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Innovation Comes in All Sizes

Choice Market goes big by going smaller.
Choice Market mini-mart concept art

When I started at Convenience Store News more than a decade ago, many c-store retailers were switching up their formats. Bigger and better ruled the day. Case in point: Atlanta-based RaceTrac Inc. began debuting a new prototype store — often referred to as RT6K — that measured, appropriately enough, 6,000 square feet. For its vision to step beyond the typical c-store footprint, RaceTrac was named CSNews' inaugural Convenience Store Retailer Innovator of the Year in 2012. And the company is still thinking on a larger scale with its travel center portfolio today, where sites measure roughly 8,000 square feet. 

But bigger is not necessarily better in all cases. Notably, Denver-based Choice Market is exploring alternate store formats with its fully autonomous Choice Mini-Mart, which launched at The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in October 2022 and offers high-quality prepared food and natural groceries.

At CSNews' 2023 Convenience Foodservice Exchange in Nashville, Tenn., in early May, Choice CEO Mike Fogarty said the new autonomous format will scale alongside standard Choice locations in a hub-and-spoke growth model, expanding customers' access to fresh, convenient and healthy food by meeting them where they are.

[Read more: Turning Today's Lessons Into Tomorrow's Foodservice Profits]

"We see this as an amazing use case for technology," Fogarty said. "Things like hospitals are frankly underserved in terms of fresh food."

Convenience retailers are often reminded to look for innovation in unexpected places. Maybe they need to look in unexpected sizes as well. 

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