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BRENTWOOD, Tenn. -- Just four years after its launch, MAPCO Express is reportedly putting out the fire on its proprietary foodservice brand, Grille Marx, and replacing the program in several stores with Quiznos' convenience offering.
According to sources, the retail division of Delek US Holdings is "in the process of converting the locations that make sense." Currently MAPCO has three stores switched to the sandwich franchise, and will have a total of 15 converted to Quiznos by mid-summer.
"[MAPCO] found out what many others have -- that it's so difficult to do a regional brand," one source told CSNews Online. "Unless you have the pockets of King Midas, it's really hard to create and support your own [foodservice] brand."
In an August 2006 cover story, Convenience Store News got an industry-first look at the Grille Marx program, which was created to be the centerpiece of the retailer's new store prototype, MAPCO Mart -- the first of which debuted in December 2005.
Company executives said at the time roughly 35 percent of each MAPCO Mart was dedicated to Grille Marx. As the name suggested, the program was built around the grill, and all menu items including a 100-percent Angus burger, Panini sandwiches and the "signature" cheese steak were prepared in front of the customers.
In addition, the MAPCO Mart design featured many elements intended to make each store look like a sit-down restaurant. These elements included: a stone and brick façade; the use of warmer earth tones inside the store; exterior patio seating; and two interior seating areas -- counter style along one wall and bar-top tables in the center.
When asked by CSNews Online about the switch from Grille Marx to Quiznos, company spokesperson Noel Ryan would only say MAPCO's food program is central to its long-term plan for strategic growth. Ryan declined to comment on any specific terms of the chain's QSR (quick-service restaurant) relationships.
In an interview with CSNews earlier this year, however, MAPCO execs noted one of the key themes of the company's new strategic plan is "the introduction of an enhanced, QSR-driven foodservice offering." And on the Delek US Web site, it states, "More recently, we have begun to selectively introduce fresh, proprietary made-to-order meals in our newer prototype locations, while also selectively adopting quick-service restaurants such as Quiznos, Subway, Blimpie and others."
It is unclear just how many of the retailer's Grille Marx locations will ultimately be converted to Quiznos. MAPCO's move comes right as the restaurant chain is making an aggressive push into convenience stores, having revamped its platform within the channel and launched a new breakfast program specifically for its c-store partners.
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