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How Fresh Food Can Replace Declining Fuel Revenue at Your C-store

December 14, 2021
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With fewer cars on the road and the gradual push toward electric and hybrid vehicles, c-stores aren’t seeing (and may never see) the kind of fuel revenue they once did. In fact, the year 2020 marked the lowest numbers in fuel consumption in 25 years. But thankfully, convenience stores’ versatility gives them an uncanny resilience and ability to pivot quickly. With an incredible 72% of national c-store sales already coming from prepared foods, c-stores can raise that number, even more, to make up for fading fuel revenue. Let’s take a look at the top three ways.

1. Improve the convenience experience
An inviting atmosphere, great prices, and excellent customer service are just some of the reasons people love c-stores. But what they love most of all is the (you guessed it) convenience a c-store offers. So, how do you find ways to introduce even more ease into the areas consumers already know and love? Start by creating more opportunities for grab-n-go pickup points. Try placing tasty packaged meals near the coffee and beverage areas, in high traffic areas, or close to the exit to promote impulse purchases.

Another way to improve the convenience factor is by introducing or expanding delivery services. Delivery has become a standard for most grocery and prepared food operations, and c-stores aren’t an exception. In fact, delivery is such a success in some operations that 20% of c-stores plan to expand the service going into 2022. But, trekking food door to door isn’t the only way to bring convenience to consumers. An increased number of c-stores are also getting in on the benefits of drive-thrus. This convenient (and growing) trend provides an effortless and limited-contact shopping experience that attracts a greater population of customers.

C-stores can also benefit from another limited-contact option and provide customers with the added convenience of automated pickup lockers. Foodservice equipment provider Hatco offers an excellent solution that leverages temperature-controlled (hot or ambient) lockers that guests can easily access on their own via an order code. Once the code is entered into the display, the guest’s locker illuminates and their hot and tasty meal is ready to grab. But locker system or not, investing in different equipment to improve the convenience of your guests’ experience is always a win that will pay off.

2. Expand your menu
The same ‘ol humdrum menu items can get pretty boring. Entice customers by expanding your menu offerings to include plant-based cuisine, ethnic fare, and more nutritious options. Truth be told, healthy is in high demand. In fact, a little more than two-thirds of surveyed consumers said they would purchase food more often from c-stores if they had more healthy foods available. Introducing limited-time offers (LTO) is a smart way to increase the variety of healthy foods on your menu. This solution allows your operation to keep the staples your customers want while also engaging guests with interesting and new food offerings. In addition to demanding a greater variety of healthy options, more consumers desire fresh, made-to-order menu options. Think about growing your on-demand food service capabilities, and please even more of your guests. The triple-threat of tasty, healthy, and fresh is a sure-fire way to increase your c-store’s bottom line.

3. Provide easy pairings
C-stores saw an overall decline in the number of purchases in the last year, but basket size increased by 18.4% in 2020. That percentage might not seem like much at first glance, but it equates to an impressive and record-breaking $255.6 billion in total sales. Bundling and pairing products works. A recent study found that only 7% of customers didn’t add additional items to their basket. Increase your profits by suggesting food or beverage pairing, place complementary items together in end caps (or at the register), and offer buy one, get one (BOGO) promotions. A small increase in each transaction creates big changes in overall profits — and who doesn’t want that?

Turning challenges into opportunities
As the saying goes, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” The decline in fuel sales is an incredible opportunity for c-stores like yours to increase revenue by improving foodservice operations. Interested in other ways to increase your operation’s revenue? Check out our blog post, “5 Small Ways to Make Big Gains on Your Profit Margin.”

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