Saturday, January 21, 2023

C-Stores are Food Sales Daypart Disruptors


Just in case you were ever wondering why Convenience Stores started selling, then branding both pizza and chicken because they drive top-line sales and bottom-line profits.  According to Steven Johnson Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions® C-stores exploited restaurants weakness of daypart limitations. Most C-stores are open more hours and give consumers more of what they want to eat and when they want it. Let’s look at some of the reasons C-stores picked Pizza and Chicken:

1.       Pizza accounts for more than 10 percent of all food service sales

2.       94 percent of Americans eat pizza regularly

3.       93 percent of Americans have eaten pizza in the last month

4.       The highest-grossing single-unit independent pizzeria in the nation, Moose's Tooth Pub and Pizzeria, is in Anchorage, Alaska. Its annual sales are approximately $6 million.

5.       The top 5 pizza sales days are: Super Bowl Sunday, New Year's Eve, Halloween, The night before Thanksgiving, & New Year's Day

6.       Americans consume 8 billion chickens per year alone.That translates to an astonishing 21,917,808 chickens eaten per day. How many pounds of chicken does the average American consume in a year, you ask? Over 80 pounds!

7.       According to the National Chicken Council, it was reported that more than 1.42 billion chicken wing portions were consumed Super Bowl Sunday 2022.

8.       We had to include this fact: In Gainesville, Georgia it’s illegal to eat fried chicken with a fork. (Regular readers of this blog know that Hand Held Food of Immediate Consumption is a mainstay within the grocerant niche.)

Today more and more c-stores are looking to grow their foodservice offerings, including third party pizza and chicken programs that are helping retailers to drive sales and expand into new dayparts. Here are some examples from C-store Decisions:

When Pak-A-Sak convenience stores added a Hunt Brothers Pizza program, the change to its foodservice program was like night and day — literally. While the majority of the chain’s foodservice sales come at lunchtime, the pies have allowed the Texas Panhandle chain to successfully break into the dinner daypart, according to Russell Barber, district manager for Pak-A-Sak.

Sixteen of the 23 Pak-A-Sak locations offer the Hunt Brothers program. Two additional stores, which will also feature the pizza, are set to open next year.

Breakfast has also greatly benefited from the addition of the Hunt Brothers program.

Building a Larger Share of Stomach 

and a Larger Share of Wallet Requires

Looking A Customer Ahead

“We see customers not only purchasing our breakfast pizza, but regular and pepperoni pies, and (a Cheeseburger Pizza limited-time offer) as well,” he said. 

Barber pointed out that customers are eager to try the limited-time-offer (LTO) selections every quarter. The LTOs also create a buzz among the stores’ employees.

“Our staff couldn’t stop talking about the chicken ranch or alfredo pizzas,” Barber said.

Growing Sales 

The recipes for the marinade and coating may be secret, but it’s clear that chicken is a driving force behind High’s of Baltimore’s foodservice program.

“Fried chicken is one of the three cornerstones of our foodservice category, along with pizza and our own ice cream,” said Sherryn Diamond, director of foodservice for High’s. “Our chicken sales have increased between 20-25% year over year for the past five years.”

Currently, 17 of High’s 59 stores in Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania offer chicken. Every year, one to four additional stores get the chicken program, and it is set to be installed in remodels and new stores, stated Brad Chivington, senior vice president for High’s. 

“When we roll the program out in existing and remodeled stores, we see a dollar-per-dollar gain in sales in fountain, groceries and other categories,” Chivington said. “It also generates a higher earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA).”

High’s fresh, never-frozen chickens are injected with a flavorful marinade then hand breaded with “a secret blend of herbs and spices,” explained Dallas Wells, vice president of foodservice, branding and employee development at High’s. “It is cooked in small batches in a pressure cooker for maximum juiciness.” 

Fresh pizza sales have been increasing upwards of 40% year over year at High’s, reported Chivington. Forty of the chain’s stores offer seven- and 14-inch proprietary pies from front-and-center open preparation areas.

Despite the rise in food costs leading to an increase in consumer prices, pizza and chicken are holding their own at Kwik Stop Convenience Stores, which operates 26 stores in Nebraska and one in Colorado. While item sales in both categories are down 9% over a year and a half ago, dollar sales have risen 10%, said M. David May, director of food services for Kwik Stop.

“The price of fuel has a tremendous impact on our foot traffic in the stores,” May explained. “Customers weren’t coming in as much or buying as much when gas was approaching $5 per gallon, but now that gas prices are retreating, we’re seeing our store sales go up.”

To attract cost-conscious consumers, May always tries to have some type of meal deal combining chicken and a small side for a value price of between $5 and $8.  

“We used to waste a lot of sides so even though I’m making less profit on the meal, at least those sides are not going to waste,” he noted. “At the same time, we’re getting customers to try something new besides the usual french fries, and sales of our specialty sides have increased.”

May noted that Kwik Stop is big on producing new items in its test kitchens for monthly LTOs. One that has just been introduced is a buffalo, pepperoni and bacon pizza with Frank’s Redhot Sauce.

Another original product is a pizza bite for which the proofed crust is cut into eight sections, topped and rolled up. The popularity of an original Buffalo Bite with cheese and Frank’s Redhot Sauce led to the addition of garlic bites with garlic and butter to the menu. 

“We look at our existing SKUs and think about what we can make out of them that would be exciting,” May said.”  What should you be selling next?

Don’t over reach. Are you ready for some fresh ideations? Do your food marketing ideations look more like yesterday than tomorrow? Interested in learning how Foodservice Solutions® can edify your retail food brand while creating a platform for consumer convenient meal participationdifferentiation and individualization?  Email us at:

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