From Preparation to Store Design, Retailers at Forum Talk About Growing Foodservice

Increasing innovation, reducing items, growing private-label offerings and adding foodservice theater on the menu at CEFCO, Stinker Stores
Furnell Mackey of CEFCO Convenience Stores (left) and Zach Treinen of Stinker Stores at CSP's 2024 C-Store Foodservice Forum
Photograph by CSP Staff

CEFCO Convenience Stores and Stinker Stores are both making moves to bolster their foodservice programs. Category managers from both chains spoke last week at CSP’s 2024 C-Store Foodservice Forum in Schaumburg, Illinois.

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Here’s a closer look at what they’re doing:

CEFCO Convenience Stores

CEFCO in 2023 restructured its foodservice program, refocusing on CEFCO-made food and, in the process, it continues to innovate.

“We reduced the number of items from about 60 to 30,” said Furnell Mackey, foodservice beverage category manager at CEFCO, Temple, Texas. “Some were used for only one purpose.”

CEFCO streamlined operations, having the same cheese, for instance, now used for three or four different preparations.

“Instead of offering a bun for this and a bun for that, we went to one bun,” Mackey said.

In addition, CEFCO started having its commissary create its own baked goods.

In addition, “We went to our own pizza, which has barbecue brisket on it,” Mackey said. “We continue to innovate. We created three big sandwiches.”

  • CEFCO Convenience Stores is No. 37 on CSP’s 2024 Top 202 ranking of U.S. convenience-store chains by store count.

CEFCO’s foodservice strategy mission of restructuring for growth is to “create fun, craveable food that delivers upon portability, portion size and flavor,” Mackey said. The areas of focus were menu innovation and product development, category management and growth.

In foodservice operations, the mission is to deliver a consistent food experience, with the areas of focus being in driving efficiency, ensuring quality and food safety, and training and execution.

In field operations, the mission is to deliver a consistent food experience. The area of focus is ensuring store compliance and operational training.

This strategy has helped CEFCO in four areas, Mackey said:

  • Optimizing the menu, including removing the aforementioned items and refocusing on CEFCO-made food
  • Upgrading the quality, including adding new proteins and partnering with brands
  • Growing innovation, including a King Clucker limited-time offer, the new Infinity Pizza program, and Spicy Cluckers
  • Boosting category management, which includes an ongoing review of all vendors and products, profitability recaps on ancillary foodservice programs, and auditing distributors and uncovering overcharges

CEFCO also is driving awareness by reinforcing its message that it offers deals and variety, Mackey said.

Stinker Stores

At Boise, Idaho-based Stinker Stores, a CSP 2024 Mystery Shop finalist, Pete’s Eats is the name of the foodservice program—backed by its mascot, Polecat Pete, who is “plastered all over the place,” said Zach Treinen, senior category manager of foodservice and dispensed beverage at the c-store chain. “This is the image, what we’re trying to drive on any remodels or brand-new stores—is having this really clean, outdoorsy look that has a bunch of branding elements.”

“Pete’s Eats is everything we make fresh every day,” said Treinen, who has been at the company for six months. “To play off of that, we have Pete’s Sweets—our dessert options.”

As Stinker Stores increases its dessert options out of its cold case grab-and-go, “we’re trying to continue that theme of Pete’s Eats, Sweets,” he said.

  • Stinker Stores is No. 66 on CSP’s 2024 Top 202 ranking of U.S. convenience-store chains by store count.

Treinen said the best part about Stinker Stores’ food program is “we’re really leaning into the private-label opportunities and continuing to develop the brand.”

“We have a very unique logo and brand, and we can have a lot of fun with it,” he said. “And the best part of working for Stinker is that the senior leadership is really open to toeing the line of what marketing departments traditionally would have been super careful of. We get to play with it a little bit and see what can we do that can make people laugh, make people think, just something different.”

Treinen also discussed the chain’s cold case.

“For the most part moving forward, our cold cases are going to be filled almost entirely with our core menu items, our private-label offerings, all the fresh food, hot and cold, we prepare in store every day,” he said. “We give customers an opportunity to have the grab-and-go opportunity if they don’t have time to sit down and eat in one of our stores.”

“All the new stores are going to have this big-opening window where you can see right into the kitchen and see the staff in the kitchen and what they’re doing to get this theater foodservice.”

Treinen also said “one of the cool things that we just got up and running in every single store is our new merchandising racks for our roller grills. There are a lot of small [design and color] details that play into the overall theme of a lot of our stores, and especially our newer stores.”

Finally, Treinen also talked about design moves Stinker Stores is making to drive home the freshness of its foodservice.

“All the new stores are going to have this big-opening window where you can see right into the kitchen and see the staff in the kitchen and what they’re doing to get this theater foodservice,” he said. “You get to hear the conversations they’re having, you get to see the food being pulled out of the oven and you get to meet the staff because they can literally stand right there in the window and have a conversation with somebody. We have some sampling we’re trying to do; that counter provides a nice little space for that interaction to happen.

“That's the dream—if I could wave a wand and every store has that ability, I’d do it,” Treinen said. “But moving forward, that’s the direction we’re going. It also allows us to showcase the freshness of some of the food items that we do put out, so you’ll be able to see our foodservice employees cracking an egg, putting salt and pepper on it, getting all that stuff laid out, and you’re not having to sit there as a consumer wondering, ‘When was this made?’ You can literally watch it being made. It’s not made to order, but you’re watching it be made.”

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