Are c-stores mostly becoming ‘restaurants that sell gas’?
A representative of a convenience store chain recently said that foodservice is now the most important part of the convenience store experience.
“The days of smokes and Cokes are coming to an end,” said Jon Siron, foodservice director for Gier Oil Co, told CStore Decisions. “C-stores are finally understanding that they aren’t just gas stations that sell food; they’re restaurants that sell gas.”
Gier Oil Co. is the family-owned operator of more than 50 Eaglestop convenience store locations in the Missouri area.
The article further detailed a number of other regional gas station/convenience store hybrids echoing similar sentiments. Iowa-based Kum & Go, a 400+-store chain, is finding fuel less relevant and has been developing food offerings meant to be fast-casual quality. Small gas station/convenience store Neon Marketplace is trying to court the customer who would pick up breakfast at Starbucks. Convenience stores also report experiencing increased food-related traffic during the pandemic. Casey’s for instance, has experienced an unprecedented increase in fresh-made pizza sales.
Since the mid-2010s or slightly earlier, convenience stores have been adding restaurant-like features to their operations in response to shifting consumer demand.
One of the biggest global convenience store chains has gone as far as to launch a test store concept that it has used to determine, among other things, how to best bring restaurants into its stores in new U.S. markets.
In 2021, 7-Eleven had eight of its Evolution concept stores open throughout the U.S., according to Franchise Times. The chain at that time announced its intention to open 150 restaurants that year.
The advent of electric cars may also be causing convenience store operators to anticipate an impending sea change and seek alternate business channels outside of fuel. Even some major convenience store players who do not sell gas appear to be taking steps to embed themselves in the new fueling infrastructure for electric cars.
Just this week, electric vehicle (EV) charging company Volta announced it was expanding its relationship with pharmacy/convenience chain Walgreens to install 1,000 new EV charging stations at 500 Walgreens locations nationwide. Walgreens currently has 49 stores with EV charging stations.
- The 2022 Foodservice Report – CStore Decisions
- C-Stores are a foodservice force – RetailWire
- 7-Eleven Pushes Into QSR With Plans for 150 Restaurants in 2021 – Franchise Times
- Volta Announces Collaboration Expansion with Walgreens – Volta Charging
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you think it is true that convenience stores are becoming primarily “restaurants that sell gas”? How do you see traditional c-store product offerings changing in the years to come?