Prepared Takeout Foods Expand Opportunities for C-Stores

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As convenience stores have steadily improved their reputation as foodservice destinations over the past several years, more possibilities have opened up for expanding prepared foods beyond grab-and-go snacks and sandwiches.

An increasing number of c-store operators are adding options for customers who are seeking ready-made meals to bring home for dinner, while also expanding their restaurant-style offerings with on-trend dishes such as freshly prepared Southern-style fried chicken, made-to-order burgers and healthy bowls.

La Crosse, Wis.-based Kwik Trip, for example, has been rolling out a new fried chicken program at its stores in the Midwest, offering freshly made chicken by the piece, whole or in various multi-piece packs. It has also been testing side dishes such as mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese.

“Pick up your chicken hot, ready-to-eat for tonight’s dinner or cold, sealed fresh for tomorrow’s lunch,” the company states on its website promoting the new offering.

For Kwik Trip, it appears that the future of foodservice may be about more than fried chicken. The chain recently set up a test kitchen in Onalaska, Wis., where it is testing more take-home meals for customers, according to a report on

Several other c-store brands have also expanded their take-home meal offerings targeting the dinner customer who might be stopping in on the way home from work or from picking up the kids.

York, Pa.-based Rutter’s has incorporated its new Southern-style waffle offerings into dinner opportunities, promoting chicken-and-waffles as a dinner option for “Waffle Wednesday,” for example. The chain’s extensive dinner options also include a wide variety of Dinner Baskets, along with store-baked pizzas, complete with a selection of more than 50 pizza toppings.

Still others have been testing opportunities with meal kits, as those items have migrated from online to in store. Among those companies that have tested in-store meal kits for take-out are Choice Market in Denver and Amazon Go, which offers its own Amazon branded meal kits in its stores, along with a host of other grab-and-go food items.

These moves come as prepared-food sales continue to climb year after year in the c-store channel, delivering high profit margins to operators in the segment.

As consumers are increasingly seeking out freshly prepared foods at c-stores, what often accompanies those purchases? Dispensed beverages. According to the 2018 C-Store Customer Survey from Q1 Consulting LLC, 20% of consumers said they were using c-stores more for prepared foods than a year ago, and the same percentage said they were using c-stores more for hot coffee. Another 19% said they were using c-stores more for beverages.

These expanding takeout offerings present opportunities for sales of high-margin dispensed beverages. Operators can maximize their profitability when take-out meals include fresh brewed coffee or cold fountain drinks served in low-cost foam cups, such as those from WinCup.

Choosing a high performing foam cup is key to profitability, and WinCup has great options – from the appealing designs of American Muscle, Java Café and Profit Pals, to the added attraction of Marquee paper wrapped cups and Vio® biodegradable* foam.

Here’s the real takeaway: Offering restaurant-quality, fresh-prepared foods to go opens up the possibilities for operators to drive traffic into the store and expand both their sales and margins.

*Cups biodegrade 92% over 4 years. Tested under conditions that simulate both wetter and biologically active landfills using the ASTM D5511 test. Wetter or biologically active landfills may not exist in your area. The stated rate and extent of degradation do not mean that the product will continue to decompose

This post is sponsored by WinCup

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