Across the industry, c-stores are working to add or improve foodservice options to ensure they are a destination for customers across breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Among its initiatives, Savannah, Ga.-based Enmarket hired c-store foodservice veteran Ryan Krebs as its director of food and beverage at the start of 2020.
Enmarket, which operates 125+ stores in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, is known in part for Southern-style foodservice, including its fried chicken, which is breaded and cooked on site, as well as fresh biscuits.
Krebs sees an opportunity to build upon the chain’s foundation and cement Enmarket as a foodservice destination for all dayparts.
“The goal will be to bring specific brand recognition to Enmarket that really differentiates us from what other operators are doing,” said Krebs. “And certainly the baseline of that, regardless of what items you bring in, has to be quality and consistency of product.”
The chain’s foodservice game is strong, thanks to a wide variety of options. Along with Southern staples, as well as roller grill and fresh bakery items, Enmarket stores include a proprietary restaurant, The Eatery, which features sandwiches, salads, pizza and more.
In addition, Krebs said the chain has done a lot with the cold grab-and-go space lately to provide additional healthy options and alternatives to its customers.
“It’s a great position as a passionate food guy to be in, to be proud of where they’ve already come, but be able to continue to elevate them to the next level of foodservice,” he said. “The baseline is strong, so now it’s thinking beyond that and saying, ‘Okay, what may be missing?’ or ‘What can we piggyback off to capture a new customer or keep a customer returning more days than they already do because we’ve added more to the portfolio?’”
Breakfast in particular has massive potential for all retailers.
According to NPD Group’s “The Future of Morning” study, Americans ate 102 billion breakfasts last year.
And Eric Richard, education coordinator, for the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA), said he’s seen “tremendous growth in breakfast over the past few years” — close to 40% year over year.
At Clark’s Pump-N-Shop, which operates 68 locations in Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio and Florida, the breakfast menu is available all day due to its popularity among customers.
To ensure freshness, outside of regular breakfast hours, breakfast items are made to order.
“There may be a small wait as we will make several items fresh per order to provide the same quality as we serve during the breakfast hours,” said Food Service Director Jessica Russell.
She said the sausage biscuit is the most popular item at Clark’s Café, which sees the most traffic during breakfast, followed by lunch.
“We have a hard time capturing the ‘going home’ traffic,” said Russell. “We are working toward new ideas to hopefully grab their attention to stop and see us on the way home.”
One thing in Clark’s favor for all dayparts: drive-throughs. Forty-six Clark’s locations have a drive-through, which Russell sees as a “great advantage” for foodservice and overall business, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fresh Baked Sales
Pump N Pantry Convenience Stores increased fresh bakery sales by 200% in October of last year through a partnership with Pillsbury, according to Wade Robinson, the c-store chain’s food service supervisor/digital marketing manager. Pump N Pantry operates 15 stores in six northeastern Pennsylvania counties. Fourteen of those stores sell foodservice items.
Stores vied for gift cards as incentives for increasing sales of fresh baked items.
“After the contest, our challenge is to keep our bakery products in the forefront,” Robinson said.
Having the items customers want whenever they want it is part of what makes Pump N Pantry a foodservice destination. Whether it’s a buffalo chicken pizza at four in the morning or a customized breakfast stromboli at four in the afternoon, the entire menu is available all the time.
To attract customers specifically during the lunch and dinner dayparts, the stores offer a variety of entrees such as mac and cheese, meatloaf, lasagna, pierogies, stuffed shells and chicken and biscuits with gravy and mashed potatoes.
A newer item, chicken waffle fries, has quickly become a customer favorite across dayparts including breakfast, he noted. Boneless wings in applewood smoked and Nashville hot flavors also sell well through the afternoon and evening.
Robinson credits his manufacturer representatives and brokers for helping to keep Pump N Pantry’s menus tempting and on-trend.