Consumers' Satisfaction With C-store Foodservice Shifts
Competition from outside the channel is heating up.
OTTAWA, Ontario — Food-focused convenience store operators need to keep a close eye on the performance of their prepared food programs as consumers' expectations of and response to them shift, according to new research from customer experience management solutions provider Intouch Insight.
The reported level of overall satisfaction with prepared food from convenience stores rose 7 percent year over year, according to the company's 2023 Convenience Store Trends Report, titled "Food, Fuel and the Future." However, the report also saw an 11 percent drop in those who reported being extremely satisfied with food quality at convenience stores.
"For many years, convenience stores have made significant investments in their prepared and made-to-order food options, aiming to earn more interaction and loyalty with convenience-minded customers," said Cameron Watt, president and CEO of Intouch Insight. "This shift to the middle in reported satisfaction from extremely satisfied to satisfied indicates to us that expectations are evolving, competition is increasing, and complacency is not an option."
The report also put a spotlight on a potential new battleground. Although gasoline remains the primary driver of consumer traffic for c-stores, the rise of electric vehicles presents a new area of competition, particularly with quick-serve restaurants that want to take advantage of the opportunity to give consumers another reason to visit.
Out of nearly 800 visits to major c-store brands across the country, just 12 percent currently offer EV charging stations, Intouch Insights found. This could spell trouble if EVs reach a projected 40 percent of passenger car sales by 2020.
"With retailers of all types including quick-serve restaurants like Subway and Taco Bell quickly ramping up their plans in this arena, convenience stores need to treat this like the race that it is to ensure they are protecting their leadership in fuel delivery while also ensuring they give customers a reason to stay and charge their vehicles," Wyatt said.
The report also noted there is immense potential for c-store brands to enhance customer experiences through the adoption of new technologies, ranging from mobile loyalty apps to advancements in artificial intelligence. Technology may be able to drive more revenue, mitigate labor shortages, and ensure consistency in experiences, but it's likely that how new technology is utilized will make a difference in where battles are fought and won.