Food

6 menu items to watch at convenience stores this summer

C-stores are embracing their position as an affordable alternative to restaurant food, offering things like Spam, meal bundles and $6 burrito bowls.
QuickCheck burrito bowls
QuickChek introduced burrito bowls starting at $5.99. | Photo courtesy of QuickChek

As fast-food chains race to appease inflation-weary customers with bargains this summer, they would be wise to keep an eye on what their counterparts in convenience stores are doing.

That’s because c-store foodservice tends to be more heavily trafficked by lower-income consumers—the very group that QSRs are looking to gain favor with. And c-stores seem to be doing a better job of it lately.

According to data from Technomic, the percentage of consumers using c-store foodservice once or more a week rose 2 percentage points year over year in the first quarter, to 59%. And among those with household incomes below $50,000, visitation grew by 3 percentage points, to 58%.

During that same period, the share of all consumers who went to a restaurant once a week or more fell 1 percentage point, to 67%. Among lower-income folks, it fell to 58%, from 59%.

“[C-stores are] in the enviable position that they are just so well suited, particularly from quick-service restaurants,” said Donna Hood Crecca, principal at Technomic, during the C-Store Foodservice Forum in Chicago last month.

She pointed out that c-store foodservice has a significant price advantage over fast food. The average cost of a c-store chicken sandwich, for instance, is $4.90, while the QSR version clocks in at $9.11. A cheese pizza, meanwhile, can be had for $6.63 at a c-store, a nearly 50% discount compared to what a quick-service pizza place will charge ($13.11).

C-stores are leaning into that reputation this summer with a slew of new and affordable items, many of which seem aimed at the price-conscious and designed to compete directly with restaurants. Here are six notable examples.

Rutter's Spam menu

Photo courtesy of Rutter's

Spam at Rutter’s

The limited-time Spam menu returns to Rutter’s with nine items, including breakfast sandwiches and bowls, breakfast tacos and burritos, grilled cheese, burgers, mac and cheese and Spam and cheese pretzel roll sandwiches. All feature a helping of the canned, cook meat that has historically been a staple in times of economic hardship. 

The items range in price from $3.98 to $6.59. They’ll be available through September.

Chicken nuggets at 7-Eleven

The c-store giant is expanding its formidable foodservice offering to include chicken nuggets for the first time, getting in on a trend that is also sweeping restaurants. The crispy nuggets come with ranch, buffalo or barbecue sauce. 

The item is also available at 7-Eleven-owned Speedway and Stripes stores. A price was not immediately available.

QuickChek

Photo courtesy of QuickChek

Burrito bowls at QuickChek

The New Jersey-based chain is offering a selection of burrito bowls starting at $5.99. Customers can choose from prefab options such as grilled chicken, steak or huevos rancheros bowls, or build their own. Toppings include rice, beans, cheese, avocado, tomatoes and ranch dressing.

The bowls are a new addition to QuickChek’s summer lineup, which also features 6-inch subs for $6 and Bursting Boba Refreshers. 

$5 meal at EG America

The owner of Cumberland Farms, Turkey Hill, Fastrac and other c-store brands is looking to compete directly with fast-food chains like McDonald’s with an affordably priced summer meal bundle. 

Customers can choose any two roller grill items or two cheese or pepperoni pizza slices; a 1-liter bottle of Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Aquafina or Brisk; and a small bag of Lay’s, Miss Vickie’s, Ruffles or Sun Chips.

The deal began June 19 and is available through Sept. 3. Customers can also get two doughnuts and a large hot or iced coffee for $4 during that time.

Allsup's burrito

Photo courtesy of Yesway/Allsup's

Pepperoni Pizza Burrito at Allsup’s and Yesway

Allsup’s has long been known for its giant burritos packaged in paper sleeves, and this summer it added to the lineup with a nod to pizza lovers. The Pepperoni Pizza Burrito packages the ingredients of a pizza—pepperoni, marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese—into a burrito form that's designed to be eaten on the go. The burritos will also be available at Yesway, which acquired Allsup’s in 2019. A price was not immediately available. 

Kelce family hoagies at Wawa

The chain known for its fresh-made sandwiches is marshaling some star power for its annual Hoagiefest promotion, which offers discounts on its signature hoagies.

During the two-month special, customers can order their hoagies in the style of former Philadelphia Eagles star Jason Kelce and his wife, Kylie.

The Jason is an Italian hoagie with mayonnaise, provolone, tomato and banana peppers on a white roll. The Kylie is a Honey Turkey hoagie with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles and banana peppers on a wheat roll.

During the promotion, customers can get 6-inch Shorti hoagies for $5 and classic 10-inchers for $6. It began June 17 and runs through August 11.

CSP Daily News, a sister brand of Restaurant Business, contributed to this report.

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