5 Retailers Mixing It Up on the Menu

menu board

Consumers routinely visit c-stores to source their everyday favorite food or drink. The lure of a signature food or familiar flavor is essential for retailers to continue capturing repeat visitation. However, to pull in new customers—and delight frequent guests—it’s important for c-stores to shake things up every now and then.

Nearly seven out of 10 foodservice consumers (69%) recently told Chicago-based Technomic that menu variety is an “important” or “extremely important” factor in their decision to purchase prepared foods from a retail location. And according to Technomic’s latest Retailer Meal Solutions Consumer Trend Report, powered by Ignite, a third of consumers (33%) say they’d buy more retail prepared foods if stores “improve variety.”

Consumers have a pretty solid idea about which c-store chains are getting ahead of this demand and providing the variety they’re looking for. Technomic’s Consumer Brand Metrics collected consumer surveys of 27 U.S. c-store brands throughout 2017, offering a look at the top-rated c-store brands in various categories, including menu variety.

Here’s a breakdown of the results, revealing the top five chains that scored highest on variety. Judging from these chain’s rollouts, it appears that limited-time offers (LTOs), seasonal promotions and responding to consumer ideas are core strategies c-stores are using to keep things interesting.

1. Rutter’s

rutters doughnuts

More than half ­(52.4%) of survey respondents gave York, Pa.-based Rutter’s the highest scores for variety. In 2017, Rutter’s promoted create-your-own coffee drinks with pumpkin flavoring and  marshmallow syrup, as well as pumpkin beer, glazed pumpkin cake doughnuts and molasses cookies. The chain also added turkey burgers to its menu in October, per consumers’ requests for a healthy burger option.

2. Family Express

unicorn doughnut

Family Express ranked a close second, with 52% of consumers giving it the highest rating. In summer 2017, the Valparaiso, Ind.-based chain released its Unicorn Donut and Triple Peanut Butter Reese’s Pieces Muffin. When fall arrived, the chain played up the season with a new cinnamon-flavored Spiced Apple Cider.

3. Sheetz

sheetz shake

Altoona, Pa.-based Sheetz, with an overall score of 51.9%, launched its Farmhouse Chicken Flatbread sandwich and Kickin’ Chicken breakfast sandwich last March. While both options featured egg whites, chicken sausage and cheese, the Farmhouse came with caramelized onions, and the Kickin’ delivered on its name with habanero peppers. Later in the year, Sheetz flaunted seasonal flavors with a Pumpkin Pie Cold Brew beverage.

4, Wawa

wawa brisket

August 2017 saw select Wawa—overall score 49.6%—locations release a chopped beef brisket, which came in the form of a sandwich, hoagie or atop mashed potatoes in a Brisket Bowl. The Wawa, Pa.-based chain also launched a Charcuterie Artisan Sandwich, featuring prosciutto, salami and arugula.

5. QuikTrip

qt bisqt

Late last year, QuikTrip released its BisQT ‘N’ Gravy Bowl—pork sausage and a biscuit topped in sausage gravy. The dish won QuikTrip’s social-media campaign, QT Concoctions, where fans shared ideas for LTOs. The Tulsa, Okla.-based chained earned a score of 46.5%.

69%

Consumers who say menu variety is an “important” or “extremely important” factor in their decision to purchase prepared foods from a retail location

Source: Technomic