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    Food-Forward C-stores Making Positive Impression

    Quality of offerings leads to increase in visits, NPD Group says.

    CHICAGO — New data from The NPD Group shows that as more convenience stores focus on improving the quality of their food and beverage offerings, they are increasing visits and posing a competitive threat to quick-service restaurants (QSRs), reported Nation's Restaurant News.

    "These food-forward retailers have moved forward in terms of quality and variety," stated NPD restaurant industry analyst Bonnie Riggs. "They are a segment to watch … a retailer to take note of, put into your competitive set."

    Food-forward c-stores have increased their share of visits to 17 percent of all c-stores, up from 12 percent in 2009, according to NPD. This includes chains such as Cumberland Farms, Maverik, QuikTrip, Sheetz and Wawa.

    These stores score higher in intent to revisit, visit frequency and customer satisfaction than QSRs, fast-casual restaurants and traditional c-stores.

    In a NPD consumer survey, 58 percent of respondents stated they will definitely revisit a food-forward c-store, compared to 45 percent who said the same about a traditional QSR and 43 percent who plan to revisit a fast-casual outlet or traditional c-store. Additionally, more than 56 percent of food-forward c-store customers say they visit more than once a month, compared to 37 percent of QSR customers and 19 percent of fast-casual customers.

    The increase in pizza sales at food-forward c-stores also makes them worth watching, according to NPD. Cases of pizza crust and dough shipped to c-stores from broadline foodservice distributors rose 27 percent, and servings of pizza ordered by c-store customers rose by more than 20 percent in the year ended February 2015, as CSNews Online previously reported. Meanwhile, servings have been flat at pizza QSRs and increased by just 1 percent at traditional QSRs.

    "These food-forward chains are very regional chains, but collectively they pose a threat to traditional QSR," Riggs said. "The traditional fast-fooders are not growing like these retail chains are."

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