CStore Decisions February 2020

Page 1



Solutions for Convenience Retailers

The 2020

foodservice Report

As technology continues to evolve, c-stores look to plant-based and international flavors to meet the surging demand for fresh foods in 2020.

INSIDE Best Foodservice Launch Awards E-Cigs Rock While Cigars Roll Best Store Design Awards

34 58 66 February 2020



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CONTENTS february 2020

Number 2

Volume 31

CStoreDecisions ®


8 The Benefits of Building Relationships


10 Front End: SNAP Update 14 Quick Bites 16 Industry News 18 Registration Opens for 2020 YEO Conference


34 Best Foodservice Launch Awards 44 Bean-to-Cup Coffee Buzz 48 Chef’s Corner: Overcoming Challenges in C-Store Cooking



52 Candy Innovation’s Sweet Tooth 58 E-Cigs Rock While Cigars Roll



22 The 2020 Foodservice Report

62 Getting Personal with Loyalty Programs

As technology continues to evolve, c-stores look to plant-based and international flavors to meet the surging demand for fresh foods in 2020.


66 Best Store Design Awards

44 BACK END 76 Product Showcase 81 Ad Index 82 Developing Multicultural Strategies 4


February 2020


the CSD Group www.cstoredecisions.com

CStoreDecisions .com CStoreDecisions CStoreDecisions

CStore Decisions



Convenience Store Decisions • EDITORIAL


VICE PRESIDENT, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF John Lofstock jlofstock@wtwhmedia.com

VICE PRESIDENT, CREATIVE SERVICES Mark Rook mrook@wtwhmedia.com

EXECUTIVE EDITOR Erin Del Conte edelconte@wtwhmedia.com

CREATIVE DIRECTOR Erin Canetta ecanetta@wtwhmedia.com

SENIOR EDITOR Thomas Mulloy tmulloy@wtwhmedia.com

ART DIRECTOR Matthew Claney mclaney@wtwhmedia.com

ASSOCIATE EDITOR Isabelle Gustafson igustafson@wtwhmedia.com

PRODUCTION MANAGER Barbra Martin bmartin@wtwhmedia.com

ASSOCIATE EDITOR Marilyn Odesser-Torpey CONTRIBUTING EDITOR Brad Perkins COLUMNISTS John Harman Suzy Silliman

DIGITAL MEDIA/ WEB DEVELOPMENT VP, DIGITAL MARKETING Virginia Goulding vgoulding@wtwhmedia.com DEVELOPMENT MANAGER Dave Miyares dmiyares@wtwhmedia.com SR. DIGITAL MEDIA MANAGER Pat Curran pcurran@wtwhmedia.com DIGITAL PRODUCTION MANAGER Reggie Hall rhall@wtwhmedia.com DIGITAL PRODUCTION SPECIALIST Nicole Lender nlender@wtwhmedia.com


DIGITAL PRODUCTION/ MARKETING DESIGNER Samantha King sking@wtwhmedia.com

CUSTOMER SERVICE MANAGER Stephanie Hulett shulett@wtwhmedia.com

VICE PRESIDENT/GROUP PUBLISHER Tom McIntyre tmcintyre@wtwhmedia.com

CUSTOMER SERVICE REPRESENTATIVE Jane Cooper jcooper@wtwhmedia.com

SR. DIGITAL MARKETING STRATEGIST Michael Ulanski mulanski@wtwhmedia.com SOFTWARE ENGINEER DJ Bozentka dbozentka@wtwhmedia.com

(216) 346-8790

EVENTS MANAGER Jen Osborne josborne@wtwhmedia.com

WEBINAR COORDINATOR Halle Kirsh hkirsh@wtwhmedia.com

VICE PRESIDENT, SALES Tony Bolla tbolla@wtwhmedia.com

EVENT EXHIBITOR & SPEAKER MANAGER Michelle Flando mflando@wtwhmedia.com

WEBINAR COORDINATOR Kim Dorsey kdorsey@wtwhmedia.com

REGIONAL SALES MANAGER Ashley Burk aburk@wtwhmedia.com


PUBLISHER John Petersen jpetersen@wtwhmedia.com

(773) 859-1107

(737) 615-8452

REGIONAL SALES MANAGER Patrick McIntyre pmcintyre@wtwhmedia.com (216) 372-8112 REGIONAL SALES MANAGER Jake Bechtel jbechtel@wtwhmedia.com (216) 299-2281

VIDEOGRAPHER Bradley Voyten bvoyten@wtwhmedia.com VIDEOGRAPHER Derek Little dlittle@wtwhmedia.com


Jim Callahan, Director of Marketing (Retired) Geo. H. Green Oil Inc. • Fairburn, Ga. Bill Kent, President and CEO The Kent Cos. Inc. • Midland, Texas Greg Lorance, Dispensed Category Manager Cumberland Farms • Framingham, Mass. Billy Milam, President RaceTrac Petroleum Inc. • Atlanta


(216) 533-9186

CStore Decisions is a three-time winner of the Neal Award, the American Business Press’s highest recognition of editorial excellence.

Robert Buhler, President and CEO Open Pantry Food Marts • Pleasant Prairie, Wis.

DIRECTOR, AUDIENCE DEVELOPMENT Bruce Sprague bsprague@wtwhmedia.com


Leading Through Innovation

Patrick J. Lewis, Managing Partner Oasis Stop ‘N Go • Twin Falls, Idaho Scott Zaremba, President and CEO Zarco USA • Lawrence, Kansas

NATIONAL ADVISORY GROUP (NAG) BOARD Doug Galli, Board Chairman Reid Stores Inc./Crosby’s • Brockport, N.Y. Mary Banmiller, Director of Retail Operations Warrenton Oil Inc. • Truesdale, Mo.

FINANCE CONTROLLER Brian Korsberg bkorsberg@wtwhmedia.com ACCOUNTS RECEIVABLE SPECIALIST Jamila Milton jmilton@wtwhmedia.com

VIDEOGRAPHER Graham Smith gsmith@wtwhmedia.com

Greg Ehrlich, Chief Operating Officer Beck Suppliers Inc. • Fremont, Ohio Derek Gaskins, Senior VP, Merchandising/Procurement Yesway • Des Moines, Iowa Joe Hamza, Chief Operating Officer Nouria Energy Corp • Worcester, Mass. Brent Mouton, President and CEO Hit-N-Run Food Stores • Lafayette, La. Peter Tamburro, General Manager Clifford Fuel Co. • Marcy, N.Y. Vernon Young, President and CEO Young Oil Co. • Piedmont, Ala.

YOUNG EXECUTIVES ORGANIZATION (YEO) BOARD Jeremie Myhren, Board Chairman Road Ranger • Rockford, Ill.

WTWH MEDIA, LLC 1111 Superior Ave., 26th Floor, Cleveland, OH 44114 • Ph: (888) 543-2447 EDITORIAL AND NAG 1420 Queen Anne Rd., Suite 4, Teaneck, NJ 07666 • Ph: (201) 321-5642

Garet Bishop, Chief Financial Officer BFS Cos. • Morgantown, W.Va. 2011 - 2019

Caroline Filchak, Director, Wholesale Ops Clipper Petroleum • Flowery Branch, Ga. Kalen Frese, Food Service Director Warrenton Oil Inc. • Warrenton, Mo.

SUBSCRIPTION INQUIRIES To enter, change or cancel a subscription, please e-mail requests to: bmartin@wtwhmedia.com or Mail: CStore Decisions, 1111 Superior Ave., 26th Floor, Cleveland, OH 44114 Copyright 2020, WTWH Media, LLC

CStore Decisions (ISSN 1054-7797) is published monthly by WTWH Media, LLC., 1111 Superior Ave., Suite 2600, Cleveland, OH 44114, for petroleum company and convenience store operators, owners, managers. Qualified U.S. subscribers receive CStore Decisions at no charge. For others, the cost is $80 a year in the U.S. and Possessions, $95 in Canada, and $150 in all other countries. Single copies are available at $9 each in the U.S. and Possessions, $10 each in Canada and $13 in all other countries. Periodicals postage paid at Cleveland, OH, and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to CStore Decisions, 1111 Superior Avenue, 26th Floor, Cleveland, OH 44114. GST #R126431964, Canadian Publication Sales Agreement No: #40026880.

Alex Garoutte, Director of Marketing The Kent Cos. Inc. • Midland, Texas Sharif Jamal, Corporate Training Manager Chestnut Petroleum Inc. • New Paltz, N.Y. Lindsay Lyden, Vice President, Development True North Energy • Brecksville, Ohio Stacey Davis, Manager of Marketing Clifford Fuel Co. Inc. • Marcy, N.Y.

CSTORE DECISIONS does not endorse any products, programs or services of advertisers or editorial contributors. Copyright© 2020 by WTWH Media, LLC. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, or by recording, or by any information storage or retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. Circulation audited by Business Publications Audit of Circulation, Inc.



February 2020






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Editor’s Memo

For any questions about this issue or suggestions for future issues, please contact me at jlofstock@wtwhmedia.com.

The Benefits of Building Relationships Strong relationships are vital to a healthy career. When we can’t make real connections with others, whether in the industry or in the workplace, we lose key opportunities to share information, learn new ideas and make lasting friendships. On the other hand, when we have a small group of close professional relationships, we’re able to get our ideas recognized and supported. We’re able to be successful leaders. We’re able to collaborate and innovate effectively to serve customers in the way they deserve. This is an essential part of the Young Executives Organization (YEO). As the convenience store and petroleum industry continues to evolve, YEO is solely focused on creating a network for next-generation leaders that allows them to exchange personal experiences with peers in their age group. Developing young leaders is vital to every company across our industry to ensure future growth and prosperity. To help next-generation executives continue their development in the competitive convenience store industry, YEO is proud to announce it will hold its seventh annual YEO Conference in May in Nashville. The conference will provide members a forum to express their views, network with other leaders and gain valuable insights into how other young professionals have overcome the similar challenges they are facing. In-person networking is an often overlooked, but crucial part of professional growth. The internet and social media have helped erode “people skills,” said leadership expert Andrew Sobel. And they’ve crept in so insidiously, we may not have realized it was happening. “The ‘normalizing’ of digital relationships has masked the weakness of many professionals’ face-to-face relationship-building skills,” Sobel said. “This is especially true for younger professionals, who have grown up on a steady diet of online ‘friends’ and connections, and are less schooled in the art of face-to-face relationship-building.” The ability to build trusted professional relationships should never be left to chance. In addition to joining professional groups like YEO, Sobel identified several attitudes and skills that help leaders build solid relationships. These include: 8


February 2020

CURIOSITY. This attitude helps you learn about people, giving you a better basis to build rapport with them. It drives you to understand what’s important to others. The more you learn from those around you, the more proprietary knowledge you’ll accumulate. DEVELOPING TRUST. Trust reduces the inevitable frictions inherent in working with others, and it enables the creation of deep, resilient connections. To build trust, demonstrate that you are always acting with the other person’s best interests in mind. You need to meet commitments, keep confidences and answer questions without hedging. Make these qualities tangible by sometimes doing something for the other person that is clearly not in your interest, and telling people quickly and openly about mistakes or bad news. Prepare carefully for meetings to showcase competence. INFLUENCE. Simply put, influence is the power to change or affect someone. If you have it, you’ll be able to convince others of your ideas and proposals and gain support for your goals. The foundation of influencing is having a strength of character and depth of knowledge that commands others to listen to you and follow your advice. “Building a career is complicated, and it’s easy for us to put off relationship development until ‘things settle down’ or we have more free time,” Sobel said. “The problem is, that day never comes. This is how people lose touch and how relationships atrophy. You have to carve some time out of your schedule, put it on your to-do list and commit to making it happen.” To strengthen your industry relationships, plan on attending the 2020 YEO Conference. To register or learn more, visit www.YEOconference.com.

k c o t s f o L n Joh cstoredecisions.com

For trade purposes only. ©2019 Swedish Match North America LLC



Trump Administration Tightens SNAP Requirements The change, which will take effect April 1, 2020, could reduce the number of SNAP recipients by 700,000. Isabelle Gustafson • Associate Editor

In December 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) published a final rule titled “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): Requirements for Able-Bodied Adults without Dependents.” The rule requires SNAP recipients ages 18-49 who are not disabled and have no dependents to work at least 20 hours a week to retain benefits. The change will take effect April 1, 2020, and could reduce the number of SNAP recipients by as many as 700,000. In fiscal year 2018, 39.7 million people received SNAP benefits. Of those, 2.9 million were able-bodied adults between the ages of 18-49 without a dependent — nearly 74% of whom were not working, according to the USDA. Convenience stores represent 45% of all retail outlets authorized to accept SNAP benefits. Current rules require SNAP recipients to work at least 20 hours weekly for more than 90 days in a 36-month period to qualify for benefits. However, states have been able to waive that requirement in areas with high unemployment rates. 10


February 2020

COMMUNITY IMPACT Under the new rule, states can no longer ask the federal government to temporarily waive the restrictions unless it’s for an area with an unemployment rate of 10% or higher or if the state can otherwise prove a lack of sufficient jobs. The national unemployment rate is 3.5% as of December 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, with 5.8 million people unemployed, down from 6.3 million the year prior. Those who cannot find 20 hours of paid work per week also have the option to participate 20 hours per week in a local, state or federal work program, such as a SNAP Employment and Training program.


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“We’re taking action to reform our SNAP program in order to restore the dignity of work to a sizable segment of our population and be respectful of the taxpayers who fund the program,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. “Americans are generous people who believe it is their responsibility to help their fellow citizens when they encounter a difficult stretch. That’s the commitment behind SNAP, but, like other welfare programs, it was never intended to be a way of life.” The USDA estimated the change will save the government $5.5 billion during a five-year period. However, in addition to increased food insecurity among current SNAP recipients, reducing SNAP benefits could be detrimental to retailers who might experience less consumer spending. Jon Cox, chief merchant and senior director of merchandising for Pittsburgh-based GetGo, said he believes the changes will minimally affect c-stores compared to grocery, but he recognizes the impact to current SNAP recipients in his community. Cox said GetGo, which operates 265 stores in Indiana, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, works with Pittsburgh-based 412 Food Rescue, which collects food that would otherwise go to waste and distributes it to organizations serving communities in need. The items are unsellable but still viable, fresh and healthy foods. Despite widespread food insecurity, according to 412 Food Rescue, the U.S. wastes 62.5 million tons of food per year. “I think, as retailers, we’re trying to figure out how we can offset

I think, as retailers, we’re trying to figure out how we can offset some of those impacts by making sure that we initiate programs to still get good food to the people who need it, like extending our partnership with the food banks, to help offset some of the burden for people who were on SNAP that now no longer qualify. – Jon Cox, chief merchant and senior director of merchandising, GetGo

some of those impacts by making sure that we initiate programs to still get good food to the people who need it,” said Cox, “like extending our partnership with the food banks, to help offset some of the burden for people who were on SNAP that now no longer qualify.”

SNAP COMPLIANCE The 2014 Farm Bill required additional obligations on SNAP retailers. In December 2016, the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) — the agency overseeing SNAP— finalized a rule enacting some of these provisions and additional requirements. The U.S. Congress passed legislation in 2017 and 2018 delaying this rule until FNS expanded the definition of “variety” to make it easier for small-format retailers to comply. FNS published its proposal on expanding the definition of variety in April 2019. The comment period closed in June. Retailers continue to wait for FNS to finalize and publish the “variety” definition. Under the Final Rule, to participate in SNAP, convenience stores must: • Stock seven varieties of foods in each of the four staple food cat-

February 2020

egories: (1) meat, poultry or fish, (2) bread or cereals, (3) vegetables or fruits and (4) dairy, and at least one perishable food item in three of the categories. SNAP retailers must also have three units of every variety, 84 total items, on shelves. These stocking requirements are on hold, however, until FNS finalizes its revised definition of variety, the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) has reported. • USDA would allow retailers to show compliance with stocking requirements using receipts and invoices that show they purchased the necessary items up to 21 days before the date of an agency inspection. Therefore, it’s key for retailers to hold onto these documents for one year, in case of an FNS inspection. • According to the final rule, stores would be disqualified from the program if 50% or more of their retail sales — including fuel sales — are derived from items cooked or heated on-site before or after purchase, known as the “hot foods” threshold. The National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) offers a compliance guide for members who participate in SNAP. cstoredecisions.com


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212% The increase in Latinx buying power from 1990-2018 Non-Hispanic growth rate same period: 92%

18% - 2018 21% - 2028 21% - 2038 25% - 2048 27% - 2058

Source: Selig Center for Economic Growth, Terry College of Business, University of Georgia, June 2018

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2017 National Population Projections



+37% - “I feel really good about seeing celebrities in


the media that share my ethnic background.”

+29% - “A celebrity endorsement may influence


Percentage of Hispanic consumers who responded “Extremely” or “Very Important” to the above question as it applied to multiple food categories

me to consider or buy a product.”

Source: Nielsen U.S. Category Shopping Fundamentals, 2017

IN-STORE INFLUENCERS AT POINT OF PURCHASE Latinx (the gender-neutral term for those from or descendants of people from Latin America) customers are highly influenced by mobile promotions, in-store merchandising and store associates when considering a purchase compared to the general population.

Mobile Promotions — Latinx customers are 50% more likely to buy compared to the general population on virtually every category of shopping, including health and personal care items, food, non-food and beverages when they first view a mobile promotion. In-Store Promotions — When it comes to beverages, Latinx customers are 35% more likely to purchase when they first see in-store promotions touting the product. Store Associates — When they first speak with a store associate about products, Latinx customers are 80% more likely to buy personal care products and 78% more likely to buy household care items. Source: Nielsen U.S. Category Shopping Fundamentals, 2017



February 2020

60% - PRODUCE 56% - BAKERY 53% - PREPARED FOOD 53% - EGGS 50% - DAIRY 45% - SEAFOOD 45% - MEAT 38% - DELI CHEESE 38% - DELI MEAT Source: December Online Views, Nielsen National Consumer Panel, 2019


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FRONT END Industry News 7-Eleven Buys 7-Eleven Stores of Oklahoma

Parkland USA Acquires Kellerstrass Oil Co.

7‑Eleven Inc. is acquiring “7‑Eleven Stores” of central Oklahoma, which includes more than 100 7‑Eleven-branded locations that have been operating independently for 67 years. The transaction, announced in January, was anticipated to close in 60-90 days. The stores being acquired are located in the greater Oklahoma City metropolitan area, bringing the total number of 7‑Eleven stores in the U.S. and Canada to more than 9,700. “Oklahoma has a growing economy, and this acquisition provides a great opportunity for us to expand regionally,” said 7‑Eleven President and CEO Joe DePinto.

Calgary, Alberta-based Parkland Fuel through its subsidiary Parkland USA, is acquiring Kellerstrass Oil Co., a fuel and lubricant business with operations in six U.S. Western states. Kellerstrass Oil has been in operation since 1948 and is headquartered in Salt Lake City. The company is a marketer of fuel, lubricants, coolants and diesel exhaust fluid across Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado, Montana and Wyoming. Chane Kellerstrass, president of Kellerstrass Oil Co., will serve in a leadership role with Parkland USA, helping to lead commercial sales within the region. The acquisition is expected to close in the first quarter of 2020 and be integrated into Parkland’s Rockies Regional Operating Center, based in Utah.

Loop Neighborhood Grows The ‘Next Generation Convenience Store,’ Loop Neighborhood, introduced its newest location in Sacramento, Calif., in January, marking Loop’s third location in the city and 33rd location overall. Each Loop store features smoothies, organic fruits and veggies, and fresh sushi, plus go-to snacks and treats. “It is truly amazing to experience how Loop has expanded since its conception in 2013,” said Varish Goyal, CEO and president of Loop Neighborhood. “We have put so much time and effort into giving its loyal patrons a unique experience. We are committed to making healthy food options handy and accessible to everyone.”

Enmarket Introduces New Rewards & Payment Program

FDA Weighs in on Tobacco 21 Compliance

Savannah, Ga.-based Enmarket has introduced a new rewards program called Enjoy Rewards, which will enable customers to earn fuel discounts by buying fuel or food and other merchandise in-store. Discounts can amount to as much as $2 off per gallon on fuel. Other features include a coffee club, frozen beverage club and roller grill club, each of which awards a customer a free item after six purchases, plus a free annual birthday reward. The program offers the option of using a card, app or phone number at checkout. The card can be activated as a method of payment called enPay — linked to a customer’s checking account — which gives the additional benefit of 10 cents off each gallon purchased. 16


February 2020

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a statement on implementation of the Tobacco 21 law, passed in December, that ups the federal minimum purchase age for tobacco to 21. While the law is effective immediately, the FDA acknowledged there is a transition period, during which the agency will only use minors under 18 in its compliance checks. The FDA did not define the length of the transition period; however, it reiterated that retailers should not sell a tobacco product to anyone under the age of 21.

Allsup’s Market Opens in New Mexico Allsup’s introduced the new Allsup’s Market in Melrose, N.M., last month. One-part convenience store, with expanded grocery and perishables, Allsup’s Market now sells fresh, never frozen meat and fresh produce, as well as an expanded selection of grocery items, frozen foods, baby goods and more. Des Moines, Iowa-based Yesway acquired Allsup’s in November. The addition of the 304-store Clovis, N.M.-based chain represents Yesway’s largest acquisition yet.









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Registration Opens for the

2020 YEO Conference

The seventh annual Young Executives Organization (YEO) Conference will take place May 4-6 in Nashville. CSD Staff

As the convenience store and petroleum industry continues to evolve, training the leaders of tomorrow is more important than ever. That’s the driving force behind the National Advisory Group’s (NAG) Young Executives Organization (YEO). This growing group of emerging industry leaders is keenly focused on education and networking with other next-generation executives who are facing similar challenges in the competitive convenience store industry — something that will be on full display at the 2020 YEO Conference in Nashville from May 4-6. YEO’s mission is to cultivate young talent in the convenience store and petroleum industry through education and networking. The seventh annual YEO Conference will continue this mission to help foster superior leadership skills. “We have put together an outstanding agenda and steering committee that will guide conference content toward real-world retail experiences,” said Jeremie Myhren, YEO Board chairman and chief information officer for Rockford, Ill.-based Road Ranger. “All members of the committee are immersed in the convenience store business, and they will help ensure that the conference covers the pressing issues retailers are facing today and can expect to face in the future. This is the premier industry conference for young leaders.” 18


February 2020

PREPARING LEADERS FOR TOMORROW This is not an easy industry for young professionals. In addition to learning the business, they are faced with other daunting challenges such as learning to negotiate with vendors, manage employees who can be much older than they are and, perhaps most importantly, make connections with experienced professionals who can help them navigate the rocky terrain. “This is where YEO is helping c-store chains of all sizes,” said John Lofstock, NAG executive director. “The association provides young executives a platform to demonstrate their leadership abilities and vision for the future.” The convenience store industry’s young executives and leaders of tomorrow face unique challenges as they grow their businesses in the competitive convenience store market. YEO was formed specifically to address these challenges and help the industry’s next-generation leaders identify solutions with others in their age group. “We have a focused agenda that will help the leaders of tomorrow shape their businesses and their careers,” said committee chairwoman Stacey Davis, marketing manager for Marcy, N.Y.-based Clifford Fuel Co. “This has evolved into a can’t-miss event for nextgeneration leaders.” The YEO Conference is open only to retailers who are NAG member companies. Attendees should be 40 and under. To view the full agenda, register for the conference or join NAG, visit YEOconference.com.


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Foodservice Report

The 2020



As technology continues to evolve, c-stores look to plant-based and international flavors to meet the surging demand for fresh foods in 2020. Isabelle Gustafson • Associate Editor

With foodservice now a core component of the convenience landscape, c-store retailers are watching the abundance of food trends vying for prominence in 2020. Which concepts will dominate menus in the year ahead? C-store operators are working to identify, test and implement the most promising concepts. Among these trends, plant-based continues to gain momentum, with companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat appealing to vegans as well as traditional meat-eaters interested in plantbased alternatives. Fresh food consumption is also expected to grow, with customers asking new questions about what’s in their food and how it’s made. Even traditional c-store staples are getting innovative updates. Meanwhile, international foods are becoming more mainstream, and new styles are expected to emerge, thanks to the diversity of young consumers. What’s more, technology is becoming increasingly important in the c-store space as more c-stores look to third-party delivery to not only add a greater level of convenience but also attract new customers that may never step foot in-store. As foodservice grows, more chains are adding open kitchens with made-to-order food, along with seating for customers looking to eat on-site. 22


February 2020




Several c-stores introduced new plant-based options to menus in 2019, and more plan to follow in 2020. A recent study, titled “Plant-Based Foods: Assessing the Opportunity, 2019” by research consulting firm Foodservice IP found that, while plantbased foods were relatively small in c-stores in 2019, $75-80 million in consumer spend, the category as a whole is rapidly growing across all segments. According to the study, roughly a quarter of c-stores already offer plant-based entrees and sandwiches. “I think everybody is getting into plant-based, vegan,” said Jon Cox, chief merchant and senior director of merchandising for Pittsburgh-based GetGo Cafe + Market. “We consider it part of the mainstream.”

GetGo began testing its plantbased burger from Impossible Foods in 2019.

Foodservice Report

Git’N Go Market focuses on freshness with its foodservice. Its burgers, one of the most popular menu items, are made using fresh meat rather than frozen patties.

GetGo began testing a plant-based burger from Impossible Foods at six Pittsburgh locations in 2019. Cox said customer response to the menu item was better than expected, with the top store averaging sales of more than 100 per week — roughly 20% of overall hamburger sales at the location. The chain plans to roll out the Impossible burger to all of its 265 locations in Indiana, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia in 2020. But not all c-stores have had the same success with plant-based offers. Clinton, Tenn.-based Git’N Go Market, which operates four c-stores in Tennessee, introduced a black bean burger in 2019 after several customers wrote comments requesting it. Ultimately, the offer didn’t do well, and the chain has since discontinued it. “Customers are saying this is what they want, but compared to the monster amount of sales we do in regular burgers, the vegetarian offerings weren’t moving,” said Git’N Go CEO William Baine.

We’re constantly testing and retesting items just to see how we can make a product a little better, a little fresher.

- William Baine, CEO, Git’N Go Market



February 2020

He said the key, in cases like this, is to track the data to determine what customers want in your area, rather than listening to what might be a vocal minority. “It may just be our market because we’re more rural versus urban, where you might find a more health-conscious or vegetarian population,” he said. Julie Heseman, principal of Foodservice IP, agreed location plays a big role in the adoption of trends, and rural environments may be several years behind urban. But, she said, it depends heavily on the product as well. “Black bean burgers have been around for a long time, and I think the reason that they haven’t taken off is that they’re not the same,” she said. “It’s not the same texture, it’s not the same taste or mouthfeel as biting into Impossible or Beyond burgers, which are meant to be much more similar to a traditional beef burger patty.” Heseman said that c-stores’ best bet for successfully introducing plant-based products is to start with those that are meant to mimic the taste and texture of meat in order to appeal to the average, meat-eating consumer who, for any number of reasons, may be looking to reduce their meat consumption. After all, according to market research company NPD Group, nearly 90% of plant-based consumers also eat traditional meat and dairy. And while Impossible and Beyond seem to have a duopoly at the moment, Heseman said to keep an eye out this year for more companies emerging — and for other protein categories, too. Plant-based chicken, pork and seafood are on the horizon for 2020, she said. cstoredecisions.com

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Fresh food sales grew $4.6 billion in the 52 weeks ending Oct. 26, 2019, according to the Nielsen report “How Americans Will Eat.” Across the industry, even traditional c-store staples are getting a better-for-you twist. Products that are not necessarily healthy can still be fresh. They can be high-quality. They can be made onsite, with clean or even local ingredients. For example, pizza might not be healthy, but at Ankeny, Iowa-based Casey’s General Stores, it’s always fresh. “We only use fresh, never frozen, dough for our traditional crust, and high-quality sauce, toppings and whole-milk mozzarella cheese,” said Tom Brennan, chief merchandising officer for Casey’s, which operates more than 2,000 stores in 16 states. Baltimore-based Dash In focuses heavily on freshness and transparency at its 50+ c-stores in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. The chain plans to expand its “neighborhood stores”

concept, which includes an open kitchen in the center and a wide variety of made-to-order, fresh and grab-and-go items, across all locations in 2020. “In general, consumer attitudes are changing when it comes to food,” said Barbara Nova, director of food and beverage for Dash In, adding that transparency of ingredients and product origination is “one of the biggest growing influencers driving consumer food purchase behavior today.” Among its efforts to improve foodservice, Git‘N Go c-stores switched from frozen hamburgers to fresh meat, frozen egg patties to fresh eggs, frozen sub rolls to fresh bread baked twice daily and fresh biscuits baked every hour. “We’re constantly testing and retesting items just to see how we can make a product a little better, a little fresher,” said Baine. Marcy, N.Y.-based Cliff’s Local Market uses a local dough supplier for its pizza, which is made in-house, as well as clean-label cheese. This year, the chain will debut cauliflower-crust pizza that’s both plant-based and gluten-free.

Cliff’s Local Market is adding a cauliflower-crust pizza that’s both plant-based and gluten-free to its menu this year. 26


February 2020



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Foodservice Report

“The more clean-label stuff that we can have, the better,” said Derek Thurston, director of foodservice for Cliff’s. “You have to charge a little bit of a higher price point, but that customer who is looking for those items is willing to pay more. … We still cater to ‘Bubba,’ too. But I’d like to have options for pretty much every lifestyle and every person.” INTERNATIONAL FARE

The more clean-label stuff that we can have, the better. You have to charge a little bit of a higher price point, but that customer who is looking for those items is willing to pay more. … We still cater to ‘Bubba,’ too. But I’d like to have options for pretty much every lifestyle and every person. - Derek Thurston, director of foodservice, Cliff’s Local Market

Rockford, Ill.-based Road Ranger, which operates 39 locations in the Midwest and Texas, offers a popular pizza program called Dan’s Big Slice, as well as other c-store foodservice staples at its Road Ranger Kitchen. But a few years ago, Vice President of Marketing Ryan Arnold decided the chain needed a new option that would focus on freshness and play into the international foods market. Enter, Tejas Taco Co. “In today’s market, I just don’t see how you can develop a food program and not offer the highestquality ingredients,” said Arnold. “That’s why we make the tortilla shells fresh in-house. It’s why we cook all the food in the back, on the grill.”

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Foodservice Report

Casey’s Taco Pizza is one of the c-store chain’s most popular specialty pizzas. Casey’s pizzas are made using fresh, never frozen, dough, high-quality sauce, toppings and whole-milk mozarella cheese.

American classics like burgers and fried chicken are still c-store favorites, but international foods, especially Mexican foods like tacos and burritos, are becoming mainstays. “Gen Z, in general, is much more diverse than previous generations,” said Foodservice IP’s Heseman. “They’ve grown up eating a lot of different flavors.” According to the U.S. Census Bureau National Population Projections, in 2020, less than half (49.8%) of the U.S. population under age 18 are projected to be non-Hispanic white, compared with three-fourths (76%) of those age 65 and older. “As they gain more spending power, and as they age, I think international foods and fusion foods are going to be really standard for them,” said Heseman. “That’s going to be what they’re expecting.” Heseman said a great way for c-stores to introduce international foods is through fusion techniques. Dash In’s quesadilla line, which launched in 2019, is a great example. Quesadillas are a Mexican food, but Dash In’s styles are all-American: Chicken Bacon Ranch, Buffalo Chicken, Applewood-Smoked Bacon and Jimmy Dean Country Sausage. 30


February 2020

Another example: Casey’s Taco Pizza, which is one of the chain’s most popular specialty pizzas. In addition to following trends, Casey’s Brennan said the company gets feedback daily through its guest relations team as well as social media. “We know guests are looking to explore new flavors and toppings while also expecting us to have their longtime favorite pizza when they want it,” Brennan said.

Dash In introduced a quesadilla line in 2019 with several varieties: Chicken Bacon Ranch, Buffalo Chicken, Applewood-Smoked Bacon and Jimmy Dean Country Sausage.


In today’s market, I just don’t see how you can develop a food program and not offer the highestquality ingredients. That’s why we make the tortilla shells fresh in-house. It’s why we cook all the food in the back, on the grill.

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- Ryan Arnold, vice president of marketing, Road Ranger

Asian fusion marks another growing food trend. GetGo’s limited-time-only (LTO) sub, The General, features General Tso’s chicken topped with an egg roll and Sriracha sauce on a freshbaked sesame seed bun. Meanwhile, on the East Coast, Alltown Fresh, which operates four stores in Massachusetts and Connecticut, offers a few Asian-inspired sandwiches and bowls, such as its Korean Kimchi bowl and its Siam Sunset bowl, both of which are entirely plant-based. South Asian food, such as Indian, lends itself well to both the plant-based and bowl trends, said Heseman, so keep an eye on that in the years to come.

• • • • •

Among its offers, Alltown Fresh’s menu features several Asian-inspired sandwiches and bowls.


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Foodservice Report

Ahoskie, N.C.-based Duck Thru Food Stores has been working to install kiosks at its stores that offer foodservice. The company also plans to roll out mobile ordering in the first quarter of this year.

“Like all trends, it’s making its way in the urban areas right now,” she said, “which means, in the next five or 10 years, it’s going to be more widespread across the entire country.” TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCEMENT

Technology will continue as a key player in convenience foodservice this year, with chains of all regions and sizes working to provide kiosks and in-app payment, then looking to delivery as the next step. Jordan Harrell, director of transportation and manager of foodservice technology for Ahoskie, N.C.-based Jernigan Oil Co. Inc., which operates 54 Duck Thru Food Stores, said the company has been working to install order kiosks at its sites that offer foodservice. Younger generations see this technology as increasingly important, Harrell said, but there’s been some pushback among older customers. The key has been training and communication. “We have a lot of people come in and say, ‘Well, I want to continue to talk to people.’ And we say, ‘We encourage you to continue talking to people,’” said Harrell. “We’re not putting this here to take anyone’s job. We’re putting it here to increase efficiency in the kitchen and to increase order accuracy. And it’s really done that.” 32


February 2020

The chain is now working on mobile ordering, with plans to roll out the feature in the first quarter of this year. “We’re trying to get our kiosks pushed out, hopefully by the end of 2020, and then we’ll also be working on our mobile ordering,” said Harrell. “Besides that, we just keep on trucking along with our kiosk install. It’s a big, big process.” Fortunately, it’s likely to pay off. Some 84% of fuel shoppers like the idea of pre-ordering items ahead of time or at the pump, according to Coca-Cola’s Pump-to-Purchase report. Cliff’s Thurston said the chain is looking at both in-app ordering as well as third-party delivery through Grubhub. It plans to begin testing the latter early this year. Delivery represents ‘peak convenience,’ and c-store chains like Casey’s, LaCrosse, Wis.-based Kwik Trip and Irving, Texas-based 7-Eleven are appealing to customers with the service. Some smaller chains see the cost of third-party delivery as a barrier. But to Thurston, it’s worth it. “I think it might open us up to a new clientele that we’re not getting — that person who doesn’t want to come into the convenience store,” he said, “because there’s still that stigma for some people. So if we can get our brand out there, to more people, then I’m willing to pay that cost to expand exposure and build our brand.” CSD



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Foodservice | Best Foodservice Launch Awards



Launch Awards CStore Decisions is recognizing Savannah, Ga.-based Parker’s and Fremont, Ohio-based FriendShip Stores for excellence in foodservice. Erin Del Conte • Executive Editor

WINNER: FriendShip Stores for FriendShip Famous Chicken, part of its FriendShip Kitchen brand and foodservice program.


Foodservice Launch



CStore Decisions is recognizing FriendShip Stores for a “Best Foodservice Launch” designation for its FriendShip Famous Chicken, a rapidly growing part of its new FriendShip Kitchen brand and foodservice program. Fremont, Ohio-based FriendShip debuted its new FriendShip Kitchen store and foodservice program in February 2020

April 2018, and it has been busy expanding the concept ever since. At press time, FriendShip, which operates 26 stores, had converted three existing locations to the FriendShip Kitchen brand and debuted three new-to-market FriendShip Kitchen stores. All six locations include full-service kitchens and FriendShip-branded proprietary products from the foodservice counter


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Foodservice | Best Foodservice Launch Awards

FriendShip receives fresh chicken several times per week and prepares it fresh right in the store, cooking it throughout the day. Customers can select from a range of options including chicken tenders and chicken sandwiches.

to the FriendShip-branded fuel in the forecourt. They also offer the chain’s signature food item, “FriendShip Famous Chicken.” An additional 11 FriendShip locations are now offering FriendShip Famous Chicken, but have yet to be remodeled to the FriendShip Kitchen signage and interior design. “When we do a full remodel of a store, it becomes a FriendShip Kitchen,” explained Ed Burcher, vice president of foodservice for FriendShip.


BACK IN 2017…

Three years ago, FriendShip committed to revamping its food program. “We had been operating foodservice programs through various supplier-branded programs for years,” explained Brian Beck, co-owner of Beck Suppliers, the parent company of FriendShip Stores. “We decided that we needed to take these years of learning and transition to 100% proprietary foodservice offering branded with the FriendShip Kitchen name.” Step one was converting its breakfast program to a FriendShip-branded proprietary offering. Today, in addition to traditional breakfast sandwiches on English muffins and freshly made biscuits, it features breakfast pizza and burritos. And, keeping with the theme of ‘famous for chicken,’ there is a Chicken Tender Biscuit and Chicken & Waffle sandwich. With breakfast in place, FriendShip turned its attention to launching its star program: FriendShip Famous Chicken. 36


February 2020

In June 2018, with the opening of its first newto-market FriendShip Kitchen location, FriendShip rolled out its proprietary hand-breaded chicken brand. The chicken is “fresh, never frozen,” and cooked in small batches. “We double-hand-bread our chicken, which makes it very crispy,” Burcher said. FriendShip partnered with a supplier to develop, test and select a unique spice blend that would best appeal to its customers. After success with its original chicken tenders, FriendShip debuted spicy chicken tenders in December 2018. “Those have become a significant portion of sales,” he said. Chicken sales were up double-digits year-over-year for 2019, Burcher noted. Today, the offering includes tenders, wings, bythe-piece chicken, large boxes of chicken and family meal deals. Rolling out to stores now is a FriendShip Chicken Sandwich and Spicy Chicken Sandwich, both made using the same seasoning blends as all FriendShip Famous Chicken.


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At press time, FriendShip, which operates 26 stores, had converted three existing locations to the FriendShip Kitchen brand and debuted three new-to-market FriendShip Kitchen stores. All six locations include full-service kitchens and FriendShip-branded proprietary products.

The chicken is prepared on-site. “We get fresh chicken in several times a week,” Burcher said. “We cook it throughout the day. There are fryers in every single store and display cases. We’re preparing the chicken fresh in our kitchens, so we can actually say we’re a kitchen versus others who have commissaries that bring in product.” Some 19 locations are currently offering pizza, and half have converted to FriendShip’s proprietary pizza program, which also rolled out in mid-2018. The plan is to complete the conversion of all stores to the FriendShip pizza program by mid-2020. The pizza is made in-store and is baked fresh. Slices and whole pies appeal to lunch guests, or those seeking a meal for dinner or an event. “Because we’re famous for chicken, our lead pizza products are our FriendShip chicken pizzas, including Buffalo Chicken Pizza and Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza,” Burcher said. TECH-FORWARD

FriendShip recently upgraded its mobile app and loyalty program, partnering with Paytronix. On the docket for 2020, the chain is eyeing mobile order-ahead solutions. “We spent the last 18 months gaining consistency in foodservice product, process, offer and equipment with just a little more to complete,” Burcher said. “In 2020, we’re going to be concentrating on those areas as well as using social media to further build our brand.” Placing the c-store brand right on the food it serves makes a difference, Burcher said. “The only place you can get FriendShip Famous Chicken is at FriendShip, and that is a big win, and our people know that, so they take pride in what they sell and what they prepare,” he said. “Our FriendShip hosts are truly the stars of our offer, and they are the key to our success. Our chicken is made with care and attention and served with care and attention by our hosts because it’s ours, and it’s got our name on it.” From a brand standpoint, Burcher pointed out that FriendShip is at the beginning of its proprietary foodservice journey compared to some c-store chains that have been at it for 20to 30-plus years. “It is exciting for us, and our customers and communities are excited about it, too.” 38


February 2020

FriendShip recently upgraded its mobile app and loyalty program, partnering with Paytronix. In 2020, it’s evaluating mobile order-ahead solutions.


Foodservice | Best Foodservice Launch Awards


WINNER: Parker’s for its Parker’s Kitchen Program

Savannah, Ga.-based Parker’s introduced its Parker’s Kitchen concept to the Charleston, S.C., region with the opening of its Moncks Corner, S.C., store in June 2019. Over the past seven months, the company has aggressively expanded and refined the Parker’s Kitchen program, as it added a fleet of new stores that incorporate the food-centric concept. Today, Parker’s operates 64 total locations in Georgia and South Carolina, including 41 Parker’s Kitchen stores. The chain plans to open 12 more Parker’s Kitchen stores in 2020. CStore Decisions is recognizing Parker’s with a “Best Foodservice Launch” designation for its Parker’s Kitchen concept. Parker’s Kitchen stores are committed to serving Southern-style comfort food, made from scratch daily in small batches using fresh ingredients. The offering includes a selection of breakfast, lunch and dinner items that look to take convenience store food to a new level. “All of our new stores are branded as Parker’s Kitchen and include our award-winning menu of Southern-inspired favorites as well as freshly brewed sweet tea, lemonade, fountain drinks with Chewy ice, bean-to-cup gourmet coffee and much more,” said Greg Parker, founder and CEO of Parker’s and Parker’s Kitchen. “As we continue to focus on foodservice, we will strategically rebrand select existing Parker’s locations into the Parker’s Kitchen concept where the store’s square footage allows.” Parker’s also stands out by using data to drive decision-making for the Parker’s Kitchen concept. “We’re using machine learning and innovative algorithms that incorporate a wide range of data to give us predictive analytics that help us make chicken tenders before the customer orders them to ensure that everything is as fresh as possible,” Parker said. “Our goal is for every chicken tender we sell to be cooked within 15 minutes of being delivered to the customer.”

Foodservice Launch

Parker’s Kitchen stores serve up Southern-style comfort food, made from scratch daily in small batches using fresh ingredients. The offering includes a selection of breakfast, lunch and dinner items, including family-sized meals for less than $20. 40


February 2020



Parker credits the chain’s emphasis on fresh food for Parker’s Kitchen’s success. “Our food program resonates with customers because we have an uncompromising commitment to quality and incredible attention to detail. Our customers know that when they stop by Parker’s Kitchen, they’ll enjoy exceptional customer service and fresh, delicious food. Every moment of every day, we’re focused on making sure that Parker’s Kitchen foodservice meets our high standards.” The chicken tenders, for example, are antibiotic-free, doublebreaded by hand and cooked “to perfection” every time. “They have the perfect crunch on the outside and hot, moist, juicy chicken on the inside. We care about quality — and it shows in everything we do,” Parker said. The menu also offers family-sized meals for less than $20, which include Southern-style chicken tenders or bone-in chicken, homestyle sides, yeast rolls and freshly brewed iced tea.

Parker’s is strategically rebranding select existing Parker’s locations into the Parker’s Kitchen concept where square footage allows. It is using data to drive decisions about its food offering and has partnered with UberEats, DoorDash, Waitr and Grubhub to offer food delivery.

cstoredecisions.com February 2020 • CSTORE DECISIONS


Foodservice | Best Foodservice Launch Awards

“Our Family Meals are incredibly popular, particularly for busy parents who want to pick up a delicious, satisfying, affordable meal that will appeal to kids of all ages,” Parker said. Parker’s Kitchen also features a complete breakfast offering including egg casserole and sausage-egg-and-cheese biscuits. TECH-FOCUSED

As part of the Parker’s Kitchen expansion, Parker’s extended its foodservice hours and added indoor dining sections and outdoor dining areas where space allowed. For guests who’d rather eat at home, Parker’s is incorpo-

rating technology to make foodservice more convenient. The chain has partnered with UberEats, DoorDash, Waitr and Grubhub to offer food delivery. “Our goal is to offer the fastest, most frictionless experience and the highest quality food, allowing our customers to fuel their cars as well as their appetites. We believe technology plays a key role in making foodservice more convenient than ever for our customers,” Parker said. Parker’s has also added food kiosks to expedite the ordering process. In 2020, Parker’s plans to add the order-ahead function to its mobile app, allowing Parker’s Kitchen customers to access the menu and place an order for pick-up right from their phone. “Today’s convenience store customers are more discriminating than ever,” Parker said. “They want fresh, fast, reasonably priced food that’s higher quality than what they might find at a quick-service restaurant. We’re focused on meeting the changing needs of today’s convenience store customers and on exceeding customer expectations, each and every day.” CSD

Parker’s has added food kiosks to expedite the ordering process. Later this year, Parker’s expects to add an orderahead function to its mobile app. 42


February 2020


Foodservice | Coffee




C-store retailers drive category excitement and enhance coffee sales with bean-to-cup dispensers.

Marilyn Odesser-Torpey • Associate Editor

Convenience store chains are realizing the benefits of bean-to-cup coffee dispensers that grind each cup to order as they look to emphasize their commitment to freshness, while also reducing labor and eliminating waste in the category. Last year, Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc.’s Circle K convenience chain rolled out its bean-to-cup Coffee on Demand program to 90% of its over 5,650 corporate stores across the U.S., according to Laurence Myre Leroux, the company’s global communications adviser. By December, more than 13,400 of the Schaerer Coffee Art Plus bean-to-cup machines had been placed in the stores. “Our ambition is to deliver the freshest cup of coffee, and with the bean-to-cup machines, we ensure the beans are ground fresh for each cup and brewed in under a minute,” Leroux said. Just as important as the actual freshness of each cup is the customer perception of freshness that bean-to-cup automatically lends to stores’ coffee offerings, noted Mark DiDomenico, director, customer solutions for Datassential research firm. 44


February 2020


fast facts: • Bean-to-cup coffee helps c-stores guarantee fresh, hot coffee available on demand, any time of day. • C-stores find bean-to-cup dispensers are easy for store associates to maintain. • Ensuring both coffee equipment and the surrounding coffee bar are clean and well maintained remains key in maintaining the perception of an upscale, quality offering.

Foodservice | Coffee

Pilot Flying J first introduced bean-to-cup coffee in 2017, and today it offers bean-to-cup coffee in 80% of its locations. The offering allows it to provide fresh, hot coffee on demand to customers at all times.

During Circle K’s pilot testing, several types of equipment got a trial run to allow the company to solicit feedback from customers and internal staff. Leroux described customer reaction to the Simply Great coffee as “very positive.” Circe K offers four core bean-to-cup coffee varieties as well as regional specialty blends. Limited-time offers are also introduced throughout the year. BREWED ON DEMAND

Pilot Flying J, which has a network of more than 900 retail and fueling locations in 44 states and six Canadian provinces, first introduced bean-to-cup coffee in 2017 and now offers it in more than 80% of its Pilot and Flying J locations, said Jimmy Fleming, the chain’s beverage category manager. The company is continuing to evaluate adding this offering to the remaining stores in its network. “Since it is brewed on demand, bean-to-cup guarantees that we have fresh, hot coffee available at all times. Secondary benefits include less waste and labor efficiencies,” Fleming noted. Most locations have two or three bean-to-cup machines offering up to five core coffee varieties plus one or two limited-time seasonal offers. ENTHUSIASTIC CUSTOMER RESPONSE

Des Moines, Iowa-based Kum & Go, which operates 400 c-stores in 11 states, has been featuring bean-to-cup coffee in its stores since summer of 2017 and constantly receives enthusiastic customer feedback on the program, reported Connie Kelehan, the c-store chain’s senior 46


February 2020

category manager, fountain beverages. Today, Kum & Go stores offer between two and four Schaerer Coffee Art C bean-to-cup coffee machines and provide six different varieties of bean-to-cup coffee, including limited-time offers every three to four months. “We know from surveying our customers prior to the change that their biggest complaint regarding coffee was the typical convenience store coffee was not always available and that it was not always hot and fresh. These problems have now been eliminated,” Kelehan said. “The elimination of waste is also an important benefit as we continue to seek out ways to reduce the impact on our environment.” Other advantages of the technology include reducing store complexity and labor in the coffee category, Kelehan explained. “Since we introduced bean-to-cup in our stores, we have found that our higher-volume stores now are able to keep up with demand, and that has increased sales,” she said. Customer feedback has assured Kum & Go management that the instructions for using the bean-to-cup technology is very intuitive and easy to understand. Last year, the company added a Spanish translation. Kelehan said the machines are very easy for store associates to maintain. Maintenance is also trackable, showing when the cleaning cycle has been completed. Making sure that the coffee equipment and surrounding area are kept clean and well maintained is still of the utmost importance, DiDomenico said. CSD




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Foodservice | Chef’s Corner

Overcoming Challenges in

C-Store Cooking When cooking in a small footprint, c-store chefs adapt by employing equipment that accomplishes multiple jobs in a small space. Erin Del Conte • Executive Editor

Convenience store chefs face the formidable challenge of creating high-quality, fresh food that appeals to a wide range of customer demographics, all inside a tiny footprint with limited equipment. CStore Decisions caught up with Kyle Lore, the corporate chef for Salt Lake City-based Maverik Convenience Stores, which operates more than 300 stores in 11 states, to find out how he got started in the c-store industry and the best practices he’s learned along the way. 48


February 2020


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Foodservice | Chef’s Corner

CStore Decisions (CSD): How long have you been the corporate chef at Maverik? What first attracted you to the position, and what do you like best about creating food for a c-store platform? Kyle Lore (KL): I have been with Maverik for five-and-a-half years. For chefs like myself, with long careers in many of the traditional channels, the opportunity to broadly change the way people eat and the balance of life are the primary drivers for choosing to work in convenience. Working in fine dining, even in a very successful restaurant, one may influence a few thousand people a month with the quality, sourcing and preparation of the ingredients. Here, we can focus on improving some simple ingredients, and we affect the diet and perception of c-store food for hundreds of thousands of people at a time. Good food just tastes better, and it should be accessible to everyone. I really enjoy creating a wholesome, simple recipe with good ingredients that cause positive reactions and advocacy with our customers when they respond by really loving the food and supporting the brand. CSD: What are the biggest challenges when cooking/preparing food in a convenience store? KL: The challenges of executing in the convenience store environment are mostly the same as everyone is experiencing in broader foodservice today with labor, technology, food safety, energy costs, supply chain, etc. I think the biggest challenge that is unique to us is overcoming the customers’ perception that convenience stores do not have good food. That is just wrong! CSD: What are some of the items you need to be able to cook/prepare at Maverik, and what kind of c-store equipment have you turned to for help in creating these products? 50


Kyle Lore has been the corporate chef at Maverik for five years. In that time, he’s learned the importance of testing anything new or changing, including products and equipment.

KL: We have several identity items that we are known for. Our baked goods, burritos and tacos, bundles (pastry-wrapped savory entrees that are handheld) and nugget ice in our fountains all have a following. We are also known for being spicy with robust condiment bars and bold flavors. Having a small footprint in comparison to traditional foodservice or retail, we must have equipment that accomplishes multiple jobs in a small space. Traditional gas-fueled restaurant equipment is too large and inefficient for our purposes. We use a combination of impingement ovens, convection ovens, induction technologies and a lot of field research and development to serve our customers in a time frame that is shorter than most quick-service restaurants. We are constantly working to improve our systems, procedures and technology to make that job easier on the store staff tasked with exceeding our customers’ expectations. CSD: What are some attributes you look for in c-store foodservice equipment? KL: Reliability, ease of operation, performance, return on investment, ongoing product support, to name a few off the top of my head. When we look at a new piece of equipment, we really try to put it through its paces. We want to see it function in the real-world environment it will experience daily. When equipment goes down in the stores, it is a huge obstacle for our employees accomplishing their goals and disrupts the customer’s experience.

February 2020

CSD: What do you wish you had known when you were first getting started in c-store foodservice? KL: I wish that I had a better understanding of the importance of testing. Anything new or changing; any product, equipment, procedure; any change we are going to make to the daily routine of our foodservice operations needs to be thoroughly tested and developed with support from the stores to be sure it will be successful. The diversity of the voices we listen to is in direct proportion to the success of a project. CSD: What else would you like us to know? KL: I love working with Maverik. We have a great culture, and we get to live and play in some of the most dramatic, beautiful landscapes of the American West. Long before I worked at Maverik, I was a chef at a very upscale guest ranch resort. I used to look forward to a break from the kitchen — with all types of gourmet food — so I could drive into town, sit in the sun at the picnic table at the local Maverik and have a Bahama Mama with spicy brown mustard and sauerkraut on a great potato bun — really simple but really good.

Kyle Lore, the corporate chef for Maverik, has been working in research and development within convenience and grocery retail in the Mountain West for 15-plus years. Prior, he spent many years as a fine dining executive chef and food and beverage director in destination resort hotels and free-standing restaurants.


Category Management | Confections

Candy Innovation’s

Sweet Tooth

Chocolate still melts the category, while confectioners blend form and flavor mashups to see what sticks.

Thomas Mulloy • Senior Editor

It’s a sweet time to be a candy consumer — and a candy retailer. “2019 was a great year for candy,” said Daniel Moran, category manager for Rotten Robbie’s 34 stores in Northern California. “We saw a 5.73% sales increase across our chain.” In 2019, candy sales at convenience stores increased by both dollar sales and volume in all segments, including chocolate, non-chocolate chewy candy and gum, according to the National Confectioners Association (NCA), using syndicated data from its partner, IRI Worldwide. “We’ve always done well with Haribo (gummy candy),” Moran said. “But this past year, we had some really strong growth with the brand, so we increased their space in our peg candy sets for 2020.” 52


February 2020




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Category Management | Confections

Candy innovation isn’t just about flavor. Standup bags entice sharing, while smaller bags and pieces appeal to more health-conscious consumers looking to limit sugar intake.

For all retail outlets combined, according to Nielsen scan data through Nov. 23, 2019, chocolate dollar sales rose a modest 2.4%. The gains were an improvement, though, after three years of fairly flat performance. For sheer numbers, chocolate is still king — in more ways than one. “Best-selling items are still the Reese’s (peanut butter cup) king size and Snickers king size,” said Cole Fountain, category manager at Gate Petroleum, which operates and supplies fuel for nearly 200 locations in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. “Although, Kinder Bueno has really come along fast; it will continue to gain traction.” Flavor innovations have been growing throughout the category, especially mashups of old-time classics combined with either new or proven flavors. “We also launched the Kit Kat Duo Mint here at the beginning of the year, and customers are buying them up fast as well,” said Fountain. “The neat thing is these are similar items with slightly different profiles.” Interesting combinations can appeal to specific demographics, not only with flavor innovation, but in packaging size and health appeal, too, according to NCA. “We’re also seeing more choice than ever before,

Hershey’s Kit Kat Duo Mint has done well with customers of Gate Petroleum’s stores in the Southeast U.S. 54


February 2020

Flavor mashups in an array of familiar and novel combinations lead the reasons why consumers say they’re eating more confections. with certain products gaining popularity based on the demographics they appeal to,” noted Carly Schildhaus, public affairs manager, NCA. “For example, millennials have a propensity to purchase non-chocolate items (especially chewy products) and enjoy extreme flavor combinations. Innovation also includes offering smaller pack sizes of treats consumers know and love in an effort to help them manage their sugar intake.” That echoes a 2018 Mintel Group study that confirmed these flavor and package innovation preferences: “The role of flavor innovation in encouraging category participation is clear, with 63% of respondents who have increased their consumption crediting a better selection of flavors,” reported the Mintel “Non-chocolate Confectionery – US” study. Desire for better pack sizes registered second at 51% and better textures third at 38%. cstoredecisions.com




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Category Management | Confections

fast facts: • New forms and flavors add excitement to longtime candy classics. • Health-conscious consumers seek guilt-free indulgence.

Just ask Moran. Packaging matters. “While our inline candy represents the bulk of our candy category sales, we’ve seen over 15% growth within peg candy specifically,” Moran said. For 2020, Rotten Robbie plans to capitalize on that trend and expand peg sets where possible. “Looking ahead to 2020, the future is bright for the candy aisle in c-stores,” the NCA reported. “Much of this can be attributed to growth in the segment.” MERCHANDISING MATTERS

To Fountain, superior execution involves thinking like a customer. “We’ve added an everyday multiple that’s still a good bargain for our customers,” Fountain said. “We’ve also continued to expand stand-up pouches and, lastly, tried to be a little more strategic on secondary displays and points of distribution to help customers find candy in different parts of the store other than the main inline section.” There’s no getting around it — people like to treat themselves. Candy may be the most affordable and easiest way to do that. That makes candy a sweet proposition. CSD

Still, as consumers look for a bargain, retailers would be wise to help them find it. Gate Petroleum is taking advantage of its supplier partnerships to more effectively put the right product in front of the right consumers. “We are moving to the strike We’ve added an everyday mulzone optimization that Hershey has tiple that’s still a good barpresented,” said Fountain. “I think sometimes you have to move the gain for our customers. We’ve furniture around the house to let also continued to expand customers see a different view, but it also pulls higher-recognized stanstand-up pouches and, lastly, dard bars up in the set to be more tried to be a little more strategic easily shopped.” Moran attributed Rotten Robbie’s on secondary displays and points of distribution 2019 success to dialed-in promotional to help customers find candy in different parts of planning, an organized display calthe store other than the main inline section. endar and good execution/inventory management at the store level. — Cole Fountain, category manager, Gate Petroleum



February 2020


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Category Management | Tobacco


Rock While

Cigars Roll

Whether an old classic or the latest rage, adult tobacco lovers are indulging. Thomas Mulloy • Senior Editor

E-cigarettes and vape made a lot of noise — and a lot of money — in 2019, while cigars quietly rolled along in steady fashion befitting their staid, classic profile. “Cigars, the sticks, are up,” said Tim Greene, category director with Smoker Friendly, which has 105 stores across Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska and Florida. “The unit volume is up, but the sales numbers or sales dollars in margins are relatively flat.” Cigars quietly gained in unit sales over the past four years, growing at 8.3%, with dollar sales up 6.6% for the same period, according to Nielsen. “Promotion activity is heavy in large cigars, and that really has helped to attract a lot of consumer attention to that category and has helped it to grow,” said Don Burke, senior vice president at data management and analytics firm Management Science Associates (MSA), which tracks 58


February 2020

sales in about 400,000 retail sites across the U.S. E-cigarette dollar sales rose a hefty 56.9% in the 52 weeks ending Nov. 23, 2019, a jump that pales compared to the previous 52 weeks’ 155.1% leap. “What we’ve seen in 2019 is that cartridges, disposables, kits are all growing across almost every class of trade. Convenience was very strong in terms of cartridge sales,” Burke said. Look no further than Smoker Friendly to confirm that trend. “We finished (2019) strong on vape,” Greene said. “January is soft, but we’re always soft in January, and … I would anticipate that we’ll have a solid January leading up to the flavor ban.”



The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced Jan. 2 that it will ban flavored pods from small, cartridge-based e-cigarettes because they claim the sweet, fruity flavors appeal to high schoolers. Only tobaccoflavored and menthol cartridges will be legal nationwide. At press time, enforcement was to begin 30 days from the announcement. The flavor ban applies to flavored pods but exempts larger, more expensive specialty devices that use a tank-based system that users fill with their chosen flavor. The new rules are causing confusing for customers and retailers alike. “It’s hard for our clerks to understand it,” said Dyson Williams, director of merchandising for Dandy Mini Marts’ 65 stores in New York and

Top: Smoker Friendly offers an entire store of shelves featuring tobacco and nicotine products, as well as accesories of all kinds. Above: one of the cigar lounges that have become a standard of Smoker Friendly outlets.


February 2020 •



Category Management | Tobacco


The new federal mandate for a 21 minimum age to purchase tobacco will hurt sales initially, but it isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

You go back to the basics. You make sure you have inventory on the stuff that sells, obviously. You introduce new products where you can, and you just do a really good job with customer service, and hopefully you grow your market share as far as the customers go.

Pennsylvania. “Some of the customers understand it, but it’s hard to communicate with the ones that don’t. It just seems like it’s the category in need of regulation. The government needs to step in and clearly define more things.” Burke shared a similar observation. “2020 will be an interesting year for the vape category and particularly convenience,” Burke said, “because we will need to understand what items are continuing to sell and what aren’t.” Ultimately, that will determine what vape products are carried and where they are sold.

- Tim Greene, category director, Smoker Friendly

“We’ve done research on what happens when the purchase age increases from 18 to 21,” Burke said, “and, in most cases, we’ve seen a 1% to a 1.5% decline in cigarette sales because of that age increase.” For Williams and Dandy Mini Marts, the national age standard removes the scattershot patchwork of Tobacco 21 state and local laws. “It made it easier in the state of New York for us because several counties had already gone to 21,” Williams said. “At least, we can make the whole state and the whole company 21 now.” Williams hinted that it’s not necessarily the governmental regulation that’s a problem; it’s a lack of consistency and a constantly shifting playing field that frustrates retailers’ efforts to do business. For Tim Greene and Smoker Friendly, the way to cut through the fog is to keep on top of sound business practices. “You go back to the basics,” said Greene. “You make sure you have inventory on the stuff that sells, obviously. You introduce new products where you can, and you just do a really good job with customer service, and hopefully you grow your market share as far as the customers go.” CSD

fast facts: • Cigars quietly gain sales in otherwise flat category. • Despite uncertainty, e-cigarettes show robust sales.



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1/17/20 11:57 AM

Technology | Loyalty

Getting Personal with

Loyalty Programs

Personalization, ease of use and communication help drive loyalty program success. Brad Perkins • Contributing Editor

Just as mobile apps have replaced punch cards in wallets and plastic cards on key rings, loyalty programs have evolved from simple “buy 10, get one free” models to sophisticated marketing programs that are able to determine when people will visit, how often and what they’ll buy. Personalized offers are a key differentiator. Personalization and the need for data-driven individualized reward member experiences have been important pieces of the ‘loyalty’ conversation for years; however, Bond U.S.’s “The Loyalty Report 2019” pointed out “a striking gap” exists between intent and actions. It found only two in 10 rewards members were satisfied with the level of personalization in their loyalty program. In other words, brands aren’t implementing the data they collect effectively or at all. “Effective communication drives the level of personalization within a program,” the report said. 62


February 2020


fast facts: • Effective communication is a key ingredient in personalizing the loyalty experience. • Collecting and effectively implementing data are two crucial steps in creating a loyalty program personalized to each customer.

Research firm Nielsen, in its “7 Important Factors That Will Shape The Future of Convenience Retail” report, noted meeting customers where they are and understanding what they want is vital to not only the success of a loyalty program, but of a brand. “C-store loyalty plans will mature past implementation of simple reward programs,” the report said. “Advanced programs will emerge, appealing to the emotional side of the consumer through enjoyable experiences.” PERFECTING PERSONALIZATION

Today, many convenience stores are expanding the use of personalization and customization in their rewards programs and working to better communicate with customers through mobile apps, as well as online and in-store. “We’ve ramped up our efforts to look at checkcstoredecisions.com

level detail and designed 1:1 marketing offers,” said Anita Bichsel, senior marketing manager at Break Time Convenience Stores, which operates 74 stores in Missouri and Arkansas. “We’ve had campaigns that have resulted in 25% increases in customer spend.” But to get there, you have to start by building a program. In 2016, Break Time began working with a third-party partner to build a program that moved away from the legacy punch card program focused on fuel, drinks and sandwiches. It launched MyRewards in 2017 with fuel rewards, which it still uses as the enticement to join, offering 10 cents off per gallon for the first month. February 2020 • CSTORE DECISIONS


Technology | Loyalty

“Even if that discount is the only reason they register that card, during that first 30 days, we can (entice) them in other areas,” she said. “They can recognize other advantages to being in the program.” By expanding the offerings to include both fuel and in-store purchases, offering in-store exclusives as partnerships with vendors, enlisting employees to use and promote the program, and integrating the program into its app, Break Time not only saw increases at its pumps, but now has more than 132,000 registered MyTime Rewards users in less than three years. MOBILE COMMUNICATION

That activity mirrors what’s happening Source: Bond U.S. , “The Loyalty Report 2019” across the industry. According to PDI’s “2019 C-Store Shopper Report,” nearly three-fourths of U.S. c-store retailers surveyed said they have a loyalty program, and 47% use personalized messages in programs. Customers also want ease of commuand track points and pizza purchases. The new nication, with 52% of members wanting to use a rewards program offers members at Casey’s more mobile app for tracking or redeeming rewards. It than 2,000 c-stores in 16 states the ability to earn also showed that two-thirds of members engage points on everyday purchases and redeem them for with the program at least once a week. Casey’s Cash, fuel discounts or donate to a local Last month, Ankeny, Iowa-based Casey’s General school of their choice. Stores introduced Casey’s Rewards, its first loyalty Customers can earn 10 points for every dollar program. The Casey’s mobile app is at the center they spend on eligible purchases online, in-store or of the rewards program, where customers can order over the phone, plus five points per gallon of gas pizza, gain access to special offers and discounts, purchased. For every 10 large pizzas purchased, they get one free. Customers who are less inclined to use a mobile app can instead opt to enter their phone number to earn points in-store, at the pump or when they call to order. For Break Time, offering ease of communication meant integrating the loyalty program into its app, Bond U.S.’s “The Loyalty Report 2019” surveyed allowing customers to have three ways to see and over 55,000 consumers across more than 900 loyalty use rewards points. programs in more than 20 markets. By using target and control campaigns, Break 22% of rewards Rewards members agree, the loyalty Time is able to target many different kinds of members polled program interacts with me … customers. It plans to increase 1:1 offers this year, were ‘very satisfied’ 25% especially in foodservice. And it aims to entice custhrough the right channels with the level of tomers to stay at the top rewards levels. at the right place personalization in 22% “We have some customers who visit us 50, 60, 70 22% at the right moments the program. times a month,” Bichsel said. “The top rewards level holds a great deal of importance to our customers. 22% with the right messages They do not want to fall below 20 visits per month Source: Bond U.S., “The Loyalty Report 2019” and lose their status and those rewards.” CSD

Measuring Loyalty Program Effectiveness



February 2020



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Operations | Best Store Design Awards


Store Design


C-store design plays an important role in attracting shoppers and communicating a chain’s overall brand message. CStore Decisions is recognizing two c-store chains raising the bar on design. Erin Del Conte • Executive Editor

CStore Decisions is recognizing two convenience store chains for excellence in design. The Best Store Design Award winners are Dandy Mini Marts for its Wysox, Pa., c-store in the restored Piollet Mansion, and R.H. Foster’s Freshies concept, which it seamlessly carries across a range of new-to-industry stores and legacy footprints. On the pages that follow, we detail the winning designs. WINNER: Dandy Mini Marts for Wysox Dandy c-store and the revitalization of Piollet Mansion.


Store Design Award



It’s not every day a company builds a convenience store in a century-old mansion, but in 2019, Sayre, Pa.-based Dandy Mini Marts put its design acumen to the test with an aggressive mansion restoration project. CStore Decisions is recognizing Dandy Mini Marts with a “Best Store Design Award” designation for this historic revitalization of the 150-year-old Piollet Mansion in Wysox, Pa., which February 2020

now houses its Wysox convenience store. The c-store opened to the public in March 2019, melding modern touches with local history. The renovation of the original mansion structure was completed in time for a grand re-opening celebration on Oct. 26. “The revitalization of the Piollet Mansion and the Wysox Dandy is one of the proudest moments we’ve had as a company,” said Dandy President Randy Williams during the grand re-opening event. “Our team worked


• Effective communication is a key ingredient in personalizing the loyalty experience. • Collecting and effectively implementing data are two crucial steps in creating a loyalty program personalized to each customer.

with an incredible group of partners and contractors to painstakingly renovate this building to the highest level.” Victor Piollet originally built the Piollet Family Mansion in 1872, and it housed the Piollet family until the 1930s. The Piollet family played a key role in politics, the railroad and Bradford County’s early development. In the years that followed, a local veterinarian purchased the facility; then Fulmer’s Shopping Center, and later, the Wysox General Store. The mansion’s exterior still features the original painted name for posterity, explained Bill Bustin, marketing director of Dandy Mini Marts Inc., which operates 65 c-stores in Pennsylvania and New York. The building also endured periods of degradation and

abandonment when it wasn’t being operated as a business. Enter Dandy Mini Marts, which recognized an opportunity to restore the old building and use it to house a modern convenience store. “The driving force behind the design, and the entire project as a whole, was to simply be a good steward for the local community,” Bustin said. “Dandy prioritized the connection that generations of residents and travelers in the Wysox and Towanda area had with this building. We relied on local craftsmen and partners who brought this building back to life because they deeply cared for the project, working long hours and paying the finest attention to detail.”

Top photo and bottom right: Dandy Mini Marts’ Wysox, Pa., c-store opened in 2019 in the restored Piollet Mansion. The c-store features a modern look and feel and includes images of the Piollet Mansion and turn-of-the-century Towanda and Wysox, Pa., above the coolers. Bottom left: This is the view looking up at the cupola in the restored mansion section of the building from the floor of the center of the atrium/ museum room; the chandelier is visible in the center.

cstoredecisions.com February 2020 • CSTORE DECISIONS


Operations | Best Store Design Awards

Left: The foyer previously featured two grand staircases. Middle: Dandy removed multiple floors from the foyer, so it’s now open overhead. Right: The Atrium was restored to its original state and now includes historical images of turn-of-the-century Towanda and Wysox, Pa.


As part of the redesign, Dandy constructed an addition to the original building, which now holds most of the new Dandy Mini Mart, including its kitchen, coolers and shelves. The beer cave, seating area, store offices and restrooms are located in what would have been the original Piollet Mansion. The Wysox Dandy features a specialty drink program with hot and iced made-to-order lattes, macchiatos and cappuccinos, along with frozen beverages like frappes, mochas and smoothies. It also features beanto-cup coffee dispensers. Foodservice plays a big role, with help from a panini press and a four-foot flat-top grill for cooking cheesesteaks and burgers.

“We have also included two clusters of selfordering kiosks and three digital display screens that broadcast our menu and food promotions in the store,” Bustin said. MANSION RESTORATION

The building includes an atrium room with an open view above that extends straight to the windowed cupola beyond the fourth floor. “That was actually the original design,” Bustin said. “At some point in the 20th century, floor joists and plywood flooring were added to the two floors above the atrium room, which Dandy then removed to restore the soaring atrium to its original state.” The atrium is open to the public and serves as a Piollet family museum with dozens of photos, news articles and framed portraits. The Bradford County Historical Society assisted with the restoration. “The Bradford County Historical Society worked with our team to identify and digitally scan more than 100 images of the Piollet Mansion and turn-of-thecentury Towanda and Wysox, Pa., from the society’s archives,” Bustin said. “These images were used for a multitude of purposes, including large-format framed portraits that are hung above the coolers in the modern convenience store, smaller images that

Flooring from the second floor was removed and repurposed into signage in the c-store, most notably above the beer cave. 68


February 2020





Operations | Best Store Design Awards

Dandy constructed an addition to the original building, which now holds most of the new Dandy Mini Mart, including its kitchen, coolers and shelves. The beer cave, seating area, store offices and restrooms are located in the original Piollet Mansion.

are framed and hung in our atrium room, and as postcards available for purchase at the store — of which a portion of the sales will be donated back to the historical society.” Dandy also removed multiple floors outside the atrium room in what used to be a foyer that had two grand staircases on either side. It added a dining area with seating for guests that’s open above — all the way to the ceiling of the fourth floor. After removing the staircases, the header beams that supported those staircases were repurposed to create a 15-foot bar in the dining area. The building received energy-efficient upgrades, including new windows. Dandy also worked to preserve elements from the original mansion, including restoring original doorway moldings, exposing

more original interior brick and adding new walls with original exterior brick. It also restored sections of original wainscoting, multiple doors, and door and window casings. Flooring from the second floor was repurposed into signage in the c-store, most notably above the beer cave. At press time, Dandy was still finishing the Community Room on the first floor, which will be available to local community organizations, government agencies and school groups to reserve time to host meetings or events. “The Dandy team and its partners took ownership of a significant piece of local history to create a beautiful, welcoming environment, and we’re proud that it’s now a symbol of historic restoration and modern use,” Bustin said.

The former foyer that housed the two grand staircases now acts as a dining area and features ample seating for c-store foodservice guests. After removing the staircases, the header beams that supported those staircases were repurposed to create a 15-foot bar in the dining area. 70


February 2020


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Operations | Best Store Design Awards

WINNER: R.H. Foster’s for Freshies


Store Design Award

What began as a proprietary deli program developed into a convenience store banner and branding strategy for Hampden, Maine-based R.H. Foster’s Freshies. CStore Decisions is recognizing Freshies for excellence in design for its Freshies c-store concept and the way it implements the design across a range of legacy footprints and new builds, while maintaining consistency by staying true to core elements.


It all started in 2003 in Maine. R.H. Foster observed the headwinds in the c-store industry at the time, such as dwindling tobacco sales and declining fuel margins, and recognized that it needed to be forwardthinking to maximize its future success. It identified an opportunity to grow sales by building a fresh-and-healthy proprietary deli program at its On the Run convenience stores, said Brenda Gerow, executive manager, for R.H. Foster. In 2004, the chain launched Freshies deli, which it rolled out across its fleet of On the Run stores. At the time, the deli area of each store and the c-store section featured completely different looks. Over time, R.H. Foster sought a cohesive design for its locations. R.H. Foster partnered with design firm Paragon Solutions in 2014 and began discussing how to pull the Freshies concept across the entire store. The challenge was considerable given that the chain operated a range of legacy locations in various shapes and sizes. The move meant a combination of raze and rebuilds, extensive renovations and light refreshes, depending on location. In 2015, R.H. Foster rebranded its convenience stores as Freshies and began converting all locations to the new banner and design. Today, Freshies operates 16 locations with a goal of expansion in the near future. At Freshies delis, food is all made fresh daily on-site. R.H. Foster committed to tying fresh and healthy food — a key passion and focus for the brand — into each element of the Freshies convenience store design, including the color scheme. “We recognized that food was the way of the future, and we wanted Freshies to be meaningfully unique,” Gerow said.

R.H. Foster looks to carry its passion for fresh and healthy into each element of its Freshies c-store design. Its bigger stores, like the Ellsworth location pictured here, feature big beer caves, upscale restrooms, fresh foodservice and more. 72


February 2020




Freshies new builds typically span 5,000-6,500 square feet. The bigger stores feature larger restrooms, more gondolas and cooler doors and new big beer caves compared to smaller locations. Some legacy sites received beer caves during the remodel, and a second restroom, if they previously only had one. Freshies’ Ellsworth c-store location opened in 2016 and stands out at 5,000 square feet with high ceilings, upscale restrooms featuring touchfree fixtures, and open-air cooler cases featuring freshly made salads and sandwiches prepared on-site. Upscale food offerings include items such as an avocado-baconranch or caprese salads. Fresh-prepared pizza and salads are also available made to order.

Freshie’s Ellsworth location opened in 2016. From the tomato watermark on the store’s exterior to the made-to-order salads and sandwiches and quality coffee it serves inside, Freshies sends a message that it cares about fresh food.

cstoredecisions.com February 2020 • CSTORE DECISIONS


Operations | Best Store Design Awards


Meanwhile, the chain’s Newport location, a legacy location, underwent a renovation in 2019, reopening to the public last May. Given that the store itself only spanned 2,800 square feet, Freshies had several challenges to overcome in creating the Newport version of the design. “It’s a feat,” Gerow noted, “taking a design like Freshies and implementing it into a small footprint and keeping all the key branding elements from the open-air cooler case to the madeto-order salad area where customers can watch their salads being made fresh, and all the design signals that say ‘fresh and healthy’ to customers.” But creating brand standards helped Freshies ensure each store provided continuity when it came to major branding elements. “It may be a smaller version, but it’s there. All the colors are there. All the branding is there,” Gerow said. One challenge was ensuring it could include all necessary equipment in the smaller footprint. The chain worked with its open-air cooler case designer to create a custom-sized version to fit the location. The Newport store’s exterior looks similar to other stores in terms of colors, siding and branding elements, though it does not feature exterior stonework like the larger Ellsworth location. All Freshies store exteriors feature a green color and red gooseneck lighting. In Newport, that green color is found in the awning, while in Ellsworth, it appears as a green band at the top of the tower. All stores also feature Freshies’ tomato watermark. At the Ellsworth location, it appears on a flat angled panel, while in Newport, it’s on the awning. Today, when customers walk into a Freshies, the c-store section features a red-and-blue color scheme, and the foodservice section attracts with green — which conveys ‘fresh and healthy,’ and yellow to signal ‘high energy,’ but the entire site offers a cohesive look. “We made sure all the pieces (of the design) came with us,” Gerow said. “They might have just been displayed in a different way.” CSD

Despite a smaller footprint, Newport Freshies incorporates all key elements of the design, including the trademark green coloring and tomato watermark through its awning. Inside, all major branding and colors are carried through, right down to a specialty-sized open-air cooler. 74


February 2020


CStoreDecisions.com is geared toward C-Store retailers, convenience store suppliers, and distributors looking to stay abreast of industry trends, new product offerings and category management best practices.

CStoreDecisions .com Making Connections that Drive Business

We use the latest media technology, delivering content the way you want it: print issues, digital issues, enewsletters, and videos. Use CStoreDecisions.com to help you strengthen your peer network with social engagement through Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, and Google+. Browse, bookmark, share and interact with the most relevant industry content and people in the market.

Thank you to our Key Partners: Little Debbie products are the sales leader*. In fact, 4.4 million Little Debbie products are sold every day – that’s 51 every second for more cash-register-ringing action. Plus, now we’ve removed suggested pricing from the packaging, maximizing your profit opportunities. To learn more, call (800) 315-6208 or visit LittleDebbieCStore.com. Little Debbie products are sold DSD by wholesale distributors. *Nielsen ScanTrack, Convenience Stores channel of trade, 52 weeks ending June 30, 2018, unit sales.




Blended Coffee Line

CBD University Podcast Global Widget LLC, the manufacturer and distributor behind the powerhouse CBD product lines, Hemp Bombs, Nature’s Script and Pure Paws Hemp, has announced its CBD University Podcast. Now available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, SoundCloud and other national platforms, the podcast is a one-stop shop for all CBD information and education for you and your staff. The latest topics, news, trends and advice will help you succeed in taking advantage of the growth in the CBD marketplace. Subscribe today, and watch the full video on YouTube.

Global Widget LLC

Apple Podcasts: https://apple.co/379epSl Google Podcasts: http://bit.ly/33Su8mH Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2XphObi YouTube: http://bit.ly/2Ob8Nyc

Peet’s Blended Coffee, a new line of four ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages, includes Chocolate Truffle, Caramel Dulce, Vanilla Crème and Coffee & Cream. Each flavor is made with 100% single-origin Colombian coffee, real cream, real sugar, and comes in a 13.7-ounce glass bottle with a suggested retail price (SRP) of $2.99 to $3.49.

Peet’s Coffee www.peets.com

PineappleFlavored Soda Bright, bubbly and instantly refreshing, Fanta Pineapple is a caffeine-free, pineapple-flavored soda with 100% natural flavors. Fanta Pineapple is available on fountain and in 20-ounce plastic bottles.

The Coca-Cola Co.


Spicy Dill Pickle Almonds Blue Diamond announced the latest expansion to its line of BOLD Snack Almonds with the launch of Spicy Dill Pickle. Available beginning in March 2020, this latest innovation is a pairing of dill and spicy garlic that harkens back to a fan-favorite snack and barbecue or picnic side dish. With a balance of savory, spicy and sour seasoning, Spicy Dill Pickle leaves taste buds reveling in tangy saltiness. The upcoming launch of Spicy Dill Pickle expands the depth of complex, delicious flavors of Blue Diamond Almonds. The suggested retail price (SRP) is $3.49 for six-ounce cans and 99 cents for 1.5-ounce tubes.

Blue Diamond Growers

www.bluediamond.com 76


February 2020



Individually Wrapped Sandwich Cookies Rich’s Individually Wrapped Sandwich Cookies come in both chocolate chip cookies and sugar cookies with rainbow sprinkles. Sweet, smooth, buttercream icing is sandwiched between two soft cookies with chocolate chips or sprinkles covering the sides. The cookies arrive fully baked, individually wrapped, pre-labeled and ready to grab and go by the register or bakery display. With a 21-day refrigerated/ambient shelf life, the indulgent sandwich cookies are available in a 12-count display case. The suggested retail price (SRP) is $1.99.

Rich Products Co.


Peanut Butter Packs The makers of SKIPPY peanut butter announced the launch of SKIPPY individual squeeze packs — the SKIPPY peanut butter and natural peanut butter spread customers love, now in a convenient, individual squeeze packet. Great as a topping or simply by itself, SKIPPY individual squeeze packs provide a convenient, protein-packed snack for any snacking occasion. The squeeze packs are currently available with SKIPPY Creamy peanut butter or SKIPPY Natural Creamy peanut butter spread. Additionally, each serving contains seven grams of protein.

Organic Eggs Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs introduces its two-count Hard Boiled Eggs. Pete and Gerry’s partners with over 50 small family farmers across the country to produce USDA Organic Certified and Certified Humane Free Range eggs. The company believes that organic, free-range egg farming is better for you, better for the environment and better for small farms. Pete and Gerry’s farmers work hard to raise happy, healthy hens that produce the highest-quality eggs.

Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs


Probiotic Smoothies Hiland Dairy has introduced a new fruit and probiotic smoothie in seven fresh flavors. The drinkable yogurt is packaged in a seven-ounce bottle, offering delicious nutrition on the go. The smoothie is available in five traditional flavors, strawberrybanana, peach, piña colada, strawberry and mango, and two contemporary flavors, guanábana and pecan cereal. The new Hiland Dairy Probiotic Smoothie provides live and active cultures, six grams of protein, 14% daily fiber, as much calcium as a glass of milk, and the delicious fresh flavor you expect from Hiland Dairy. The suggested retail price (SRP) is 99 cents per seven-ounce smoothie.

Hormel Foods Corp.


Hiland Dairy Foods Co.

www.hilanddairy.com cstoredecisions.com

February 2020 • CSTORE DECISIONS



Caribbean Ginger Beer Based on a custom blend of the highest-quality international gingers, other natural flavorings, just the right amount of carbonation to make it “pop” in mixed drinks or straight up, and 100% cane sugar, Hank’s Caribbean Recipe Ginger Beer is formulated to take the market by storm. This entry into the booming flavor category has no artificial flavors, colorings, preservatives or sweeteners. Hank’s new Ginger Beer comes in its long-neck, amber, 12-ounce bottles. It premieres with new distinctive packaging that features the familiar Hank’s broad oval logo set on a textured, ‘linen-look,’ limited-edition label that’s designed to leap off the shelf.

Hank’s Gourmet Beverages


Portion-Controlled Dispenser Server Products is officially offering the new ProPortion Dispenser for purchase. Customers are able to choose from a single- or triple-tip ProPortion Dispenser. Each unit comes with color-coded valves and portion tabs. The valves are available in small, medium and large options for dispensing different viscosities. And the six color-coded portion tabs come in 1/4-, 1/3-, 1/2-, 2/3-, 3/4- and one-ounce sizes. To increase food safety, the ProPortion has an elevated bottom that prevents the dispensing tip from coming into contact with preparation surfaces in the kitchen, reducing the risk of cross-contamination.

Server Products Corp.


Novelty Candy Fan CandyRific is expanding its line with Disney Frozen 2 characters with fans, light and sound wands, fanimation fans, gummy boxes and new packaging on its snow globe. For the fanimation fans, CandyRific has used brand-new technology that allows you to have an animated LED show right in your hand. This new candy novelty fan changes due to the light turning on and off as it spins. Each fan and wand contains .53 ounces of assorted fruit flavored dextrose candies (natural flavors and colors) and .28 ounces of candies in the Fanimation Fans. The suggested retail price (SRP) is $4.99 for Fans and Light and Sound Wands, and $5.99 for Fanimation Fans. Ships six, 12-count displays per case of Fans, Light and Sound Wands, and four, 12-count displays per case Fanimation Fans.

Jelly Bean Packaging Jelly Belly Candy Co. presents a new look for packages of Jelly Belly jelly beans inspired by the epic Star Wars saga. Not one, but two 2.8-ounce grab-and-go bags in this line celebrate the iconic droids. BB-8 already has a popular graband-go bag, and now a C-3PO and R2-D2 bag will join the collection. Each bag features a flavor lineup of Jelly Belly jelly beans inspired by the droid’s color scheme. Additionally, four different designs including character art of Kylo Ren, Chewbacca, BB-8 and R2-D2, are now featured on one-ounce bags. Three different designs featuring BB-8, Chewbacca and Stormtrooper character art are available on new one-ounce tins.

Jelly Belly Candy Co.

(800) 323-9380 • www.jellybelly.com


www.candyrific.com 78


February 2020



Merchandising Refrigerators, Freezers The Phononic F200 freezer and Phononic C200 refrigerator enable retailers to completely reimagine how and where fresh and frozen foods are made available to customers. Retailers can leverage this technology to redesign in-store layouts, improve product placement and offer a wider variety of fresh, seasonal foods throughout the store. Additionally, c-stores can capitalize on shopper impulse buys by offering more popular grab-and-go items directly at the point of sale. Phononic’s semiconductor technology uses only lowpressure CO2 and water to cool and freeze, rather than harmful refrigerants found in compressor-based incumbents.



White Chocolate Bar The SNICKERS Brand reintroduced a favorite twist on its iconic chocolate bar with SNICKERS White. SNICKERS White features the same delicious ingredients of the beloved bar — including the same peanuts, nougat and caramel — but fully covered in rich, white chocolate. The variety, previously only sold for a limited time, returns to shelves as a permanent addition to the SNICKERS portfolio in Single (1.41 ounces) and Share (2.84 ounces) sizes.

Mars Inc.


Multi-Setting LED Troffer LSI Industries has introduced a new, multisetting LED lensed troffer to its OPT series of recessed luminaires. This high-efficiency product gives customers the ability to adjust the fixture’s color temperature and wattage — allowing them to customize the illumination in different areas of their facilities. Customers can select up to three different options for both color temperature and wattage, giving them a total of nine different light settings from a single fixture. This gives employers significant flexibility to enhance individual work areas, increase employee safety and conserve energy. LSI’s new multi-setting LED troffers feature durable, impact-resistant lenses that eliminate bright spots and create comfortable, visually-appealing spaces.

LSI Industries Inc.


Kombucha Flavors KÖE Kombucha is adding two new flavors — Strawberry Lemonade and Lemon Lime — to its product line and introducing a new formula. KÖE’s new formula has 35 calories and eight grams of sugar per 12-ounce can. It balances fruit-forward flavor with organic sweetness from Stevia and Erythritol. The brand also revamped its product labels to reflect the latest betterfor-you recipe. All of KÖE’s flavors will integrate the updated formula. All varieties are USDA Organic, Non-GMO Project verified, vegan, gluten free, Kosher certified and non-alcoholic.

KÖE Kombucha

www.drinkkoe.com cstoredecisions.com

February 2020 • CSTORE DECISIONS


Classifieds/Ad Index ADD Systems




800.922.0972 www.go.addsys.com/build 888.207.4588 / www.blu.com

CB Distributors


Chester’s International


888.824.3256 / www.cbprices.com 800.646.9403 www.chestersinternational.com

Delorio Foods

800.649.7612 / www.deiorios.com

DirectTV for Business 855.656.6930

5-hour Energy

866.960.1700 www.5hourenergy.com/trade100


727.449.2296 / www.gulfcoast.com


888.815.8460 / www.hatcocorp.com



North American Bancard


Home Market Foods


Perfetti Van Melle




Prairie City Bakery


Hunt Brothers Pizza


Ruiz Foods


Solari Hemp

19 47


800.367.8325 / www.HomeMarketFoods.com www.hoshizakiamerica.com

800.453.3675 / www.huntbrotherspizza.com/csd

J.M. Smucker Company 28 13 20-21

15, 25




www.pcbakery.com www.ruizfoods.com

888.384.7333 / www.solarihemp.com



Sunny Sky Products

Krispy Krunchy


Swedish Match

www.juul.com 800.290.6097 / www.krispykrunchy.com

Little Debbie

800.315.6208 / www.LittleDebbieCStore.com


866.481.4604 / www.nynab.com




84 27

800.874.9720 / www.swisher.com



Texas Pete

McLane Company


U.S. Smokeless Tobacco

www.mars.com www.flyguyspizza.com/program


800.367.3677 / www.zyn.com







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February 2020 • CSTORE DECISIONS



Developing Multicultural Strategies Today’s culinary landscape is evolving, driven by demographic changes and millennial and Gen Z influences. Savvy c-store retailers are using data to understand and target new customers. Suzy Silliman and John Harman

As the demographic landscape continues to evolve and multicultural segments represent the growth among the U.S. population, there is no longer one single persona that typifies the American consumer from a sales and marketing perspective. Because of this, developing multicultural strategies and tactics for consumer goods brands is an imperative and can no longer be treated as “niche.” Patrick Harrington, in his Jan. 31, 2019, commentary on U.S. Multicultural Consumer Imperative for Global Brands, called out four key reasons multicultural marketing “will be a business mandate for the future success of global brands in the U.S. market.” 1. Population growth will be driven by different cross-cultural segments that will be primarily Gen Z and Gen Alpha consumers. 2. Multicultural consumers — especially Hispanic and Asian segments — are driving key food merchandising trends across channels. 3. Multicultural consumers’ embrace of mobile media will continue to fuel exponential growth of search, social and video generations. 4. Multicultural entrepreneurs will take the center stage as Hispanic, African American and Asian entrepreneurs will account for most of the job creation the economy generates. 82




Take a look at emerging trends in product launches over the past several years in the food and beverage categories; a compelling percentage of these items have a flavor profile that could be deemed “multicultural” or “ethnic.” However, by no means is it only multicultural shoppers who are purchasing these products. The culinary landscape has changed, driven in part by the overall change in race/ethnic population makeup and the influence of millennials and younger eaters who are more adventurous and experimental with their food choices. However, many brands that could realize significant increases in sales and profits by simply connecting with these multicultural segments are failing to seize this opportunity. Why aren’t these brands stepping up to the challenge? The answer, in part, is data. While the consumer goods industry seems to be drowning in data, the opposite remains true about data for multicultural consumers and retailers. Independently owned urban grocers and neighborhood markets are a hard-to-reach and hard-to-measure retail segment — while being an essential sector for understanding and influencing the multicultural shopper and trendspotting for the general market.

New marketing paradigms require new marketing strategies. In today’s hyperconnected world of denser urban locations, faster-paced lifestyles and more challenging working hours, convenience is the ultimate currency. Despite the significance of the Hispanic Convenience channel, it has long gone underutilized and underreported by measurement services. Lacking the one-stop shopping of larger chains, independent retailers struggle with economies of scale for merchandise access, updated technology/hardware, promotions and data that are essential growth drivers. But today, tools exist to help retailers better compete with cutting-edge technology while creating a new marketing platform to highlight distinct product lines offered. Engagement is key. Advertising at checkout is crucial because it’s a critical decision-making time for consumers. They watch the register and are focused on it, so it’s an ideal time to upsell. A data-first approach anchored in real-world, real-time, first-party information for continuous feedback, optimization and messaging can help maximize success.

February 2020

Suzy Silliman is a senior vice president, data strategy and sales, and John Harman is director national sales, national retail solutions digital media for National Retail Solutions (NRS Plus). They can be reached at suzy.silliman@nrsplus. com and john.harman@idt.net.


Offer your customers a natural leaf taste that is sure to satisfy. Optimo Cognac offers a smooth smoke, with an elegant finish. The rich aroma of cognac enhanced with notes of honey, delivers an experience to please all the senses. This popular in-demand limited edition is available in a variety of marketdriven price points and it won’t last long. Stock up today and step up your game with increased sales and profits.

800.874.9720 |