With pumpkin spice still a must-have in bean or creamer form for any fall coffee program, convenience stores are also looking at other hot beverages and ancillary items to build seasonal sales.
At the 35 Cubby’s convenience stores in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota, for example, more flavors of powdered cappuccino, mochas and lattes are added to the selection. And while customers enjoy hot chocolate all year, they particularly like combining half coffee and half hot chocolate in the chillier months to make their own fancy creation.
Depending on the size and volume of the stores, Cubby’s offers between two and five varieties of its own branded coffee. Instead of adding limited-time offers (LTOs) to its lineup of brews, which Wilson said often results in a lot of waste, the stores provide syrups for customization.
This year, Cubby’s is focusing on the basics when it comes to coffee, recently installing bean-to-cup equipment in three of its stores, said De Lone Wilson, president of Cubby’s. In one store, the new equipment has become so popular it has already replaced traditional brewers.
“Customers love it because they always get a nice, fresh cup of coffee whenever they come in, even at times of day when our coffee volume sales are not as high,” he explained. “For us, it eliminates waste and the labor of preparing and maintaining the freshness of the coffee.”
It takes about 40 seconds to brew bean-to-cup. At its higher volume convenience stores, Cubby’s has multiple machines to control wait time.
Wilson noted that the preparation price per cup is almost identical to the stores’ former brewing systems, so the cost to the customer is still the same.
Cubby’s generally experiences about a 30% increase in hot dispensed beverage sales in the fall and winter. Wilson has already seen an extra increase in coffee sales in the stores that have the bean-to-cup program. He is planning to roll the program out to the other Cubby’s stores.
At Cenex Zip Trip stores, energy giant CHS’s corporate convenience store brand with 36 locations in Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota and Wyoming, increased bakery product sales go hand in hand with the fall rise in hot dispensed beverage consumption, said Jon Fleck, merchandising manager for Cenex Zip Trip.
“We make sure to have plenty of doughnuts, muffins, pastries and other products the customers want with their coffee, and we display them right next to the hot beverages,” he said. “We want people who may not come to us for hot beverages during the warmer seasons to see everything we have to offer.”
Fleck pointed out that, during the colder seasons, Zip Trip generally sees a lift of about 15% in hot dispensed sales.
Although 90% of the stores’ coffee sales come from the house Breakfast Blend and high-caffeine Hi-Rev, they offer up to five core varieties depending on the size of the coffee space and the amount of it they sell. The additional brews may include French Roast, decaf and Highlander Grogg, a Scottish blend with fragrant accents of caramel, vanilla and brandy.
“We used to have six coffees and an LTO, but we were throwing too much of it away,” he said. “To keep up with seasonal flavors, we offer pumpkin spice creamer in the fall and peppermint creamer for the Christmas season.”
At the five-head hot chocolate/cappuccino station, toffee, white chocolate caramel and French vanilla hot beverages are available. By far the best seller at the station is the Hi-Rev Mocha.
“Customers are looking for an increased boost of caffeine in their hot beverages, whether coffee or cappuccino,” Fleck said.