CSD: Developing a Late Night Menu
By Howard Riell
Through a special arrangement, presented here
for discussion is a summary of an article from Convenience Store
While late night has grown into an identifiable daypart on its own,
too many retailers either haven’t yet recognized it as such or simply
don’t have the traffic to warrant promoting it. But for those who do,
the opportunities are real–and increasing.
Savvy food retailers “know there’s money to be made by staying open
late,” said NPD analyst Bonnie Riggs. “The hours between 10 p.m. and
5 a.m. are turning into a lucrative daypart.”
For years, NPD found, “convenience stores such as 7-Eleven have catered
to the late-night customer by offering late operating hours or 24-hour
service,” Ms. Riggs said. “Now consumers have even more options, as
an increasing number of quick-service chains expand their hours of
operation by opening earlier or closing later.”
Late-night customers are mostly young (males 18-49, females 18-34),
and half of them are coming from home; another 25 percent are coming
from work. More than 40 percent of the late-night business during NPD’s
study came between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m.
“The reason [late night] is growing simply is increased availability,” Ms.
For the year ending March 2009, the trend has not been a pretty one
for the restaurant industry. Between 9 p.m. and 4 a.m., NPD reported,
visits are down two percent. At burger concepts they’re down three
percent. For c-stores, however, visits are up four percent. The industry
currently holds a 20.9 percent share of the daypart, with about 368
million visits during these hours.
“C-stores have a smaller piece of the pie, but it’s growing the most
between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m.,” Ms. Riggs said.
The most popular menu items purchased during the late-night period
are pizza, burgers and French fries, followed by salty snacks, ice
cream, chicken nuggets or strips, breaded chicken sandwiches, doughnuts,
tacos and breakfast sandwiches, NPD found.
The top beverages are regular carbonated soft drinks, diet carbonated
soft drinks and regular or decaffeinated coffee, followed by bottled
water, noncarbonated soft drinks, specialty coffee, tap water, iced
tea, juice and milk shakes.
Jerry Weiner, vice president of foodservice for Rutter’s in Pennsylvania,
believes the industry as a whole could do better from late afternoon
through late night. “It has become a piece of the business that we
generally, as a group, don’t go after,” he said. “There is not a lot
of competition for good, fresh-baked food at that time of the night,
so that puts you at the top of the list, and that’s really what it’s
Discussion Questions: How can c-stores better take advantage of the
opportunity in late night hours? How big an opportunity is it for retailers
in the channel?