By: Chuck Ulie | December 12, 2022
CHICAGO – Foodservice in 2022 addressed the lack of labor, both in product and equipment offerings, while adding more branded restaurants in convenience stores. Meanwhile, healthier and fresh continued their growth in this space.
Foodservice products and equipment are responding heavily to the call to do more with less. Retailers’ hiring woes were magnified as they struggled with having fewer people to prepare menu items. The response was quite apparent at the NACS Show in October, where products showcased saving on time, labor and costs.
For example, the Equalizer pizza cutter from Spokane, Wash.-based LloydPans boasted equal slices–thus reducing waste because there are no smaller pieces customers avoid.
In baked goods, Rich Products’ Fully Finished Donuts portfolio reduces needs and promotes freshness that lasts. The doughnuts come frozen, and after a quick thaw stay fresh twice as long as other bakery options due to exclusive extended shelf-life recipes, the Buffalo, N.Y.-based company said.
Finally, customers can buy a beverage from a refrigeration unit and never have to pay a clerk or check out at all. Tech company Intuitivo, Miami, and refrigeration company Imbera, Kennesaw, Ga., teamed up on units where customers buying a beverage scan a QR code on the cooler door with their smartphone. When they remove their selection, they get charged. Cameras on top of the cooler detect the product being removed and charge the customer accordingly.
Restaurants in C-Stores
Restaurants, both name brand and those created in house, continue to open in convenience stores.
Jack in the Box in 2022 started eyeing convenience stores in its plans for substantial growth beyond its core markets of California and Texas. The 71-year-old fast-food chain, founded in San Diego, has more than 90 c-store locations among its 2,200 restaurants nationwide, but a combination of factors has spurred the company to aim for about 6,000, Van Ingram, vice president of franchise development, told CSP. Jack in the Box seeks new franchisees and operators to come into its system and operate c-stores and travel plazas, he added.
Also, GPM Investments in July opened two new Sbarro restaurants in its E-Z Mart convenience stores in Texarkana and Kilgore, Texas. The stores are part of a strategic partnership with Sbarro. GPM intends to open 50 new Sbarro locations in 2022. GPM, a wholly owned subsidiary of ARKO Corp., currently has seven total stores open with Sbarro, with four in Village Pantry stores across Indiana and one in a Fas Mart in Virginia.
In November, retailer Cumberland Farms, owned by EG America, launched a brand-new restaurant concept with the grand opening of Ria’s Pizzeria at its convenience store in Norton, Mass. Ria’s offers pizza by the slice and pizza made to order. Specialty pizzas include Nashville hot chicken, chicken bacon ranch and loaded baked potato. It also sells savory dough snacks.
Finally, a Togo’s sandwich shop in spring opened in a Grab N Go convenience store in Modesto, Calif. This was the first version of the San Jose, Calif-based fast-casual sandwich chain in a convenience store. Togo’s has about 170 locations and is ramping up to grow in nontraditional locations like c-stores.
Kum & Go, Des Moines, Iowa, continued the rollout of its made-to-order fresh-food menu. In October it unveiled the new menu on its home turf in Des Moines, Iowa-area convenience stores. The menu includes stackers and bowls for all dayparts and premium ingredients and fresh toppings and sauces. Grab-and-go burritos also are available.
Meanwhile, Altoona, Pa.-based Sheetz promoted its Made-to-Order foodservice program on its website, proclaiming that its food is fresh and “rivals any quick-serve restaurant you’ve ever visited.” Sheetz boasted that it uses the highest-quality ingredients. “Get exactly what you want, when you want it, 24/7,’ Sheetz said.
At startup Curby’s Express Market, which opened its first c-store Feb. 1 in Lubbock, Texas, the team aims for a place where consumers don’t have to make a choice between convenience and quality. The menu, created from scratch, includes kolaches, burritos, muffins and melts for breakfast; and pizza, salads, melts and sandwiches for lunch and later.
Unusual and varied flavor combinations continued their momentum in 2022.
C-store industry pizza program Hunt Brothers rolled out a limited-time-only cheeseburger pizza in November that’s reminiscent of a classic fast-food cheeseburger, the Nashville-based company said. It features Hunt Brothers Pizza’s original crust topped with a creamy dill pickle-cheddar sauce, a blend of shredded cheddar and 100% natural part-skim mozzarella cheeses, hamburger crumbles and fresh chopped white onions. It’s finished with a sprinkling of the company’s Just Rite Spice.
7-Eleven, meanwhile, introduced a new limited-time-only Green Apple Slurpee, which combined tart and sweet, as well as a Smokey Cheddar Sausage to celebrate Oktoberfest.
Nestle-owned Coffee Mate is partnering with two well-known treats right after the holidays. In January, Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop-Tarts and Zero Sugar Twix, both limited-time offers, make their debuts.
Finally, Pilot, Knoxville, Tenn., added a new Southern Pecan Cold Brew to its fall lineup.
C-stores have been partnering with high-profile candy brands for offbeat beverages and more. C-stores also have been carrying mashups created by other companies.
Sheetz, Altoona, Pa., teamed with Goetze’s Candy Co. to launch a series of Cow Tales-inspired seasonal milkshakes at the c-store chain. The first two limited-edition flavors are Caramel and Cream Milkshake with Cow Tales Flavors, and Strawberry Cream Milkshake with Cow Tales Flavors.
Blend-it-yourself shake and smoothie company f’real, Emeryville, Calif., rolled out a Snickers milkshake, marking the first partnership between f’real and Mars Wrigley, Chicago, the makers of the iconic Snickers bar.