After years of increasing in both sales and importance to the convenience store industry, foodservice is no longer a newly successful category for c-store operators. Whether a program features fresh grab-and-go products for busy commuters, or made-to-order items that can be expansively customized, convenience foodservice as a whole is maturing, with more options and ways to distinguish oneself from the competition than ever before.
This means that while useful data and inspiring ideas can be found in other areas of the foodservice world, the convenience channel already possesses much of the most valuable knowledge possible, gained through experience, experiments and mistakes.
During the 2018 Convenience Store News Convenience Foodservice Exchange and the Convenience Store News Convenience Innovation Council, powered by ConvenienceWorks by Hussmann, retailers gathered together and were able to take part in interactive discussions with small groups, as well as one-on-one, retailer-supplier business development meetings in a true interchange of ideas.
These events highlighted that the keys to foodservice success are on local, national and even global levels. C-stores are subject to generational trends, but as Ryan Krebs showed during his presentation on the results of Rutter's going all-in on local, the communities in which they operate have just as much of an impact.
The challenges and opportunities presented to a mom-and-pop store in rural Iowa and a chain store in Los Angeles are neither identical nor utterly different. The ways in which they respond to them, and the insights they gain from them, will likewise have similarities and differences, but the c-store industry at large will benefit from sharing that knowledge.
One thing that all retailers can agree on is that convenience foodservice faces a great deal of change, today and for the foreseeable future. Of course, this category has never been stagnant, but technological innovation, changing consumer tastes, acceptance of convenience stores as foodservice destinations and more all mean that retailers must absorb a great deal of information as they choose their path.
Grab-and-go or made-to-order? Foodservice specialists or jack-of-all-trades employees? Absolute freshness or speed of service? The choices seem endless, the number of potential missteps nearly so, yet there's no doubt that the creativity and collective knowledge of the industry will benefit convenience foodservice as a whole, building new concepts and outstanding programs that tomorrow's foodservice leaders will in turn use as inspiration.
There's no telling what exactly the future of foodservice will be like for convenience stores — but what's certain is that we can't wait to see what happens next.