The Tech-Driven Evolution of Foodservice in C-Stores

The Tech-Driven Evolution of Foodservice in C-Stores

The convenience store landscape is undergoing a rapid transformation, and at the heart of this evolution is the booming trend of foodservice. In this blog, we delve into the pivotal role of foodservice in the convenience store industry, examining its growth trajectory and the integration of omni-channel strategies shaping customer experiences.

The Foodservice Boom in C-Stores 

Foodservice is emerging as a powerhouse for convenience stores, experiencing robust growth compared to other inside categories. Not only does it drive foot traffic, but customers are increasingly placing their trust in c-store food offerings, making it a key differentiator in a competitive market.  

Recent insights from the 2023 Convenience Store News Foodservice Study highlight the crucial role of foodservice for c-store operators. Nearly all retailers surveyed confirm selling prepared food and hot dispensed beverages, with an impressive 54 percent of total foodservice sales attributed to prepared food. The report reveals a notable 19.5 percent increase in foodservice sales in 2022. Additionally, over three-quarters of retailers surveyed anticipate increased profits this year, a significant jump from 57% a year ago. Moreover, a positive outlook prevails, with 85% of retailers predicting an increase in foodservice sales in 2023, up from 70% the previous year.

Staying Ahead of Trends 

To stand out in the competitive foodservice landscape, c-store operators are looking for ways to stay ahead of evolving consumer preferences. Continuous monitoring of trends is essential for crafting successful foodservice programs. Here are some key trends we’re seeing: 

Flavor Innovations 

Gen Z’s influence is driving a trend toward bold flavor combinations that can be shared both in person and on social media. C-stores, already prominent in the snacking space, are well-positioned to capitalize on this trend. 

Daypart Trends 

Lunch and breakfast emerge as the powerhouses driving convenience foodservice, generating the majority of category sales. Tracking daypart trends is crucial for offering items that not only meet customer cravings but also stand out from competitors. For instance, the rise in breakfast sandwich purchases indicates the importance of aligning offerings with shifting consumer preferences. 

Dinnertime Dynamics 

While breakfast and lunch dominate convenience foodservice, dinnertime sales are gaining traction, currently constituting 15% of total daily foodservice sales. This trend highlights an emerging opportunity for C-stores to explore innovative dinner solutions and cater to evolving customer preferences. 

Differentiating Foodservice Offerings 

Upgrading menus beyond traditional convenience store fare is essential. The industry is moving away from hot dog rollers and microwaves, embracing higher-quality, healthier, and more diverse options. 

Health-Conscious Offerings 

The demand for healthier options presents a significant opportunity. C-stores can attract health-conscious consumers by expanding offerings such as fresh-cut fruit and protein-packed snack boxes. 

Quality, Consistency, Innovation 

C-store operators who focus on combining quality, consistency, and innovation when planning foodservice offerings benefit from differentiating themselves and creating a positive brand image. 

Embracing Omni-Channel Excellence in Convenience Stores 

The convenience store industry is undergoing a transformative shift, driven by the strategic integration of omni-channel strategies, with a particular focus on refining delivery and pickup services. 

Delivery & Pickup Dynamics 

The demand for delivery and pickup services has experienced a substantial 17 percent growth rate throughout 2021 and 2022. Recognizing this trend, convenience store owners are increasingly emphasizing the importance of adopting these consumer-desired delivery mechanisms to remain competitive in the evolving market. 

C-Store’s Unique Value Proposition

C-Store's Unique Value Proposition

Convenience stores boast a distinctive advantage in the retail landscape – unrestricted access to a diverse array of nonfood items. This unique offering sets them apart from traditional restaurants and quick-service restaurants (QSRs), allowing C-stores to provide a comprehensive and unparalleled customer experience. By seamlessly combining food and nonfood items, convenience stores enrich the overall shopping experience for their patrons. 

Strategic Considerations for Third-Party Delivery 

While third-party delivery services present a swift entry into the delivery space, it is essential for retailers to carefully evaluate the associated considerations. These considerations include the higher fees associated with third-party partnerships and the potential lack of control over crucial customer data. Striking the right balance between convenience and control is pivotal for ensuring the long-term success of a convenience store’s delivery strategy.

Empowering Foodservice Excellence Through Technology 

Technology plays a pivotal role in elevating foodservice operations. From streamlining processes to enhancing customer experiences, innovative technologies are reshaping the way convenience stores approach and deliver foodservice. 

Streamlining Operations 

Cutting-edge software solutions, like those provided by Invafresh are enabling convenience stores to streamline their foodservice operations. These technologies optimize processes, from ordering to production planning, providing operators with efficient tools to manage inventory, forecast demand and production schedules . 

Inventory Management Precision 

Real-time inventory tracking, made possible by advanced software, is a game-changer for businesses with small store footprints and limited storage space. Technologies like those offered by Invafresh not only contribute to reducing costs but also ensure optimal stock levels in constrained environments. This not only maximizes the efficient use of limited space but also plays a crucial role in eliminating food waste. By precisely monitoring inventory and expiry dates, businesses can minimize food waste and ensure that popular food items are consistently available to meet customer demands.

Precision in Demand Forecasting 

Accurate demand forecasting is a game-changer for the foodservice industry. AI-powered technology like Invafresh’s software analyzes historical data, market trends, and other variables. This provides c-store operators with precise insights into customer preferences, enabling proactive data-driven adjustments to maximize customer satisfaction and sales.

Foodservice in Tomorrow’s Convenience Store  

In the dynamic landscape of convenience stores, the fusion of foodservice excellence and cutting-edge technology is propelling the industry into a promising future. From omni-channel integration to the strategic use of innovative software, convenience stores are embracing transformative shifts. This journey underscores a commitment to meeting heightened consumer expectations, leveraging technology for operational efficiency, and positioning convenience stores as pioneers. As we look ahead, the ongoing evolution of convenience foodservice promises exciting opportunities for operators to continue innovating and delivering exceptional customer-centric experiences.

About Invafresh

With a combined 500+ years of Freshology experience, the heritage of Invafresh has enabled fresh food retailers to create extraordinary store operations performance and differentiated customer experiences. As the leader of Freshology, Invafresh is deployed in over 350 grocery retailers spanning a global reach of 35 countries with more than $100 million of Fresh revenue being transacted daily, to provide AI/ML demand forecasting, merchandising, replenishment, and sustainability and compliance solutions.  

Learn more at About Us | Invafresh.

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