Cereal sales are suffering as consumers look for more portable breakfast options like egg sandwiches and Greek yogurt. With the right mix of products and value, convenience stores are well positioned to capture a greater share of the breakfast business.
By Marilyn Odesser-Torpey, Associate Editor
In a recent survey, NPD Group researchers found that American consumers are going out for lunch and dinner less, but doing breakfast more often. The number of breakfast visits to restaurants also increased year-over-year, four years running.
Signature items, such as kolaches, are driving breakfast traffic to CST Brands Inc.’s Corner Store locations. Kolaches, slightly sweet dough stuffed with sausage, ham and cheese or other savory fillings, began as a Texan specialty and are now Corner Stores’ best-selling breakfast item, even in states where they are less known,” said Richard Poye, the San Antonio-based company’s director of foodservice.
“A few years ago, we tested them in several stores where kolaches were not so familiar,” Poye said. “They went over so well, we decided to roll them out to close to 400 of our stores.”
Poye estimated that Corner Stores sell well over 6 million kolaches a year. Kolaches will also head up the breakfast menu at any new stores going forward. He explained that this product fits in perfectly with the lifestyle of today’s American consumers.
“They’re busy in the morning and they want to pick up something quick, portable and great tasting,” Poye said. “If they want something light just to tide them over until lunch, they can buy just one, and if they want to make a heartier meal out of them, they can buy multiples.”
MIX AND MATCH
Many customers do purchase multiple kolaches. They often mix and match the different varieties.
“Kolaches are a fun product to eat and they’re fun for us to work with because we can fill them with just about anything and have an interesting new product to offer our customers,” Poye said.
In addition to the regular varieties, there is always a limited-time-offer (LTO) item. Some recent LTOs have included maple sausage and a cheddar jalapeño sausage version made with biscuit dough rather than the traditional kolache dough. The LTOs change each quarter.
The kolaches are made in Corner Store’s proprietary commissary and are proofed and baked in the stores. They are merchandised in a heated display case for grab-and-go convenience.
Pricing also makes kolaches an attractive breakfast item to budget-conscious consumers.
“They can come in and get a couple of kolaches along with a cup of our proprietary Cibolo Mountain Coffee or a fountain beverage for around $4,” Poye said.
Price is often a factor in the consumer’s decision whether or not to eat breakfast out, said David Morris, author of the “Restaurant Breakfast Landscape Report” from Packaged Facts research firm. When consumers were asked what would get them to eat breakfast away from home more often, 45% mentioned ‘less expense.’
North Salt Lake, Utah-based Maverik Convenience Stores, which operates 280 stores in eight states, has a signature product which they call a “bundle.” It consists of a sweet, yeast-raised dough, like a hot dog or hamburger bun, stuffed with combinations of egg, cheese and bacon, sausage or steak.
Sold under the store’s proprietary foodservice brand, BonFire, the bundles are made in the stores and are available for grab and go, said Kyle Lore, the company’s corporate chef.
One of the newest items to come out of Maverik’s research and development is the Liege waffle, a popular street food item sold out of trucks and waffle stores in Belgium.
“These are the real Belgian waffles made with yeast-raised dough with pearl sugar to make them caramelized and crispy,” Lore said. “You don’t put syrup on them—they’re a handheld food that can be served plain, spread with Nutella, with whipped cream or even made into a sandwich. In Europe, they’re very popular for breakfast and as an all-day snack food.”
For the fourth quarter this year, Lore is planning to offer a smaller version of a Maverik signature sandwich called The BonFire Breakfast Beast, which features ham, sausage, bacon, eggs, cheese and maple spread sandwiched between a sliced glazed long John doughnut. The new version will be made on a “crodo,” Maverik’s version of a croissant-doughnut hybrid.
The sandwich was an LTO last year that was received very favorably by customers.
For April, Maverik is featuring a breakfast quesadilla, Lore said. The new item will be all-natural chorizo-based and served on a chipotle tortilla.
MOST IMPORTANT MEAL
Breakfast is a big deal at Maverik and it’s getting bigger all the time.
“Our FRESCH—Food and Refreshment Excellence Served Cold and Hot—team closed 2014 with breakfast sales running about 12% higher than the previous year,” Lore said.
The chain of Chisum Stores, a division of Kendrick Oil with locations in the Texas Panhandle and eastern New Mexico, hopes the empanada will continue to build their already robust breakfast business, according to Matthew Kendrick, the company’s director of retail operations. Introduced at the beginning of March, the empanadas, crimped pastry dough pockets filled with eggs and ham, sausage or bacon, are available in 15 stores and retail for $1.29.
Breakfast burritos continue to be brisk sellers at c-stores. When Maverik recently debuted its Mother of All Burritos (known as MOAB), it skyrocketed to become the chain’s second best-selling foodservice item, Lore said. The mammoth meal is made up of eggs, three breakfast meats, cheese and potatoes in a 12-inch tortilla, instead of the usual 10-inch.
Over the past year, Maverik has been working to enhance the quality of the ingredients it uses in its food products, Lore said. As a result, the company is now using a natural fried egg rather than an egg product and a restaurant-quality applewood smoked bacon from a local supplier.
Breakfast makes up 65% of quick-service food sales for Chisum Stores, Kendrick said. And the No. 1 best sellers during that daypart are the proprietary-branded Authentic Chuckwagon Grill Breakfast Burritos.
Kendrick called the burritos, available in three varieties and served with homemade salsa, “a real draw for breakfast.” In the 15 stores that carry burritos, each location averages sales of 50-100 per day.
Besides portability and creativity, some consumers are looking for more healthful options when eating out. According to the recent Packaged Facts breakfast report, 30% of respondents said that healthier selections would persuade them to eat breakfast away from home more.
Giant Eagle/GetGo convenience stores recently launched four new flatbread breakfast sandwiches that come in at 300 calories or less, pack over 10 grams of protein and are lower in sodium, said company spokesperson Daniel Donovan. Donavan noted that the new sandwiches, which join the ranks of bagel, English muffin, biscuit and wrap sandwiches on the GetGo menu, have already become popular with customers.
GetGo operates 64 locations with a made-to-order breakfast program and an additional 28 locations offering hot grab-and-go cases.