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NATIONAL REPORT -- The world of foodservice is getting crowded. When hunger pangs strike, consumers have their pick of restaurants, food trucks, convenience stores, grocery stores, drugstores, etc.
The foodservice channels that convenience stores compete against are unrelenting in introducing new menu items to whet consumers' appetites. Not to be outdone, the retailers that participated in the Convenience Store News 2014 Foodservice Summit shared new initiatives they're working on.
The event, sponsored by Tyson Foods Inc. and held in March at the company's Tyson Discovery Center in Springdale, Ark., focused on why consumers choose one channel over another when purchasing prepared food. A dozen retailers representing some of the most innovative and well-established foodservice players in the convenience channel were in attendance.
In an attempt to move beyond being No. 2 to McDonald's at breakfast and to Subway at lunch, Country Fair is beginning a 10-store pilot program of Electrolux grills, the same equipment Panera Bread uses for its Panini sandwiches. The grill can heat a cold sandwich in 45 seconds and a burger in one minute. Country Fair plans to price its new pressed sandwiches, including a patty melt, for between $3.89 and $5.49; Panera prices its Panini sandwiches for $7.49 to $7.99.
With 90 percent of its food sales coming from grab-and-go hot foods, Holiday turned its attention to its cold cases in the past year. Fresh lettuce and pasta salads were revamped and placed at eye level, along with its line of fresh fruit cups to reflect the brand's focus on fresh and healthy. The chain also hit a healthy note by introducing an Egg White Muffin Sandwich with All-Natural Canadian Bacon to its breakfast lineup.
Not wanting to bore its customers, Kwik Trip is being more aggressive than ever with limited-time offers. New bakery items debut every two to three months, and the same timetable is being applied to its sandwiches and hot case. This strategy is allowing the retailer to try new items with a low risk. The philosophy is: "Let's run it and see what happens."
Rich Green's first move upon assuming leadership of Maverik's food program a few months ago was to create a biscuits and gravy product. It is now the chain's No. 3 breakfast item and sells for 50 cents more than the biscuits and gravy available at fast-feeder Carl's Jr. Next up for Green is to develop a MOAB Burrito, an acronym for the Mother of All Burritos and named after Utah's adventure capital.
Having joined The Pantry very recently, Tom Terlecky said he is still getting familiarized with its foodservice programs before making any adjustments. He previously headed foodservice for ampm and just before leaving there, led the testing of a new cooking platform, the Ovention Matchbox Oven, to see if it could improve capacity and service times. The oven cut cook times by up to 50 percent.
Rutter's Farm Stores
Burger sales have doubled at Rutter's stores thanks to the launch of Ultimate Burgers. The line allows diners to top their burgers with indulgent items like mozzarella sticks (the No. 1 variety selected) and jalapeno poppers. Based on the popularity of Ultimate Burgers, the chain plans to keep introducing new, bold varieties.
Setting out to show consumers that not all convenience stores are the same, Thorntons assembled a multi-faceted team to develop an all-new store design and foodservice menu. This team focused as much on operations as it did on the food. After implementing the new concept in a couple of stores, testing continues to show favorable consumer response and positive results for the company.
Through increased customer engagement, Wawa is better positioning its stores to be a solution for customers’ daily lives, offering them a nice break from their daily routine.
Editor's note: Complete coverage of the Convenience Store News 2014 Foodservice Summit will be published in the May issue of Convenience Store News.