Branded Food: Fast Brands Build Business

Branded fast foods are major league players in today’s convenience channel. Indeed, the 45 chains recently surveyed by Convenience Store Decisions rang up some $380 million in branded foodservice sales last year.

A pretty impressive figure, and one that is likely to make any c-store owner’s mouth water at the mere thought of adding a hefty amount of ring with branded fast foods.

Having a popular national fast food brand like Hot Stuff Foods or Subway will drive traffic and increase shopper loyalty by making the store a destination rather than a stop along the way. Just look what happened to Friendship Foods, which became a food destination courtesy of its strong branded programs. Sixteen of the company’s 25 stores offer some form of foodservice, be it Subway, Squawkers Chicken, Hunt Brothers Pizza or Bob Evans.

"Between brands, our breakfast daypart does really well," said Friendship’s Director of Retail Operations Dennis Peters. "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."

Branded fast food also provides c-store owners the opportunity to offer new and innovative items to their customers with no additional effort from storeowners.

Fast and Fresh

Before you run to the phone and call the first fast food franchisor whose name leaps to mind, know that successfully branding fast-food service mandates providing an array of products that make consumers’ lives easier and tastier in a format that’s FIQE: fast, immediate, quick and easy.

The most popular branded fast foods in c-stores are the likes of Hot Stuff Foods, Subway, Hunt Bros. Pizza and Dunkin’ Donuts, followed by McDonald’s and Blimpie, all brands noted for possessing high standards.

Gainesville, Ga.-based chain Fast Track believes in partnering with national brands like Subway and Hunt Bros. to capitalize on brand visibility and the ability to serve all three dayparts.

"Even though the breakfast pizza is great, I’m surprised how many regular pizzas we sell in the morning," said Fast Track’s Director of Operations Dale Turner, adding that the sausage and cheese is a huge seller and one that helped the company jump start its foodservice program. Fast Track boosts the outside brands by offering its own proprietary biscuit program, which keeps going all day long in the company’s rural area stores.

Turner noted that with shrinking fuel gross and tighter fuel margins, c-store companies need to find other ways to drive profits. "Our branded concepts drive traffic and more gross profit dollars to offset expenses," he said.

Bundling brands has also proved to be a popular strategy for c-store owners, and the rationale behind manufacturers’ strategies to offer multiple brands, such as Hot Stuff does with its pizza, sandwich and ethnic brands.

"Fast and fresh is very important, but so is offering a diverse menu to attract a wide range of customers," said Mike Harrell, president of Jernigan Oil in Ahoskie, N.C., which operates 25 Duck Thru convenience stores. "Plus, foodservice has proven to be recession proof and makes us a destination in a way that is independent of gasoline, beer and cigarettes. We are not in food because it’s fun, we are in it for better margins. Ultimately, it’s the most profitable part of the store."

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