There is a wave of convenience stores with gas stations capitalizing on the growing demand for fresh, healthy, healthful, and convenient road foods.
The space that was once occupied with old hot dog roller grills are being replaced with new offerings of produce and gourmet sandwiches. Shelves once filled with nitro-gassed pastries and other products are being replaced with fresh and innovative offerings. If the physical premise is not conducive to this new offer, food trucks are an ideal solution to take advantage of the steady stream of customers.
NACS describes these stores – that represent approximately 10% of the 154,000 stores, as being “food-forward” thinking. In 2010, food and beverage sales represented 22% of in-store profits, today that number nears 34%.
While many large petroleum companies have stayed away from the complicated and risky business, or those that have entered it, have eventually exited (Petro-Canada food offering in their neighbours stores were outsourced to A&W), the undeniable fact is declining sales of other products need a replacement.
When gasoline margins are high, then emphasis on non-petroleum revenue becomes less important. As more fuel efficient engines are introduced, then trips for fuel decrease. In addition, electric car growth and adoption is clearly on the horizon. The tobacco category is going thru changes with e-cigarette alternatives and other smoking devices. The legalization of marijuana will have some impact to sales of alternative categories. So with large properties, infrastructure, and customer loyalty – retailers need to think beyond gas.
The largest chain, 7-Eleven has 10,900 stores that have long been familiar with fast food, fresh, fruits and vegetables. They have built infrastructure with regional commissaries preparing food daily and have distributors delivering to their stores daily to deliver a promise – fresh.
Other retailers, such as Sheetz, has focus their offer with amazing food offerings and drive-thru service in their 541 store chain. For many retailers, the message is simple – get in the game or plan your exit out.