Consumers Are Visiting Convenience Stores More for Food, Dining Options

C-stores are winning in the current appetite for affordable grab-and-go options, says
Photograph: Shutterstock

Grocery and restaurants have long fought the battle for the stomach, but convenience stores are winning in the current appetite for affordable grab-and-go food and dining options, according to a new report, Meeting 2024’s Consumer. foot traffic data indicates that not only are convenience stores becoming dining destinations but gaining in visit shares. Between 2019 and 2023, convenience storesvisit share relative to the other discretionary dining categories jumped from 24.2% to 27.1%. The relative visit share of breakfast, coffee, bakeries and dessert shops also grew slightly during the period.

The report lists several factors driving this evolution: restaurants closing at the height of the pandemic while c-stores remained open; expansion of c-stores; downsizing of dining chains.

“The continued growth of c-stores between 2021 and 2022, and again between 2022 and 2023, indicates that many diners are now embracing c-store food out of choice and just due to necessity,” the white paper saidAffordability, portable meals and packaged snacks also contributed to the growing role of convenience stores in the dining space, the report said.

C-store visitors are “increasingly receptive to trying new products” when it comes to food preferences, the report states referencing data from Convenient Insights: The C-Store Shopper that found 71% of adult consumers find new products and brands in convenience stores.

The report also highlights how consumers’ food interest varies across c-store chains. The report analyzed the trade area of seven major chains: Wawa, 7-Eleven, Casey’s, QuikTrip, Cumberland Farms, Plaid Pantry and Buc-ee's using the FollowGraph dataset.

“Plaid Pantry visitors were 55% more likely than the nationwide average to fall into the ‘Asian Food Enthusiasts’ segment in 2023, in contrast with Casey’s visitors who are 7% less likely to belong to this psychographic,” the report finds.

Meanwhile, consumers of the trade areas of QuikTrip and Buc-ee’s rank highest for "Fried Chicken Lovers,” proving this growth indicates a “strong demand for food that is both fresh and convenient,” reported.

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