C-stores are now going toe-to-toe with quick-service restaurants and grocery stores in a fierce foodservice battle.
AT A GLANCE
- Foodservice is now the number one reason consumers shop at c-stores.
- To differentiate themselves, c-stores should continue to focus on technology—including mobile apps—to enhance the customer experience.
- Delivery offers an opportunity to innovate, but Amazon could change the game.
In our latest North American convenience store consumer study, survey respondents named foodservice offerings—including prepared foods and hot, cold, or frozen dispensed beverages—as their primary c-store purchases.
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner times saw the highest sales, suggesting that stores can grow foodservice sales by focusing their product and marketing strategies on those day-parts.
C-store monthly dining frequency has jumped by more than 13% in the past five years; meanwhile, other channels such as quick-service restaurants, grocery stores, and casual dining have stayed flat or declined.
Better-for-you offerings are in demand
Consumers praised c-stores on their prices, value, and service speed. However, they still think c-stores could improve the quality and diversity of their food service offerings. More than 80% of survey respondents said they would appreciate seeing more better-for-you menu items. Top characteristics that interested consumers included “freshly made in stores,” “nutritional information provided,” and “locally sourced/fresh ingredients.”
Mobility and self-checkout get high scores
Technology—especially mobile loyalty programs—powerfully influences shopping behavior, particularly among younger consumers. In fact, more than 60% of Millennial and Generation X consumers in our survey gave the importance of loyalty programs a rating of 3 or higher on a scale of 1 to 5.
Other technologies that focus on improving the customer experience, such as self- checkout and kiosks, also scored highly.
Roughly 70% of consumers in our survey are interested in receiving delivery from c-stores.
Drive-thru and delivery could drive growth and innovation
Out of all the consumers who expressed interest in delivery from a c-store, 53% said they prefer to order delivery in advance; 65% said they want to order directly from a c-store, versus just 9% who said they want to order c-store delivery from a third-party service.
Despite strong interest in delivery, consumers suggest that drive-thru windows rank even higher in importance of c-store offerings.
But watch out: Amazon is moving into c-store food delivery
Amazon just opened its first cashier-less convenience store: Amazon Go. The digital giant is also reportedly testing food offerings that consumers can order online and have delivered to their cars outside Amazon c-stores.
About 43% of survey respondents said that if an Amazon c-store opened nearby, they would shop at other c-stores at least somewhat less frequently (figure 3).
If an Amazon-branded c-store opened in your area, how would your shopping frequency change at other c-stores?