Chicken is demonstrating its versatility in an increasing number of ways on menus, including at convenience stores, said Mike Kostyo, a trendologist at Datassential research firm. Among the preparations showing growth are chicken and waffles, chicken street tacos, chicken biscuit sandwiches and chicken bowls.
Datassential’s 2021 C-Store Foodservice Keynote report showed that, going into the pandemic, chicken strips, nuggets and wings were doing very well for c-store operators. Forty-two percent of operators even reported an increase in chicken strips/nuggets/wings during the morning daypart.
At Pilot Co.’s Pilot Flying J Travel Centers, chicken sales “outperformed our predictions” and the category has expanded to include more options, “even amid the pandemic,” said Jamie King, senior director of food and beverage for Pilot. The stores offer options featuring what King describes as the “high-value protein” across many of its foodservice categories, including pizza and salad.
“The numbers indicate that our guests are really gravitating to our Southern fried and spicy sandwiches,” King added. “We believe we’ll see more innovation in this part of the category because they are so popular.”
Customers also have a choice of regular and spicy when they order wings. The menu is rounded out with chicken tenders and roasted chicken halves. Rotating limited-time offers adds interest to the wing and tender flavors.
Pilot Co.’s Pilot Flying J Travel Center network includes over 750 locations in 44 states and six Canadian provinces, with more than 680 restaurants. Approximately 350 locations offer chicken and that number is expected to increase, King said.
Following the pandemic restrictions placed on grab-and-go and self-service programs, coupled with a significant reduction in consistent foot traffic and cost impact in products, chicken sales are starting to trend in a positive direction at Nouria convenience stores, said Tania Sloan, the company’s senior manager of foodservice and dispensed beverages. Nouria operates 148 locations in five New England states. Twenty-seven of the stores offer chicken.
To further push sales, Nouria has made chicken items the focus of special promotions.
Sloan pointed out that Nouria is currently testing whole roasted chicken for customers looking for meal replacement options.
“Whole chickens provide a lot of opportunities for selling,” Sloan explained, “not just whole chickens, but they can be broken down to sell in pieces or for using as an ingredient in other recipes.”