C-Store Trend Update Through 2016

2016: A Year of Change

The “trend” towards healthier food choices is converting into a lifestyle change. Foods that were once touted to consumers with dietary restrictions are now being adopted by the everyday consumer. The convenience channel is no exception to this evolution; consumers are on the lookout for foods that are all natural or “less processed”, gluten free and generally “better for you”.

An excerpt from CStoreDecisions:

“Foodservice remains the biggest area of opportunity for convenience stores. As revenues from gasoline and tobacco products fall, foodservice sales are increasingly becoming convenience stores’ most profitable category.

In the coming years, it is imperative that convenience store chains look to better position themselves for continued growth in foodservice. This is important because not only are quick-service restaurants targeting c-store customers, but other c-store competitors are upping their game with fresh foods and healthier ingredients.”

With the expansion of foodservice in the c-store channel, drive-thrus have started to come onto the scene, first seen with Parker’s, Express Convenience Centers and Wawa. C-stores that sell gas have been pushing 40% of sales through the drive-thru, while those without gas can drive up to 70% of sales. If you don’t have the space for an actual drive-thru, digital (or virtual) drive-thrus are a great option, growing in popularity, in the convenience channel. Digital drive-thrus allow customers to order ahead of time and pull to a designated parking space, where a store employee runs the goods out to them.

Expanding on foodservice trends, small meals are on the rise. Customers are replacing traditional meals with mini-meals comprised of appetizers, side dishes, etc., allowing them to customize what they eat. Full-service restaurant menus have seen an 80% increase in “small plate” options since 2013. As foodservice menus grow, c-stores are turning their establishments into “hang outs” by expanding indoor and outdoor seating. Gone are the days of zipping in and out, customers are now spending more time in stores and even enjoying a meal during their visit.

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