By: Emily Boes | June 5, 2024

C-store retailers looking to succeed with foodservice programs are appealing to customers differently based on daypart, strategizing with their offerings and marketing efforts.

As c-store foodservice programs continue to grow, it’s important for retailers to focus on dayparts, understanding how best to promote and manage foodservice at different times of the day.

Shop Rite/Tobacco Plus, which operates 36 Shop Rite locations and 24 Tobacco Plus sites in Louisiana, for instance, has been focusing on the “after-school snack time,” noted Angelle Cloud, who is both a registered and licensed dietitian nutritionist and is the foodservice compliance director and dietitian for the company.

“These are generally parents and teens looking for a quick bite while they are in between appointments and events. We make sure that our hotbox is full, fresh and stocked with the favorites,” she said. “This is also a great time to offer menus, and when applicable, talk about our drive-through or other special conveniences that we offer in that location. Getting those customers to become regulars and/or return at more standard mealtimes is a big goal for all of us.”

The two brands offer a combined 34 Bourbon Street Deli locations within the stores.

Daypart Offerings

At Quality Dairy Co., which operates 26 sites in Michigan, breakfast is the most popular daypart.

“Here at Quality Dairy, we cut our teeth on our doughnuts and coffee. We make our doughnuts fresh every day for all of our locations,” said Michael Wensel, Quality Dairy fresh food category manager. “We probably have 50 different styles of doughnuts at any given time that you can try.”

The chain also stays busy during the breakfast daypart due to its specialty hot food offerings and variety of coffee options.

That said, in a move that brought a large uptick in customers at Quality Dairy for the lunch/dinner daypart, the chain launched a fried chicken program in February.

“It’s a fantastic product. People are coming in specifically for that chicken now, which is cool,” said Wensel. He said he likes seeing on customers’ faces how much they enjoy the chicken.

“And then they realize they’re getting it at a convenience store. That still has that kind of negative stigma. But when they’re like, ‘Oh … I’m still in a convenience store, and I’m getting this really good food.’ That’s why I’m here. That’s the purpose of all of this is to change that narrative,” said Wensel.

In the mornings, Shop Rite/Tobacco Plus serves grab-and-go items such as breakfast biscuits and burritos at its smaller locations and for quick purchases at its larger spots.

Additionally, customers can choose to order local favorites such as boudin balls, links and egg rolls, offering different flavors within each of the categories, since the company makes its own boudin.

“Lucky for us, in Louisiana, the perfect Cajun breakfast is boudin and a Coke,” said Cloud.

Not solely for breakfast, these items are able to cross from daypart to daypart.

“(This) is great for business,” Cloud noted. “Customers know what to expect and we can assure the quality as we oversee production from start to first bite.”

Daypart Marketing

Successful foodservice programs need strategic marketing plans.

Shop Rite/Tobacco Plus takes advantage of social media and on-site signage to reach customers at different times and maximize shopping potential when they are at the store.

“Approaches that appeal to various ages and types of customers are valuable because you don’t have to reinvent the wheel and put in tons of extra work,” said Cloud.

At Quality Dairy, the chain uses pumptoppers and social media outreach, as well. In areas with Quality Dairy’s hot food locations, it sends mailers. For lunch and dinner, the mailers are sent to a larger radius. The chain also incentivizes customers with bag stuffers such as coupons and extra rewards.

“At some of our other locations where we have a little more technology, we recently had been using the (Dover Fueling Solutions) Anthem pumps that have a giant touchscreen right on the gas pump itself,” said Wensel.

Customers who fill their gas tanks at these pumps will notice a slot machine appear on the touchscreen that allows them to win one of three prizes, such as $1 or $2 off an in-store purchase, a free doughnut or a free hot food item.

“That accomplishes two things. One, it obviously gets the customer to walk into the store and then increases your market basket. … Two, it exposes them to some of the things that they may not have realized that we have,” said Wensel.

The rewards on these pumps change by daypart.

Additionally, Quality Dairy partners with local businesses, such as a vegan restaurant and a company that sells kombucha, and does combined advertisements.

“(We’re) putting out signage for those as well, just to kind of get the attention that it deserves and hopefully reach a different clientele than we’re normally used to having walk in our stores,” Wensel added.

Overall, the way to foodservice daypart success needs to be broken down into questions such as, “Who are our customers? When are they coming to our store? What is in demand in our area?” and more, said Cloud. “When you can answer these types of questions and execute with consistency and quality,” she continued, “I really think that customers will find you.”

Source: CStore Decisions