C-stores Should View Foodservice as Solving Hunger & Thirst Needs

Kay Segal

CHARLOTTE, N.C. From ready-to-consume to ready-to-heat to ready-to-prepare, convenience store operators can solve hunger and thirst needs for consumers, but the same product, product format or package will most likely not successfully solve all needs. Thus, operators must strategically answer the question: For what use occasion am I offering a solution, and which consumer is my target for that use occasion?

“Thirty years ago, when I was at Circle K, I was creating refrigerated case options for ready-to-heat [RTH] and ready-to-prepare [RTP],” said Kay Segal, president and managing executive of the Business Accelerator Team (BATeam), a supplier- and retailer-focused consultancy serving the convenience channel. “We had a proprietary ready-to-eat/made-to-order deli concept, as well as branded QSR [quick-service restaurant] concepts.”

Today, post COVID-19, c-store operators have more license to create options for consumers to purchase RTH and RTP, noted Segal, who will be a presenter at Convenience Store News’ 2020 Convenience Foodservice Exchange (CFX), which was recently rescheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Originally scheduled for June, the fifth-annual CFX will now be held Nov. 16-18 at The Westin Charlotte.

Segal describes the combination of ready-to-eat, ready-to-heat and ready-to-prepare as tactics that fall under a full food retailing strategy. “Grab-and-go was important previously for reasons such as throughput, consistency and labor, and now should be a bigger consideration in an overall foodservice strategy,” she advised.

The theme of this year’s CFX program is “Where Food Trends Meet Reality.” The conference will feature innovative learning experiences, such as a visit to Johnson & Wales’ culinary school, walking and bus tours of innovative food and retail concepts in Charlotte, interactive discussions, and expert speakers.

Last year’s Convenience Foodservice Exchange, held in Dallas, drew many of the nation's most forward-thinking convenience foodservice retailers, including giants like 7-Eleven and Circle K, and regional powerhouses like Wawa, Kwik Trip and QuickChek.

Segal’s talk at CFX will focus on why “choosing your lane” for foodservice development must be a well thought-out and strategic decision. In this fast-paced session, she will share factors for consideration, and checklists for what is important when creating programs from ready-to-eat to grab-and-go.

“About 20 years ago, when low carb and Atkins were all the rage, Joe Derochowski of NPD Group noted at the time that he did not know if these were true trends or just fads, but he did know that they were answers to the problem of obesity and diabetes. He said obesity and diabetes were most definitely trends; Atkins and low-carb eating were solutions to the larger trends, which were the real issues for consumers,” recounted Segal, likening it to today’s plant-based food movement.

Similarly, meatless hamburgers are a solution to the desire of some consumers for more plant-based products in their diet. “But the important item here is that it is only for ‘some’ consumers,” Segal cautioned. Thus, operators must determine if the consumer who wants 100 percent plant-based food is their consumer; and if so, is it a large enough contingent to allow them to serve a made-to-order product, or do they need to offer a frozen product.

Understanding which consumer segment you can attract is very important in determining the difference between a fad and a trend, according to Segal.

The 2020 CFX agenda will also tackle such key issues as:

  • Big Chain Food Innovation: How They Do It. Jessica Williams, CEO of Food Forward Thinking, will focus on what c-store retailers can learn from big chain innovation.
  • How to Create Meal & Snack Opportunities All Day Long, at Every Store. Veteran c-store foodservice retailer Frank White will explore how to keep the warmers, open-air coolers and grills full all day. Lean how diversifying the offers between meal types, snacks and specialty trends can deliver traffic from open to closing time.
  • Food Safety Protocol for Operators, Staff & Vendors. Johnson & Wales University Associate Professor Donald W. Brizes Jr. will discuss the latest techniques and products for ensuring food safety.
  • Foodservice Trends: Expectations vs. Reality. Brizes will also lead an interactive discussion aimed at identifying real food trends that have staying power and are appropriate for the convenience channel.
  • The New Convenience Retailer. Executives from Choice Market, Enmarket, Kwik Trip, QuickChek and High’s will show off and discuss their newest food-forward stores and programs aimed at meeting the needs of an evolving consumer in a post-COVID-19 world.

Another new feature of this year’s conference will be presentation of CSNews’ annual Foodservice Innovators Awards. Previous winners have included such notable food-forward convenience retailers as Kwik Trip, Rutter’s, Wawa, QuickChek and Maverik.

For more information or to request a retailer invitation, contact Editorial Director Don Longo at [email protected]. Travel assistance is available for qualified retailers.

Sponsorships are also available for this exclusive, exciting event. For more information on sponsorships, contact Brand Director Paula Lashinsky at [email protected] or (917) 446-4117.