Noodles 101

Give your store some street cred with this trend-forward grab-and-go option

Spaghetti, ramen, pho, chow mein, chicken noodle soup, mac and cheese: Noodles have a place in nearly every cuisine, from the exotic to the hyper-familiar.

Easy and economical to prepare, noodles meet consumers’ needs on several fronts, including robust ­flavor, health and, often, customizability. There’s also the lure of ethnic in­fluences, as evidenced by Asian-style noodle bowls, which have been trending for the past few years. In fact, MenuMonitor data from Technomic shows that Asian bowl meals are up 10% on restaurant menus since 2011.

Convenience stores in global markets are capitalizing on the noodle bowl craze. Build-your-own noodle bowls are part of the cafe menu at 7-Eleven Hong Kong’s new concept store at Lippo Centre, which debuted in early 2016. Guests visiting the store’s noodle bar can select their choice of soup base (including chicken, tomato and laska, a spicy Malaysian curry) and udon, ramen, rice and Korean glass noodles, as well as about 20 optional meat, veggie and condiment toppings.


Increase in listings of mac and cheese entrees on restaurant menus in the past five years

Source: Technomic’s MenuMonitor

To make this trend work in a c-store environment in the U.S. market, operators should gather culinary inspiration from noodle favorites found a little closer to home. And a number of c-stores are zeroing in on a classic pasta dish with near-universal appeal: macaroni and cheese.

Technomic’s MenuMonitor data shows that listings of mac-and-cheese entrees on restaurant menus have increased by 46% in the past five years. Beyond the conventional cheddar-cheese variety, there has been quite a bit of innovation in terms of ­ avors and toppings for mac and cheese.

QuickChek, Whitehouse Station, N.J., offers six different mac-and-cheese bowls,  including Buffalo Chicken, Meatball Marinara and Loaded Baked Potato. In addition to its original Mac N Cheese bowl topped with cheddar, mozzarella and crispy bacon, Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes, Canastota, N.Y., offers an Angry Chicken Mac N Cheese bowl, featuring fiery hot chicken atop cheesy elbow macaroni.

To add a simple twist on macaroni and cheese, consider multiple pasta shapes, from bow tie to corkscrew, and spark interest in these offerings by testing different sauces and cheeses. Alfredo sauce is an easy swap for the traditional cheddar option, while

pepper jack cheese could infuse a bolder flavor in spicy mac-and-cheese items.