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NACS SHOW REWIND: The Globalization of C-store Foodservice

Operational and cost challenges are not limited to the U.S. convenience channel.
Rene Trapp, heads of retail category management at Valora Holding AG, highlighted an AVEC c-store in Switzerland at the 2023 NACS Show.
Rene Trapp, head of retail category management at Valora Holding AG.

ATLANTA — Growing foodservice sales has been an imperative for U.S. convenience store retailers for more than a decade. Around the world, international c-store operators are also investing big in boosting their foodservice sales.

A NACS educational session entitled, "From Fuel Station to Hospitality Provider: Operational Impact," featured three foreign companies talking about strides they've made in developing their foodservice expertise, as well as the operational and cost challenges they face.

Brett Barclay, director of Convenience Measures, Australia, used data to illustrate the growing influence of foodservice at down-under c-stores. "Total convenience sales grew 7.4 percent in Australia last year," said Barclay, "but the nonfood portion of sales was down 1.6 percent while food and beverage sales grew by 16.7 percent."

Food and beverage sales have overtaken nonfood sales in c-stores, he added.

[Read more: Convenience Foodservice Retailers Urged to Find Their Niche]

Interestingly, in Australia, independent retailers are driving the growth in food sales, while major chains are seeing strong growth in coffee. Barclay said that now both types of retailers are getting better at food and coffee, exponentially driving sales.

While the increased sales of foodservice have resulted in higher profits and made convenience stores less reliant on fuel, the negatives include increased waste, higher costs to retrofit properties, and a big increase in wages and training costs, according to Barclay.

Rene Trapp heads up retail category management at Valora Holding AG, a multiformat company that operates several foodservice-oriented businesses, including AVEC convenience stores in Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Luxembourg and The Netherlands.  The total company's sales exceed $2 billion francs.

Trapp showed a video of a successful AVEC store in Switzerland. He pointed out one of the keys to success is the store's focus on local products. Local milk, cheese, yogurt, honey, meat and eggs are among the top priorities for 2022, he said.

New this year, the company is rolling out an even more advanced foodservice concept, The Kitchen by AVEC. It will feature menu items like pizzas, burgers, wraps and soups.

Rodolfo Castillo is AMPM CentroAmerica's country manager for Nicaragua. The company, which started in 2012, has 100 stores in Nicaragua, Panama and El Salvador, with plans to have 250 stores by the end of 2027. The stores are open 24/7, 365 days a year and feature beer caves, a liquor wall and a food court that is the focal point of the store.

Castillo said the company has been very successful with its self-service hamburgers, paninis, nachos and soups delivered fresh daily to the stores. The company's commissary produces baked goods to complement the strong coffee business. He noted the biggest operational challenge with foodservice is developing hospitality skills in your staff.

"Turnover of staff is a constant battle," added Barclay of Australia. "That's why independents tend to do food better than the major chains. They place more emphasis on hiring people with foodservice or [quick-service restaurant] experience."

Trapp agreed with the need to hire people who love to take care of customers. "The employee is the most important asset. Then you build an environment that entices and connects with the customer," he said.

The 2023 NACS Show took place Oct. 3-6 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. The 2024 NACS Show will be hosted at the Las Vegas Convention Center Oct. 7-10, 2024.

About the Author

Don Longo

Don Longo is Editorial Director Emeritus of Convenience Store News. He joined the brand in 2005. With the highest recognition of any c-store industry media journalist, Don has given presentations to business groups throughout the U.S., Europe and South America, appeared as a guest on Fox Business News and National Public Radio, and is a highly sought source for major consumer and business news.

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