Opinion: The Consumer Perspective

Our research proves that your customers’ perception is changing

As a market research company specializing in the foodservice industry, Product Evaluations has kept an eye on the growth of foodservice in the c-store. And in 2015, we reviewed proprietary quantitative research that showed the category’s double-digit growth potential.

When we teamed up with Convenience Store Products recently to talk to customers, including millennials and the general population, our conversations with the focus groups shed light on their perspective. We learned about their current perceptions of c-stores and the food they serve. We discovered needs that are uniquely met through c-store foodservice.

We learned that your customers have strong, mixed feelings about their experiences with the food offered in c-stores. Their emotions ranged from guilt to indulgence and concern.

However, the group quickly transitioned into a positive dialogue about the benefits of c-store foodservice. Your stores are faster than QSRs (“I can get my breakfast and my coffee and still make it to work on time”); they are less expensive (“Costs less than at other restaurants”); they are convenient (“I can get my sandwich, but also cigarettes or milk, whatever I need at home at the same time”); and they have more variety (“I get pizza, chips and the drink of my choice while getting whatever my son wants”).

In addition, the consumers talked about certain foods they enjoy in particular and how some c-store foodservice has become a destination for them. These experiences are creating a more open attitude toward trying new products in the future.

One woman shared a story of friends who wanted to buy the pizza at a c-store: “I’m like, whatever,” (she rolled her eyes), “but it was actually good! Now I go there for pizza sometimes.” Another indicated they’d stop in for a quick dinner: “We go to the store—it’s really close to our house—and run in to get the beef sandwiches when we are really tired after a long day.”

Our focus groups weren’t shy about sharing what they’d like to see more of in the c-store, including more variety, more healthy options and fresh foods.

Overall, this research indicates a highly volatile and changing world. Consumers are shifting in their perceptions from the c-store with limited foodservice to the new c-store foodservice where anything is possible.

Jane Wood is CEO of Product Evaluatons Inc. Product Evaluations is a market research company specializing in the foodservice industry. For more information, visit productevaluations.com and foodview360.com.