6 Retailers Conquering Foodservice

The lines are officially blurred.

What was once a “convenience store” could just as easily be called a quick-service restaurant (QSR) today.

Plus, c-store foodservice patrons don’t always know the difference. Responses to Technomic’s latest Consumer Brand Metrics survey of c-store guests reveal that many consumers rate c-store foodservice better than the QSR competition for taste, flavor, quality and craveability. Retailers are beating restaurants at their own game.

Among the 27 c-store brands in the survey, the desire to have a satisfying meal at a convenience store surpassed the need for convenience. In fact, 36% of c-store guests said they valued the food experience, which includes satisfaction, novelty and a personal connection. Compare that to convenience attributes (affordability and speed), which had an average rating of 34%.

Convenience stores are officially stepping on QSR turf—and now there are numbers to prove it.

OVERALL FOOD TASTE AND FLAVOR

Rutter’s Farm Stores: 97.1%

Ricker’s: 96.7%

Family Express: 96.6%

QuikTrip: 95.8%

Sheetz: 93.9%

Wawa: 92.8%

Overall c-stores: 91.1%

Overall QSRs: 90.7%

Ricker's, Anderson, Pa.

In 2013, Ricker’s AhhBurritos food trucks hit the street. The 56-store chain soon began to build its in-store foodservice identity with its first test of the program inside its retail locations in 2014. At that time, the menu primarily focused on the retailer’s brand of fast and fresh Mexican cuisine that included  burritos, tacos, quesadillas and salads. Ricker’s expanded its food offering to include a variety of fresh, made-to-order breakfast, lunch and dinner options, including pizza, breadsticks, deli sandwiches, salads and more.

Folks in Indiana love their square-shaped doughnuts. Fellow Indiana retailer Family Express also carries the cornered treat.

QuikTrip, Tulsa, Okla.

A longtime master of the roller grill and fountain, QuikTrip recently has been expanding its QT Kitchens full-service counters to more locations. QT Kitchens pour made-to-order specialty coffee drinks alongside a wide array of food items, including breakfast bowls and burritos. Grab-and-go nonetheless remains crucial to QuikTrip, known for its extensive roller-grill toppings bar. The chain has also been testing a drive-thru concept and launched a foodservice-focused location without fuel in Atlanta.

Many customers raved about QT’s breakfast pizza. This favorite is available all day.

Family Express, Valparaiso, Ind.

In 2013, Ricker’s AhhBurritos food trucks hit the street. The 56-store chain soon began to build its in-store foodservice identity with its first test of the program inside its retail locations in 2014. At that time, the menu primarily focused on the retailer’s brand of fast and fresh Mexican cuisine that included  burritos, tacos, quesadillas and salads. Ricker’s expanded its food offering to include a variety of fresh, made-to-order breakfast, lunch and dinner options, including pizza, breadsticks, deli sandwiches, salads and more.

Folks in Indiana love their square-shaped doughnuts. Fellow Indiana retailer Family Express also carries the cornered treat.

Wawa, Wawa, Pa.

Want it? It’s likely Wawa has it. If a customer can dream it, they can probably order it via Wawa’s touchscreen ordering system. Whether it’s a frozen beverage or dessert, a breakfast sandwich or a Cheesesteak Shorti, all items are made fresh and delivered quickly. A healthy halo also permeates the chain’s menu in items such as the kale and quinoa salad and the turkey, apple and cranberry wrap. Freshness indicators are also big for Wawa, including hoagie bread made in-house each day.

Last year, wawa offered nine unique sandwiches crafted by its own employees. Dubbed “associate recipes,” these specialty offerings included spicy chicken & pepperoni, raging roast beef and one spicy meatball.

Rutter's Farm Stores, York, Pa.

This generations-old c-store chain boasts some of the best c-store foodservice. What began in the 1600s as a family farm turned dairy, the chain is now known for its made-to-order food (ordered via touchscreen) and large, inviting stores. Rutter’s uses fresh ingredients, baking its own bread, cookies and muffins every day. Its extensive menu, offering everything from barbecue short ribs to nachos to stir-fries, is completely customizable.

Rutter’s offers some local favorites, such as fried sweet bologna bites using Pennsylvania’s own Lebanon sweet bologna. The regional nod helps provoke a truly loyal (and local) customer base.

Sheetz, Altoona, Pa.

When someone visits the Sheetz home page, the first thing they see is a prompt to order food online. That’s because, to many of its customers, Sheetz is a quick-service restaurant that happens to have gas pumps outside and packaged goods in between. The chain has embraced its QSR sensibilities, so much so that many locations are outfitted with drive-thru windows. Living foodservice 24/7, Sheetz offers its menu items all day long, every day of the year.

At Sheetz, cheese of all varieties is prone to being breaded and fried. case in point: Fried Mac n’ Cheese Bites, Wisconsin Cheese Bites and mozzarella sticks.


METHODOLOGY

For this project, Convenience Store Products partnered with sister research company Technomic. Technomic’s Consumer Brand Metrics study is an ongoing quantitative and qualitative measurement of customer experience at 27 leading chains in the c-store industry. This report includes the six highest-rated c-store foodservice programs within the study parameters.

The data represents survey responses from 18,806 consumers and is based on a recent visit to a c-store brand tracked from Q2 2016 through Q1 2017. Scores represent the percentage of respondents who strongly agree and agree with the statements ranked on a scale of 1 to 5 (top two box ratings).