Lunchtime is an important time of day for convenience stores. However, there is stiff competition from a variety of competing venues, including fast-food stores, coffee shops and more. General Mills Convenience & Foodservice recently conducted a research project to understand the convenience channel’s strengths and opportunities at lunchtime.
Some 403 convenience store food and beverage shoppers, ages 18-64, participated in a nationwide online survey in January 2014. All participants said they regularly buy lunch on the go from venues, such as fast-food, fast-casual restaurants, coffee shops and convenience stores.
- Key considerations at lunch include fresh food, high quality food and a clean store environment. The most important factors cited by shoppers in choosing a lunch destination:
o Food items taste fresh: 67%
o The location is clean: 61%
o Has quality lunch food: 54%
o Location is convenient: 52%
o Good value for the money: 52%
- Made-to-order convenience stores have strong satisfaction levels among shoppers because they can customize their orders, reinforcing that the food is made fresh.
o Overall, 42% of shoppers are “very satisfied” with lunch at convenience stores. But there is a gap in satisfaction between stores where food is made-to-order and stores where it is not made-to-order.
- 59% of shoppers who eat at store with made-to-order food are “very satisfied.”
- 34% of shoppers who eat at stores without made-to-order food are “very satisfied.”
o Satisfaction levels for convenience stores with made-to-order items exceed those of fast food restaurants (47% of shoppers are “very satisfied” with fast-food lunch).
- Fast-food restaurants are the biggest threat for lunchtime business.
o 60% of shoppers indicate fast-food as the top alternative to convenience stores for lunch on-the-go. Convenience, tasty hot lunch items and filling portions are the three top reasons for choosing fast food.
Implications/Advice for Retailers
“Quality food is critical for success at lunchtime, and quality is all about freshness. In fact, the desire for freshness is a pattern we see in the morning as well. Stores looking to grow their lunch business need to focus on and communicate the freshness and quality of their offerings,” said Chris Quam, consumer insights manager at General Mills Convenience & Foodservice. “Making items in-store is the best way to do that. And messaging such as ‘made fresh daily’ can also go a long way. Additionally, convenience stores have a weapon that fast food does not: a broad range of cold beverages and salty snacks. Cross-promoting these categories with fresh lunch items is a key way to build lunchtime baskets.”