While the pandemic has temporarily disrupted roller grill sales at some c-stores at various points over the past two years, sales for the category are once again rolling along.
Ann Golladay, associate director on the content team at Datassential, reported that she anticipates a “moderate growth” in roller grill items through 2022.
“I think they have a bit of an uphill battle relative to other c-store foodservice offerings because consumers are increasingly looking for c-store food offerings that are prepared on-site and customizable such as pizza, tacos or burritos,” Golladay said. “Roller grill items have often been an impulse and value play.”
In February 2021, 41% of c-store operators reported roller grill sales increased over the past year, data from research firm Datassential showed. Another 41% said sales stayed the same and just 19% said they decreased.
To boost roller grill sales in 2022, Golladay suggested that retailers consider meal bundles that let customers select three of their favorite roller grill items and pair them with a drink, side and/or dessert.
“This gives customers some sense of personalization and increases the check size in a way that improves its appeal as a delivered meal,” she continued. “Freshness cues are also important, such as highlighting how long items have been on the grill or detailing the ingredients used.”
Roller Grill Refresh
Roller grill sales have been more like a roller coaster ride for Sun Stop Stores and Markets due to COVID surges in the Southeast, said Michelle Weckstein, director of foodservice for Sun Stop, which has 80 locations in Georgia and Florida. First the self-service area had to close. Then, after a brief respite and climb in sales, another virus surge in January 2022 sent sales on a downward spiral again and made getting products difficult to source.
Weckstein decided to give the category an entire refresh by introducing new product brands.
“New brands can help us to revive and regenerate the roller grill category,” Weckstein said. “They also offer a wider variety of products and flavors to spruce up the selection.”
As to the importance of roller grill to Sun Stop’s foodservice program, Weckstein tells of customer response when the company opened a new store last year without one.
“They wanted to know where the roller grill was and why it wasn’t there,” she stated. “For customers in the Southeast, if you are a convenience store, you have a roller grill.”
Weckstein said roller grills offer c-stores opportunities to differentiate themselves from other stores in the community with fun promotions and bundles such as a bag of potato chips, fountain drink and/or cookies for a value price. They also make it easy to give customers plenty of variety from smoky cheddar and jalapeño sausages to cheeseburger or chicken roller bites, she noted.