. These menus are tailored to c-stores, and offer unique flavor profiles that can build foot traffic and raise your revenue.”
Consumers returning to the daily commute also are driving sales. As a result, fuel customer conversion is up, as 45% of consumers are entering the store to purchase prepared foods during their stop for gas.
A robust selection of grab-and-go options is a must-have for any c-store retailer looking to expand sales, with sandwiches and wraps leading the pack. Unique, high-quality sandwich offerings can set a retailer apart, drawing in consumers during the midday rush.
Take for example, Eby-Brown’s multiple sandwich options, which vary from an array of breaded chicken items to slow cooked barbecue sandwiches, and the company’s signature Wakefield line of fresh cold sandwiches.
Designed to combine the convenience consumers need with the flavors they crave, Eby Foodservice programs provide an excellent lunchtime solution for c-stores, offering diverse menus of restaurant-quality items with unique flavor profiles, plus a host of side items to easily create value meal deals.
“We have tremendous culinary resources at our disposal to help build and customize menus for you, says Kuncl. “Our test kitchens and chefs develop c-store programs that are unmatched in the industry.”
Calling for comfort
Comfort foods such as fried chicken, pizza and Mexican-inspired meals have thrived during the pandemic, and continue to be customer favorites across markets: According to the Oct. 1, 2020 edition of The Lempert Report, 75% of consumers said they turned to their favorite comfort foods at least once every other day amid COVID-19.
All-inclusive foods service programs like Eby-Brown’s Perfectly Southern Fresh Fried Chicken and Contigo Taqueria lines offer authentic flavors and quality ingredients, setting retailers up for success by pre-planning all the details: from food ordering and preparation, to pricing, marketing and more.
Eby’s pizza programs, including Red Seal Pizzeria and Vai Fresco break down the pizza process to fit any c-store need: from fresh, component pizzas to simple frozen options, and pizza by-the-slice to take-and-bake pies for busy consumers to at home with family.
“These proven, turnkey options offer not only great tasting food, but also comprehensive planning and support… like a franchise, but without the fees,” says Curt O’Rourke, Eby’s executive vice president of merchandising and procurement. “And with options to customize what you offer, these programs keep you poised to win.”
To learn more about how Eby Brown foodservice programs can help c-store retailers expand prepared food sales this year, click here.
This post is sponsored by Eby-Brown