General Merchandise

Boosting Coffee-Bar Sales In the Pandemic and Beyond

Photograph: Shutterstock

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic brought a lot of unknowns for convenience store foodservice—health and sanitation measures became top priority, and fluctuations in demand became more unpredictable than ever before. Even now, as many consumers return to their pre-pandemic  schedules and routines, consumer demands for the c-store coffee bar have shifted. In order to provide the fast, clean service returning customers are looking for, c-store retailers will need to address changing demands in a continually fluctuating market.  

“For the last couple months, everyone has had home cafes,” says Jamie Ratterman, Vice President of Product Strategy at BUNN®. “But as things start to open up, people will be going back to work and running errands. People will be needing coffee at convenience stores. So the question is: How do we put consumers at ease?” 

Ratterman explains, “We’ve tried to come up with an array of solutions to meet a variety of needs.  The goal is to adapt and be flexible.” 

In short: c-stores need access to flexible solutions to address customers’ needs—both today and tomorrow. 

Seeking adaptable solutions 

Despite many c-stores seeing decreases in overall sales volume within the last few months, most consumers (75%) intend to resume c-store foodservice patronage at the rate they were accustomed to pre-pandemic, according to Technomic’s Q2 2020 C-Store Consumer MarketBrief. Self-serve coffee maintains a broad appeal, with 75% of consumers saying they’d be likely to purchase it post-COVID-19.  

Still, health concerns are a factor. With 47% of consumers saying they are currently visiting c-stores less frequently for fear of exposure to the virus, it’s clear that retailers could benefit by taking efforts to give consumers peace of mind as health concerns persist, while also preparing for higher sales volumes as the economy reopens. 

“Currently, the primary focus is around health and well-being,” says Ratterman, “but there are other considerations. Four months ago, we were talking about reducing labor, reducing waste. Now, these are taking a backseat. The trick is finding the balance.” 

Provide clean service without slowing down 

Some retailers may fear that employing additional safety measures will be detrimental to providing efficient service, or vice versa. The self-serve coffee systems chosen by many retailers in order to cut wait times and reduce labor have now become high-touch areas that many consumers want to avoid. Still, consumers want a great cup of coffee, and they want it fast—and many want to be able to customize their perfect cup themselves.    

Ratterman shares that the experts at BUNN have focused on creating products that adapt to c-stores’ changing needs—a must-have for retailers looking to remain competitive in a dynamic, unpredictable landscape. 

“We’re providing an answer to the transitional period,” she says. 

With technology from BUNN, revamping the c-store coffee bar to address health concerns doesn’t have to require a major overhaul of existing equipment. BUNN’s VirtualTOUCH™ technology creates a touchless beverage selection and dispensing experience  by allowing consumers to select a beverage on their smartphone using a QR code prompt. VirtualTOUCH™ ensures your full menu is easy to navigate with step-by-step instructions, and shows drink progress unfold on the equipment’s screen. 

BUNN also offers  faucet adapters and antimicrobial handles and buttons to address high-touch areas, and pre-cut antimicrobial film can be attached to preexisting machinery. Single-use, recyclable Tap-Kins™ allow consumers to cover handles and buttons to dispense their coffee safely.   

To learn more about how BUNN can help keep c-store coffee sales flowing both now and in the future, visit

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