Foodservice remains among the strongest in-store categories for convenience store owners, and fast-food brands are helping drive the business.
According to the 45 key decision makers to participate in the CSD Brand Preference Study, Subway, Hunt Bros. Pizza and Dunkin’ Donuts are the top performers in the branded fast-food category. McDonald’s, Hot Stuff Foods and Blimpie were voted honorable mentions.
The 45 chains tallied $380 million in foodservice sales last year at a total of 6,750 stores.
Branded fast food proved to be among the most competitive categories in the study, with 91% of the retailers surveyed reporting at least one branded fast-food company made a sales presentation in the past 60 days. Still, 9% reported no sales presentation from branded foodservice suppliers in that same time.
Friendship Foods is one company taking advantage of the top performers. Sixteen of the company’s 25 stores offer some form of foodservice, be it top performers like Subway and Hunt Bros. Pizza or regional brands such as Squawkers Chicken or Bob Evans.
The company fell into the Hunt Bros. program when it acquired a store that had it in place five years ago, and it hasn’t looked back.
"The Hunt Bros. program in that first store is currently drawing 400 customers a week," said Dennis Peters, director of retail for the Fremont, Ohio-based Friendship Foods.
A Marathon jobber, Friendship Foods added a Bob Evans facet to its program at Marathon’s suggestion. Snackwiches are displayed in countertop warmers, and Friendship has added breakfast sausages to its roller grills to enhance the morning daypart.
"Between Hunt Bros. and Bob Evans, our breakfast daypart does really well," said Peters. "The breakfast pizzas are high-quality and affordable. We offer Bob Evans breakfast sausages on the roller grill, and their snackwiches are an excellent morning option. That four-foot countertop unit carries a lot of name recognition.
"A lot of our customers are getting off their third shifts, so morning isn’t necessarily breakfast for them," he added. "We have to have chicken, pizza and the roller grill ready for them, too."
Fast Track convenience stores also has teamed with top performers Subway and Hunt Bros. and supplements the brands with other popular national franchises such as Hot Stuff Foods, Chester’s, Arby’s and Dairy Queen. While Hunt Brothers’ breakfast pizza gave the chain an opening into the morning daypart, it wasn’t a deciding factor.
"Even though the breakfast pizza is great, I’m surprised how many regular pizzas we sell in the morning," said Dale Turner, director of operations for the 25-store chain based in Gainesville, Fla. "The sausage and cheese is a huge seller in the a.m. Hunt Bros. offered breakfast right out of the shoot, and that helped us open our foodservice program."
The company has supplemented that breakfast program with its own proprietary biscuit program. "Some of our rural stores have a lot of farm hands around," Turner said. "In those locations, we’ll keep extra biscuits going all day in grab-and-go combinations, like sausage, pork chop or steak, on a biscuit with egg and cheese."
The company has also expanded its roller grill program to include brautwurst.
"We see our fuel gross shrinking and fuel margins getting tighter, and are constantly looking for ways to increase our gross profit," Turner said. "Our branded concepts like Hunt Bros. and Subway drive traffic and more gross profit dollars to offset expenses."