A Winning Strategy for Convenience Store Foodservice

supplied by The Hershey Company

What are the current trends in foodservice?

Foodservice in c-stores continues to experience rapid growth. Stores are continuing to remodel with foodservice additions in mind and evolving from roller grills and basic items to elevated, made-to-order offerings. While foodservice growth started a few decades ago, there was an increased desire for food items at c-stores during the pandemic as people wanted to make fewer stops and have less interaction with the public. As the pandemic subsided, travel and return-to-work increased, and c-stores are using quality food service items to continue to attract consumers in-store. Foodservice items have better margins than many other products sold in-stores—another reason retailers are upping their food game.

 Will these habits persist?

Yes. The mindset has really changed in the marketplace. Consumers are looking for convenience but also quality and freshness in the foodservice items and an elevated store experience that even includes seating in many stores. In terms of flavor, FoodByte shares that retailers are leaning into the season and offering sweet, floral or fruity flavors in the spring and spicier offerings in the fall.

Many stores also do a great job of bundling their meals too to attract business whether it’s a sandwich, soda and ice cream for a great price or bundling candy bars with coffee. With all those pieces together—convenience, quality and value—that’s a strong play for convenience stores.

What's the difference between a retail location with foodservice versus one that doesn't?

Stores without foodservice aremissing a margin opportunity. But they must have the space and the ability to invest in the equipment. Simply adding a hot dog grill is a good first step.

Now we’re seeing owners bring in restaurant experts and strategizing with their Foodservice distributors to build out the space for freezers, ice cream machines, coffee machines, etc. That floor space for foodservice should guarantee more dollars per square foot. It’s a longer-term investment, but the return is greater.

For stores that already offer foodservice, look at the competition. Is the store able to offer the same quality meal as another location down the street? Is there a craveable offering that differentiates that store from the competition? Hershey takes a category approach to help stores examine their strengths and strategize options for growth across many brands.

What about the role confection and baked goods play in building baskets?

Consumer insights show that basket rings are larger when they contain center of the plate, beverage, confection and treats. It’s all about offering solutions that provide margin. Hershey is constantly looking at merchandising pairings too, like soda and a Reese’s product or a coffee and a muffin. Ideally, the goal is for customers to bundle an entrée, beverage and confection or a dessert item.

What is the future of foodservice at c-stores?

Advertising is huge—signage at the gasoline pumps or on the pole barriers in parking spaces. More stores are featuring open kitchens so customers can see their food being prepared. Some food delivery services are now including c-stores in their listings to give consumers more choice. In the same order, consumers can request a sandwich from a restaurant along with an ice cream treat offered at their local c-store.


This post is sponsored by The Hershey Company


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