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NATIONAL REPORT — For quick-service restaurant (QSR) companies, convenience stores are ideal partners because they can increase their exposure, and capitalize on the traffic and added sales the segment provides. For convenience store retailers, the benefits of branded foodservice include brand recognition, ongoing marketing support, product development, training, and access to their QSR partner’s foodservice expertise.
“The national advertising of known brands is the biggest benefit for us, and also the experienced team of people to show you how to operate it is great,” said Alison Leiszler-Bridges, executive vice president of Leiszler Oil Co., the operator of 16 c-stores based in Clay Center, Kan.
Leiszler Oil offers a variety of branded foodservice depending on the location, including Papa John’s Pizza, currently at one location, but expanding into another this summer; Which Wich at one location; Hunt Brothers Pizza in seven stores; and Champs Chicken in one store. The chain also operates a standalone Dunkin’ Donuts location, along with another Dunkin’ Donuts within a c-store.
Just this November, Leiszler Oil brought in Champs Chicken to replace a proprietary chicken program and doing so doubled the sales, according to Leiszler-Bridges.
“The brands offer scheduled promotions, which keeps you relevant with the customer, and they provide materials to promote at the pump,” she told Convenience Store News.
At Elliott Oil Co., based in Ottumwa, Iowa, and operating 17 c-stores, the chain not only swapped out a proprietary pizza program for Godfather’s Pizza Express at nine locations, but also chose Pita Pit to anchor its newest location because of the brand equity it brings.
“Pita Pit has around 500 locations within its network and it’s getting more and more popular. The brand recognition to the consumer is a benefit to us,” noted Andrew Woodward, vice president and general manager at Elliott Oil. Pita Pit currently has five units open in convenience stores.
For Duck Thru convenience stores, operated by Ahoskie, N.C.-based Jernigan Oil Co., the 46-store chain decided on branded foodservice for the benefit of consistency. The company does have a director of foodservice and every store has a foodservice manager, but the stores are spread out geographically so it wanted a program that could remain consistent at each location. The retailer also wanted the added assistance that comes with a franchise operation.
Duck Thru offers Champs Chicken at nine locations, Hot Stuff Pizza at 12 locations and Sub Express at eight locations. Most of its stores that offer branded foodservice have Champs Chicken, Sub Express and Hot Stuff Pizza side by side in a food court concept. Duck Thru stores also offer proprietary foodservice products through the chain’s Duck Food Deli concept.
“We wanted help making our foodservice consistent and correct at every location,” Jernigan Oil President Michael Harrell said. “In the past, if we were eating proprietary chicken at Store 20 and then went down the road to Store 25, it was all good, but it didn’t taste the same. We were looking for consistency across the board.”
The training provided by the QSR brands is a huge plus for many c-store operators that go the branded route. The majority of the QSRs provide on-site training at the store, as well as training specialists at their corporate headquarters.
When adding Godfather’s Pizza to its stores, Elliott Oil sent its foodservice supervisors to the QSR company’s corporate headquarters for two weeks of training. Then, when each location was opened, Godfather’s Pizza provided hands-on training for a week with both the foodservice supervisor and employees at each location.
“The same thing happened with Pita Pit. Our Pita Pit manager and foodservice supervisor did two weeks of training at their corporate office, and then they sent three or four people to the store for a week, which helped tremendously with our grand opening,” Woodward relayed.
Many QSR partners also offer ongoing support and training, and will even visit the stores to provide feedback reports about what is going well and what should be changed.
At Subway, franchisees pass a two-week training course before opening their first store, and each store manager also goes through training. After opening, the local development office provides ongoing support for operations and marketing, and conducts monthly store evaluations, said Allison Morrow, assistant director of new business development at Subway, which offers access to 24/7 online training as well.
Comparing proprietary foodservice to branded foodservice, Elliott Oil’s Woodward said his company has made a key observation.
“We have stores with proprietary offerings and those with QSR brands, and for us, the majority of the time, the QSR brands do perform better,” he said.
Editor's note: Check out the May issue of Convenience Store News for our full report on "The Power of Partnerships" in foodservice. A digital edition of the issue can be accessed by clicking here.