As c-store retailers grow their foodservice category, many are expanding with tried-and-true customer favorites like chicken, pizza and roller grill items. These foodservice basics bring high appeal, and by offering a variety of options and promotional pricing, retailers are further driving sales and repeat purchases.
Double hand-breaded for extra crunch, cooked in small batches and always hot and fresh, chicken is “the champion” in the foodservice category at FriendShip Food Stores, said Kirk Matthews, vice president foodservice and marketing. The proprietary program, which is available in 21 of the company’s 30 Ohio stores, was launched about four years ago and sales have grown substantially every year.
“We are chicken-centric, and tenders are the drivers, making up 80% of our chicken sales,” Matthews explained. “At an ounce-and-a-half in weight, twice the size of our competitors’ tenders, ours are an exceptional value.”
During COVID, FriendShip introduced chicken bundles and family meals. Since then, the stores are running targeted promotions such as snack boxes for lunch and bigger take-home packs after 5 p.m. (“Feed a family of four with chicken, dinner rolls and sides for $10.99.”)
Profiting With Pizza
FriendShip has also been successful with its proprietary pizza program, which like the chicken, has been available for about four years. The signature crust features a savory blend of garlic and other spices and in addition to the traditional toppings, the stores offer buffalo chicken, chicken bacon ranch varieties and a breakfast pizza with sausage gravy.
While slices, which are priced at $2.99 for one and $5 for two, are the best sellers, FriendShip is making a strong effort to sell more whole pies, according to Matthews. To drive trial and demonstrate value, the stores offer discounted prices on whole pies on weekends, on special days such as Tax Day and Father’s Day and through the company’s loyalty program.
At Dakota Plains Co-op’s two c-stores in South Dakota, Hunt Brothers Pizza has been a stellar attraction since it was introduced almost a year ago, said Scott Halverson, general manager and CEO. Since the stores made the switch from another pizza program, sales have increased 47% and one store sells 390 pies a week.
“Customers really like the variety we offer from regular or thin crust to numerous toppings to specialty pizzas such as Lotsa Meat, Loaded, Veggie and Breakfast,” Halverson explained.
Limited-time-offer (LTO) varieties such as chicken ranch and buffalo chicken also generate excitement, he noted.
“The chicken ranch sells so well we can barely keep it in stock,” he said.
Halverson aggressively promotes the pizza program with newspaper and radio advertising, and signage on the building. He is also having new signs made for the gas pumps and the gas pricing signs.
B-Quik’s three convenience stores in Louisiana also serve Hunt Brothers Pizza.
“It’s a core foodservice item for us,” said David Schumaker, B-Quik’s general manager. “Everybody likes pizza.”
Sales are consistently increasing, and the company is working to come up with more ways to keep the momentum going.
“The No. 1 thing is to make sure fresh hot slices are always available,” he noted.
To increase sales of whole pies, the stores installed phones in the foodservice area so that customers can directly call in their orders.
“This has streamlined the ordering process, it’s less cumbersome for our employees and customers, and it has cut down on wait time,” he said.
Schumaker noted that the company is planning to add ordering capabilities to its loyalty app and is also looking into third-party delivery services such as Uber Eats and Grubhub. Presently, B-Quik uses its app to run promotions on pizza such as a buy-10-get-one-free club for slices and $2 off on Mondays for whole pies.
“Our sales are telling us that customers are following these promotions,” he said.
Lunch is the strongest daypart for pizza sales at B-Quik, but breakfast does very well, too, and is continuing to grow.
“We sell a lot of pepperoni and other meat toppings in the morning as well as our breakfast pizza,” Schumaker noted.
Roller Grill Demand
For convenience store traditionalists, B-Quik also offers an assortment of roller grill items.
“People associate roller grill with c-stores and ask about them, if they’re not here,” he said.
Each store has two small self-serve roller grills. One is for hot dogs, sausages and chicken bites, the other for tornados and taquitos.
To promote the roller grill items, B-Quik always offers a ‘buy one get the second one at half price’ discount.