Separating Fads From Trends in C-store Foodservice

Frank White

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — One of the main themes of this year's Convenience Foodservice Exchange (CFX) is helping retailers separate fads from trends. Many convenience store operators want to be on the leading edge of today's hottest food trends, but they also have to do so profitably. How can a retailer separate real, enduring trends from fly-by-night fads in today’s complicated market?

"The first thing that comes to mind in this COVID-19 era is contactless sales of foodservice," said veteran convenience retailer Frank White, who will be a presenter at Convenience Store News' fifth-annual Convenience Foodservice Exchange, being held Nov. 16-18 in Charlotte. "This didn't originally seem to fit the c-store model because the cost is significant, but there is a clear need for contactless now."

Indeed, the coronavirus pandemic has spurred many c-store retailers to test and implement contactless solutions, mobile ordering, curbside pickup, and home delivery services.

"Convenience retailers have always been early adopters of new trends, and I believe that we should continue to do so. Testing and limited-time runs are a great way to measure guest interest in these new things," said White, whose CFX presentation, entitled "How to Create Meal and Snack Opportunities All Day Long, at Every Store," will explore how retailers can keep their warmers, open-air coolers and roller grills full and profitable across every daypart.

As for other trends, White feels many other retail channels are embracing vegan, CBD-infused items, and meat substitutes. "Convenience should explore these trends as well, but I strongly recommend testing," advised White, former director of foodservice for the Yesway chain.

Taking place at The Westin Charlotte, the CFX 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.

The theme of this year's program is "Where Food Trends Meet Reality." For example, White sees another potential trend for c-stores to consider. "The meal kit phase seems to have tapered off, but there is still opportunity for smaller, less varied programs to thrive in this concept," he said. Unlike large, complex meal packages, "a smaller protein box kit can be adapted to true meal staples and be perfect for a mid-day meal to go."

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.
  • Why Ready-to-Eat, Grab & Go Foodservice Might Best Fit Your Foodservice Strategy. Kay Segal, president of the Business Accelerator Team, will discuss why "choosing your lane" for foodservice development must be a well-thought-out and strategic decision. In this fast-paced session, Segal will share factors for consideration, and checklists for what is important in creating programs — from ready-to-eat to grab-and-go.
  • 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.