The convenience store industry set a record last year for in-store sales, not including gas sales reaching $233 billion, which was 3.2 percent more than the previous year. This year C-stores are expected to see even more in-store sale gains. This can be traced to C-store customers having more cash freed up from lower gas prices to now spend on coffee and C-Store food options. Customers are changing their buying habits when it comes to their local C-store. They are doing more quick trips to C-stores for basic groceries and grabbing meals there too. Convenience store food is taking on a new look, and it’s not looking like hot dogs spinning on a counter either.
C-Stores Taking Notice of Trends
Despite dropping gas prices and tobacco sales, C-Store food options are offering stores an opportunity to branch into other areas to boost sales. Some C-Store operators are beginning to cash in on this trend by revamping their stores to accommodate adding expanded food options and even expanding their businesses by adding new stores.
Consumers are seeking fast, ready-to-eat meals at low prices. C-Stores are winning over customers that previously would be purchasing meals from traditional fast-food chains who have decreased their low-cost options. Serving healthy and great tasting food options at lower prices can be a draw for customers who have less money to spend. According to the National Association of Convenience Stores, 60 percent of convenience store food customers have annual household incomes under $40,000.
Hot and prepared foods, like burgers, pizzas, and coffee accounted for 22 percent of convenience store sales in 2016. This amount rose from 13 percent in 2010.
Considerations for Deciding Whether to Add Food to Your C-Store
Before jumping in and adding food to your C-Store, it is a good idea to:
- Test your market by trying out different food options to see what food options work best for your store. A good strategy may be to try out breakfast options and move into lunch options.
- As traffic for your food service grows, so should the floor space that you will use to expand your offerings for the long term. It’s also time to start spreading the word about your C-Store food options to bring in more customers. Social media is a great way to get the word out about your food offerings.
- Never stop improving your food service. Customer’s tastes change, so it’s important to continually try new food options and see which are working best for sales.
If you’ve been on the fence about whether to add or expand your C-Store food options, now may be the best time to make your move to take advantage of its growth opportunities.