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3 new ways c-stores are challenging restaurants

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In the push for more foodservice sales, convenience stores aren’t ignoring what’s worked lately for restaurants. They’re further blurring the line between the channels by co-opting some of the food and beverage specialists’ latest initiatives, including new tactics for landing off-premise business. Here, as reported by our c-store sister, CSP, are three techniques being borrowed by the retailers.

7-Eleven adds beer delivery

Delivery has been a godsend for the restaurant business, but researchers and more than a few stakeholders say the sales spike would climb dramatically if operators could include alcoholic beverages in orders for home consumption. The challenge is a patchwork of regulations that only a few, and those mostly in California, have managed to navigate. For every BJ’s Restaurants, Pizza Hut and TGI Fridays that’s tried beer and wine delivery, there are dozens of other operations hoping to create the opportunity.

Now they’ll be coughing 7-Eleven’s dust as they try to find their road. The nation’s largest c-store chain started delivering cold beer in 18 major urban markets on Cinco de Mayo, with the hauling fee waived to introduce the service. In case you missed it, the brand already delivers sandwiches, groceries and some dry goods in select markets. 

Wawa adds catering

The restaurant opportunity of the moment seems to be catering, a form of off-premise business that’s suddenly being chased by operations ranging from Veggie Grill to several big casual-dining chains. 

Just joining the pack: Wawa, the 840-unit c-store operation that’s been a formidable competitor at breakfast and lunch to quick-service restaurants in the Eastern U.S. It announced yesterday that all branches are now offering catering, including a boxed lunch priced at $6.49 a head for a minimum order of 10 servings.

The company’s description indicates that just about any foods or beverages sold in the stores can be grouped into a catering menu, including the brand’s popular breakfast line. A special line of catering packages was developed as part of the rollout. 

Fortunately for restaurants that have invested in online capabilities, Wawa’s catering customers have to contact their local stores via phone or a visit to place an order, which they then have to pick up themselves.

Focusing on fresh snacks

As any closet snack fiend knows, c-stores are nirvana for indulgers who prefer their pick-me-ups in bags or wrappers, vis-a-vis turkey jerky, Slim Jims, chips or candy. Restaurants rely on prepped food, usually in sizes smaller than a typical lunch or dinner serving. 

Now the parent of Circle K, another giant of convenience retailing, is trying to erase the differences to land more of the between-meal indulgers who have made snacking a major area of growth for restaurant chains. Alimentation Couche-Tard is using Circle K’s sister c-store brand, recently acquired Holiday Stationstores, to test small plates, minis and popper-type bites as snacker bait.

“We try to create items that are both portable and craveable,” Tara Anderson, lunch daypart category sales manager for Holiday, told CSP

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