Menuing the ‘Strange and Unusual’

Just how successful can bizarre foodservice items be in convenience stores?
Little Caesars’ Bacon-Wrapped Pizza

Little Caesars’ Bacon-Wrapped Pizza

CHICAGO --“It’s not easy to introduce a truly revolutionary, attention-getting new product or dish these days—everyone is trying to cut through the noise,” according to the recent Datassential report “The Strange and Unusual.” “And with the trend cycle moving ever faster, major brands have to move quickly.”

This quick-paced quest for the next big thing has driven c-stores and restaurants to reach weirder and weirder depths, rolling out bizarre food mashups and in-your-face flavors in the hopes of creating the next Doritos Locos Tacos.

The trick is making something that will connect with consumers. Chicago-based research firm Datassential aims to quantify the potential success of these products in its SCORES consumer concept test. Its recent report pulled out all the menu items and limited-time offers from the past year that consumers rated the most unique. It then looked at consumers’ purchase intent—whether they might actually put down the money to try the item.

Even a few c-store items made the report. GetGo’s “The General” was deemed the most unique sandwich, featuring General Tso’s chicken fingers topped with egg rolls on a sesame-seed bun. It scored in the 100th percentile for uniqueness and 24th for purchase intent. QuikTrip’s Bac’n QuikShake also made it into the 100th percentile for uniqueness, and the second percentile for purchase intent.

The second percentile—even 24th—may seem weak, but there are reasons for menuing outlandish items beyond sales. “Lots of press, social media mentions … and associating a brand with edgy products and innovative ideas may be just as important,” the report said.

The most important question to ask yourself, said Mark DiDomenico, director of client solutions for Datassential, is whether it fits your brand image and your customers’ desires.

“If that’s what you want your stores to be known for—this bombastic, new item experience—then there’s certainly a fertile ground to play in,” DiDomenico told Convenience Store Products.

He recommended c-store retailers look to create items that combine familiar foods in unfamiliar ways (such as with most of the examples below). “That’s where the creativity is coming in, to bring those flavors together,” he said.

What follows are a few examples from Datassential’s report on wild foodservice ideas and how they resonated with consumers. What ideas might get traction at your stores?

Pizza

  • Hungry Howie’s BBQ Chip Flavored Crust. Scored 55% for uniqueness (99th percentile) and 30% for purchase intent (14th percentile).
  • Carl’s Jr. Pepperoni Pizza Fries. Scored 61% for uniqueness (100th percentile) and 44% for purchase intent (65th percentile).
  • Little Caesars’ Bacon-Wrapped Pizza. Scored 55% for uniqueness (99th percentile) and 50% for purchase intent (86th percentile).

Burgers

  • Green Turtle Sports Bar & Grille’s Comeback Burger, topped with bacon, cheddar and American cheeses and a fried egg drizzled in maple syrup, all between two Belgian waffles. Scored 61% for uniqueness (100th percentile) and 35% for purchase intent (29th percentile).
  • Carl’s Jr. Burger Masher, topped with garlic mashed potatoes, truffle gravy and crispy onion strings. Scored 59% for uniqueness (100th percentile) and 39% for purchase intent (44th percentile).

Bacon

  • QuikTrip’s Bac’n QuikShake, made with strips of bacon and maple syrup. Scored 61% for uniqueness (100th percentile) and 21% for purchase intent (second percentile).
  • Which Wich’s bacon milkshake. Scored 62% for uniqueness (100th percentile) and 17% for purchase intent (zero percentile).