Baked or fried, chicken’s versatility, healthful halo, value and convenience make it a favorite meal or snack for American consumers.
At SunStop Convenience Stores and Markets, Michelle Weckstein, director of food and beverage brands, has seen rising sales in the category over the past year and expects to see continued growth.
“We incorporate our chicken into a wide variety of recipes including salads, wraps, subs, quesadillas and daily plated specials such as chicken parmesan and alfredo,” Weckstein noted. “Once customers get a taste of our fresh chicken, we know we can earn their loyalty to our brand.”
Taking a novel approach to promotion, SunStop has contracted with a social media company to provide recipe suggestions on different platforms featuring its chicken in recipes consumers can prepare at home.
People, she pointed out, tend to see chicken as a healthier alternative to a burger, even when the chicken is deep fried. Chicken is also an easy pickup meal or snack for consumers who are back working in their offices again and traveling more frequently, she said.
SunStop sells baked and fried chicken in 31 of its 79 convenience stores under its proprietary Eat’s Southern Cookin’ banner. The rest of the stores offer a traditional chicken filet sandwich that is their No. 1 selling grab-and-go item, she stated.
Expanding its chicken offering in new and remodeled stores is an important part of SunStop’s plans for the rest of the year.
“There are three stores in the Florida market where we remodeled the kitchen to accommodate our fried chicken program and four new prototype stores include the Eat’s concept,” she explained.
To encourage customers to make their chicken purchase a meal, the menu boards highlight combo meals that include two sides and a drink. Customers can also create their own meals, but promoting the combos usually results in a higher ring.
Chicken sales are “pretty level, showing small growth” at Clark’s Pump ‘n Shop convenience stores in Kentucky, Ohio and Pennsylvania, which is impressive considering how much competition they face in their markets, reported Jessica Russell, Clark’s food service director. Twenty of the company’s 68 total locations feature Krispy Krunchy Chicken, Champs Chicken or Cooper’s Express Chicken programs.
Chicken is so integral to Clark’s foodservice program that it will include one of the concepts in five of six new locations currently under construction, she added.
Russell expects tenders to continue to carry the category.
“Tenders trump everything in our foodservice except for our breakfast,” she said.
And, she continued, the company will continue to “do everything possible to capture the dinner crowd.”