Today’s consumers want to be able to customize their food to their specifications, and market research firm Datassential confirms this is a real opportunity for c-stores.
“Consumers love customization,” said Datassential trendologist Mike Kostyo. ” … Overall, 66% of c-store consumers say customization motivates them to visit a c-store over a competing foodservice location.”
One reason for this, he said, is because customization often indicates that a foodservice item is more fresh and at least partially made from scratch or made to order. And 64% of consumers say knowing that food is made to order motivates them to visit a c-store over an alternative option for prepared food.
But customization is also a form of convenience, at it tells the consumer that they can have their breakfast, lunch or dinner in any way they choose, whether they prefer certain flavors or levels of spice, or they have a dietary restriction. Or, maybe, they just want to switch things up.
So, what can c-store operators do to enable customization at the roller grill?
Spice It Up
The easiest way to let consumers customize their roller grill item is by offering a variety of sauces to choose from.
While ketchup and yellow mustard are essential, they’re only the starting point to a robust sauce offer. Consider mayonnaise-based sauces like garlic or chipotle aioli, barbecue sauce (of which the styles are endless), curries, soy sauce, honey or dijon mustard, hot sauce — the list goes on. Spiciness is especially popular among younger generations; offer a few ultra-spicy options, in addition to some milder flavors.
According to Datassential, sweet-and-spicy flavors are trending, including hot honey, as well as mango habanero, the Mexican spice Tajín and Nashville hot — which Kostyo said was the fastest-growing sauce, flavor or spice overall in the past four years, growing a massive 727% on menus.
Proprietary offers are an increasingly popular way to build brand equity and set retailers apart from the competition. Chick-fil-a is a clear example of this; its sauce is so popular that it’s now sold by the bottle in Target. Consider creating a new, house-made sauce that can be used on roller grill items and beyond.
Top It Off
Toppings, like sauces, are a great way for customers to create any kind of roller grill order they want, whether atop a classic hot dog or sausage or a taquito or egg roll.
Fresh-cut condiments like jalapeños, onions and tomatoes are a great addition to any roller grill offer. Plus, if you offer Hispanic or Latinx roller inspired items like taquitos, you may also want to include guacamole, pico de gallo and fresh salsas.
Toppings are also a great way to indicate that the roller grill is well-maintained, and the offer is fresh, if not made to order. Consider signage or other marketing tactics to underscore this effort.
Consider Dietary Restrictions
A recent survey from market research platform Suzy shows that 51% of American households are impacted by food allergies or sensitivities. These results suggest that the number of those impacted by food allergies or sensitives is even higher than recent studies have indicated.
Not to mention, plant-based diets or overall meatless options are more popular than ever before.
In fact, Nielsen Total Convenience data shows meat alternative sales were up 16.7% for the latest 52-week period ending Dec. 26, 2020, compared with the previous year, and 40.1% for Q4 of 2020. And according to CivicScience, 15% of U.S. adults said they are interested in made-to-order plant-based meat products at convenience stores.