Dayparts refer to times of day or meal times — traditionally, breakfast, lunch and dinner.
C-stores typically do well with the breakfast and lunch dayparts. However, the pandemic disrupted foodservice across all channels and caused a significant shift in sales and in dayparts as people’s schedules changed and some avoided eating outside of the home entirely.
This forced retailers to take a closer look at their foodservice offers and cater to customers in different ways and at different times of day.
The dinner daypart in particular has historically eluded the convenience channel. But many c-store chains are seeing success with pandemic-driven strategies.
In August 2020, Wawa announced the official test and pilot of several new dinner menu items including a new burger, pastas, entree platters and more. And in February of this year, the c-store chain launched its new burger across its dinner platform.
So, what are some ways that c-stores succeed with the dinner, or evening, daypart?
Technology makes it easier and more convenient for customers to try c-stores’ foodservice offers at any time of day, but it’s perhaps especially important during the evening daypart.
There’s no doubt that Wawa’s dinner menu is a success in part because customers can order via drive-through, touchscreen, curbside pickup or delivery using third-party partners Door Dash, Grub Hub, Postmates and Uber Eats.
These types of technology make it easy for consumers to pre-order a hot meal to pick up on the way home. And they enable easy, convenient customization, which consumers are increasingly seeking — for a variety of reasons.
In fact, also in February, Wawa announced five new menus to make it even easier for customers who are maintaining a specific food regimen: the Balanced Fare, Gluten Conscious, Lower Sodium, Meatless and Power Menus.
And delivery — either through proprietary or third-party programs — is a great opportunity for c-stores to gain new customers who may be browsing their favorite delivery app in the evenings more frequently than ever before.
C-stores and quick-serve restaurants (QSRs) have the advantage over more fine dining establishments on this front, as their foodservice offers are, for the most part, already very takeout-friendly. Still, some foods fare better than others when traveling in takeout boxes.
Pizza is a prime example of a super-popular c-store dinner offer that’s takeout and delivery-friendly.
Almost half of pizza restaurant consumers (45%) polled for market research firm Mintel’s report “Pizza Restaurants: Incl Impact of COVID-19 US, September 2020” said they prefer pizza over other restaurant foods during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those cravings are driven at least partially by nostalgia for better times.
“COVID-19 brought sudden gains to the modestly growing pizza category in 2020,” noted the report. “These gains are likely to have residual staying power over the next year as consumers rely on affordable and convenient meal solutions during a recession.”
Mintel’s report further suggested that retailers “reinforce the value equations” with topping-loaded pies, bundling deals and a variety of experiences that “allow consumers to see that they are getting the most bang for their buck.”
Mintel also noted the majority of young consumers, particularly Gen Zers and millennials, agree restaurants should offer new pizza options during the pandemic to keep the menu exciting.
Another way to capture the dinner daypart is by adding more meal options, or family meal deals, so customers have an easy and convenient way to bring dinner home for the family after work.
For example, Texas-based Kwik Chek, now known a Texas Born (TXB), launched Family Meal Deals and Family Kwik Packs at the start of the pandemic, in April 2020. The Family Meal Deals, which included Chicken Family Deal, Chicken Fried Steak Family Deal, Pizza Meal Deal and the Taco Family Deal, were all available for under $20 and served a family of four. Further, the Family Kwik Packs were available at Kwik Chek’s cold grab-and-go section.
Meals like these are a great way to attract dinnertime customers who are looking for a quick and affordable option for their families. Coupled with new technology and thoughtful packaging, it’s a sure success.
If you’re a c-store operator, let us know: Which strategies have you found success with?