Congratulations to the 2016 Foodservice Innovators Awards Honorees!
Convenience Cuisine at Its Finest
QuickChek heads lineup of 2016 Foodservice Innovators
By Don Longo
QuickChek Corp. is a medium-sized convenience store chain that packs a big punch when it comes to foodservice innovation. The 145-store operator leads this year’s group of six best-in-class convenience foodservice retailers selected as winners in Convenience Store News’ fifth-annual Foodservice Innovators Awards program.
Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based QuickChek earned the esteemed title of 2016 Foodservice Innovator of the Year, chosen by CSNews’ How-To Crew panel of foodservice experts from the retailer, supplier, wholesaler, research and consulting fields. The annual awards program is presented in partnership with Tyson Convenience.
Winners are recognized for raising the bar on quality, service and innovation in the fast-growing and critically important foodservice category in the convenience channel. In addition to QuickChek, the other 2016 Foodservice Innovators are:
Prepared Foods Innovator of the Year: Corner Store (CST Brands Inc.)
Hot Beverages Innovator of the Year: Circle K (Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc.)
Cold & Frozen Beverages Innovator of the Year: QuikTrip Corp.
Best New Foodservice Program or Item of the Year: Maverik Inc.
Best Foodservice Promotion or Limited-Time Offer of the Year: 7-Eleven Inc.
Foodservice Innovator of the Year: QuickChek
Although it wasn’t the first retailer to launch a mobile app in the convenience channel, QuickChek is likely the first to integrate mobile ordering with its app to support what is already a great foodservice program, one How-To Crew member said in championing the retailer’s nomination for Foodservice Innovator of the Year.
QuickChek launched the mobile ordering service in March for freshly prepared breakfast items, custom-made subs and salads. Customers can place orders between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. and select their desired pickup time at any of the chain’s stores throughout New Jersey, New York’s Hudson Valley and Long Island. Orders are prepared to coincide with the selected time of pickup to ensure freshness and correct temperatures.
Mobile ordering is the result of customer demand, according to QuickChek CEO Dean Durling, whose company has also seen an increase in sales of its signature bakery products made via in-store ovens, freshly made sandwiches, and custom-made espresso-based drinks. Also on the tech front, QuickChek in early 2015 rolled out a self-ordering kiosk system for foodservice.
The retailer has been an early innovator around the currently hot foodservice snack daypart, too. It introduced a cheeseburger egg roll to its fresh snacks menu that also includes Buffalo Style Jack n’ Blue Cheese Sticks, Apple Cinnamon Twists, Sweet Dough Pretzel Knots, Popcorn Chicken, Jalapeno Poppers, Mac & Cheese Wedges, Fresh Braided Pretzels, Pizza Stix and Buffalo Chicken Stix.
And, late last year, QuickChek rolled out a walking taco line of chips and toppings, targeting on-the-go millennials. Customers can design their own walking taco by choosing a bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos, Cool Ranch Doritos or Fritos, and adding their choice of toppings: QuickChek’s signature spicy chili, shredded cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions and olives. The chain also expanded its menu with the addition of six signature Mac & Cheese Bowls.
On the foodservice beverage front, How-To Crew members cited QuickChek’s successful and broad choice of cold and frozen beverages, including coffee-based refreshments. Plus, the company’s award-winning coffee program continues to be a model in the hot beverages area for its seamless introduction of made-to-order service and large variety of condiments.
As one How-To Crew member said, “QuickChek is really a class act that is quiet, but they deserve accolades” for continuously improving their foodservice offer.
QuickChek previously won an honorable mention for Foodservice Innovator of the Year in CSNews’ 2013 awards program and was Hot Beverages Innovator of the Year in 2014 when it rolled out its signature Reserve Blend coffee.
Prepared Foods Innovator of the Year: Corner Store
Corner Store, the flagship brand of San Antonio, Texas-based parent company CST Brands, previously won Best Foodservice Promotion or Limited-Time Offer in 2012 – the same year as its future sister chain, Nice N Easy, won honorable mention in the Prepared Foods Innovator of the Year category. Nice N Easy also won honorable mention in 2013 for Best New Foodservice Program or Item, and was honored in 2014 as Prepared Foods Innovator of the Year.
Indeed, Nice N Easy’s fresh-food program was one of the things that attracted CST Brands to acquire the Canastota, N.Y.-based chain. Now, CST’s Corner Store customers are getting a taste of what central New York diners have been enjoying for a decade.
This year, CST expanded the Melt Program, a “grown-up” version of the grilled cheese sandwich, to its Texas and Canada stores. The Melt Program originated in Nice N Easy’s Easy Street Eatery concept and is now part of the broader CST family across North America. The program consists of the Two Alarm Turkey Melt, Philly Steak Melt, State Fair Melt, Three Cheese Melt, and the classic Reuben Melt, plus a Smoked Meat Reuben for the Canadian market.
Why is the Melt Program growing so rapidly? “Because it’s good. Seriously, it’s really, really good, and can be made fast and made-to-order. It’s a very popular and fast-growing item,” according to one How-To Crew member.
Under the direction of longtime foodservice maven, Dr. Jack Cushman, and chefs David Haynes and Andrew Franco, CST is also expanding made-to-order subs and pizza from New York to Texas to the provinces of Ontario and Quebec in Canada.
Our How-To Crew members also lauded the retailer’s use of social media, billboards, print, direct mailers, commercials and radio to attract customers to its improved foodservice offering.