Breakfast has long been the strongest daypart for foodservice at Duchess convenience stores. Now, according to Nathan Arnold, director of marketing for Duchess, which operates 120 units in Ohio and West Virginia, the chain is focusing on the afternoon between-meal daypart with an updating of its cold beverage fountain areas and attention to core food items.
“Coming to Duchess for morning coffee is part of the daily morning routine for many of our guests and, while they are here, they often purchase food from our grab-and-go case to go with it,” Arnold explained. “For the past 18 months, we have been working to establish the same association with our fountain beverages and hot foodservice snacks.”
Among the hot food items that have tested well are soft pretzels and buffalo poppers. Next up for introduction is a pepperoni roll.
A Duchess signature item has long been the Stuffer, a warm biscuit with different fillings such as pizza and cheeseburger. For the snack daypart, the company is introducing a Super Stuffer with more filling in more flavors, including a sweet version that can also double as a dessert, Arnold said.
“We’re open 24/7 and want our customers to know that we have hot and cold foodservice available to them whatever the daypart,” he noted.
Kwik Trip and Kwik Star stores, with more than 800 locations in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and soon Michigan, have traditionally been a destination for breakfast and lunch, said Paul Servais, retail food service director for Kwik Trip. Since 2020, the company has been targeting the dinner daypart for growth with the introduction of fried chicken and take-home meals.
While two- and three-piece fresh fried chicken meals work well for the lunch daypart, he noted, guests are looking for family-sized meals for dinner. The stores now offer four- and eight-piece meals, which are catching on slowly, he said.
Most popular are the eight-piece fresh fried chicken, eight-piece chicken tenders and rotisserie-style whole birds. They are accompanied by family-sized sides of mashed potatoes, mac and cheese or waffle fries.
Take-home meals such as the best-selling Chicken Alfredo, Chicken Bacon Mac ‘n Cheese and Beef Stroganoff are freshly prepared and purchased cold for heating at home. Whole pizzas, either take-and-bake or fresh and ready-to-eat from the stores’ Hot Spot, are also a hit on the dinner menu.
“We are constantly rolling in and out limited-time offers in the pizza and take-home meal categories,” Servais pointed out.
To promote their dinner selections, the stores frequently do food sampling during that daypart. The company’s marketing team promotes the dinner offerings in television and radio ads and on social media.
Kwik Trip/Kwik Star has made substantial investments in its dinner program, Servais said. To prepare the take-home meals, the company built a dedicated plant in La Crosse, Wis. All the stores installed new fryers for the chicken, ovens to cook whole birds and refrigerated display cases for the take-home meals.
Breakfast In Demand
At B-Quik’s three stores in Baton Rouge, La., attempts to build the lunch and dinner business segments yielded the surprise finding that the customers really wanted breakfast, according to David Schumaker, the company’s general manager.
“Breakfast took off like a rocket, doing double and even triple lunch in terms of dollars,” he emphasized. “We thought it would be the opposite.”
Egg, meat and cheese sandwiches on biscuits or croissants are the fastest movers in the breakfast arena. Specialty sandwiches such as those using French toast or waffles as the carriers or a biscuit-wrapped sausage “pig in a blanket” rotate in for evaluation, he noted.
“We like to give new items at least three and usually more like six months to prove themselves,” he said. “The ones that do well get a permanent place on the menu.”
Also popular is the breakfast bowl layering grits, sausage, bacon, an egg patty and a slice of cheese. Area construction workers will call at least once a week and order 30 of the bowls at a time, he noted.