Convenience store foodservice operations were one of the hardest-hit areas of the store as the nation reeled from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to an exclusive c-store shopper study conducted by Convenience Store News late last year, consumers said they were shopping at c-stores less than they had before the pandemic. In the early days of the health crisis, many convenience retailers either opted to, or were forced to, shut down their fresh food and dispensed beverage programs. While most of these programs have come back online now, it’s proving to be a slow climb to get the foodservice category back to where it was before COVID-19.
The lingering impact of the pandemic can be seen in the recent cancellations of both the 2021 National Restaurant Association Show and the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association Show — both important events for convenience foodservice executives looking for new products, partnerships and equipment.
The pandemic is also likely to have a lasting impact on American consumers’ tastes and desires, as well as their expectations and comfort level for purchasing food at convenience stores.
In short, everything has changed for the nation’s convenience foodservice retailers.
Indeed, a recent study by Mintel cited four key trends influenced by COVID-19 that will affect the foodservice industry throughout 2021 and likely beyond. Among those trends are tightened spending leading to an increase in visits to limited-service restaurants, and greater interest in limited-time offers and everyday meal deals. The researcher also posits increased demand for hyperlocal and regional flavor innovation and comfort foods. And, it rightly says, pandemic-related safety concerns are not going away any time soon, so investment in long-term safety features needs to begin as soon as possible.
CSNews is offering one of the few opportunities this year for retailers and their supplier partners to get together in person to discuss these market changes. We will conduct our annual Convenience Foodservice Exchange (CFX) in Charlotte, N.C., on Nov. 9-10.
Of course, we’ll be monitoring the evolving developments around the pandemic and will make appropriate changes as required to ensure everyone’s health and safety, as we did in 2020 when we pivoted to a virtual conference.
As more Americans get vaccinated, we are hopeful that we will be able to meet in person for two full days of education, collaboration, networking and problem-solving as we explore the ways retailers are reviving their foodservice sales in the new normal.
Our multi-experiential and educational agenda will include exclusive proprietary research into both consumers’ and retailers’ mindsets, store tours, expert presentations, interactive discussions, and first-class dining.
Attendance to CFX is open to retailers by invitation only, and to sponsors. If you’re interested in attending, please email me at [email protected]. If you’re interested in attending as a sponsor, please contact our Brand Director Paula Lashinsky at [email protected].