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We recently wrapped up a thorough study of the convenience store foodservice channel. While there were a number of significant findings from this research, there is one in particular that I believe is resonating throughout c-store foodservice and the foodservice industry as a whole. It is the concept of "dayparts," and whether it is time to update this term to reflect what is truly occurring in the channel.
Take, for example, two consumers: Joe drives a big rig and stops at a convenience store outside of Atlanta at 2:30 a.m. He orders two hot dogs, chips and a fountain beverage. At the same time, a little farther north in Dublin, Ohio, Dave just got off from his job as a bartender and orders two breakfast sandwiches at the c-store on the way home. Two meals, same time. But are they dinner, breakfast or a snack?
Not "When" but "What" We Eat
The concept of "grazing" may now be more important than the concept of "dayparts" for c-store foodservice. Grazing, or eating multiple meals per day, is not new. Technomic has been discussing this trend for the better part of the new century. C-stores have the unique position to be considered the top venue for "snacks" and grazing occasions. In addition, c-stores are more likely than other venues to be open 24 hours, which supports offering, say, breakfast 24 hours a day. Finally, c-stores have a unique set of consumers that are in transit or working on shifts, which makes traditional mealparts difficult to define.
Each C-store Has Own Set of Consumer Needs
Customizing menus and food offerings by c-store location may seem daunting. However, c-stores already understand (or should understand) the demographics of their store locations in terms of limited-time offers, promotions and other targeted marketing tactics. Providing breakfast all day or offering energy foods/drinks during the afternoon and late-night hours would only be another step in the process. The questions both c-store operators and suppliers should be asking include:
- Would our top-selling items sell well during another timeframe? Could we offer it all day?
- Have we polled our consumers and asked if they want roller grill food, breakfast sandwiches, pasta salads, etc., for longer (or shorter) time periods than when we currently offer them?
- Are we willing (as an operator) to deal with 15-percent to 20-percent waste during this process?
- What equipment do we have that may help us offer a wider variety of hot items for longer or shorter periods?
There are, of course, a number of other questions to be answered. But we believe that a new way of thinking must occur outside of "dayparts" for c-stores to truly capture the strong "grazing" position they have in the industry to maximize foodservice sales and profits.
Tim Powell is director of C-store Foodservice Programs for Technomic Inc., a fact-based research and consulting firm that helps restaurants and food suppliers grow profitably with business-building guidance. This column originally ran in the Technomic C-Store Monitor. Powell is also a member of the Convenience Store News How To Crew, a carefully selected group of foodservice professionals that provide their expertise for CSNews' monthly How To Do World-Class Foodservice editorial series. Powell can be reached at [email protected].
Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the author's, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News.