Breakfast: Over Easy
Are convenience stores giving up on breakfast?
In a study completed last year, Mintel said that for c-stores, “the opportunity remains to improve foodservice operations with more unique menus and restaurant brand partnerships; healthy menu items and nutritional transparency; and improvements in the dining experience.”
Jack Cushman, executive vice president of food services for the 80-store Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes chain in Canastota, N.Y., says the challenge is one of being “different and unique.” Always innovating, the company’s latest morning offering is a breakfast potpie.
“There are lots of new flavors out there, and this will always be a driver,” Cushman says. “Can you imagine a sriracha breakfast sandwich?”
Texas retailer Gerosa agrees, having developed 13 varieties of breakfast tacos. To be truly successful, that zeal to innovate has to exist within the business itself and, as a channel, Gerosa doesn’t see it. Many convenience operators, he believes, “build a business based on labor vs. what labor is needed to build the business. I can run a c-store with one person, but a QSR?”
A study produced last year by Chicago- based Technomic speaks to how lack of vision can lead to lost potential. In a poll of 368 people:
▶ 54% said they visit c-stores at least once a week for coffee, but only 37% say they come for breakfast.
▶ Though 36% said they bought more coffee beverages at c-stores than in the past, breakfast remained flat over the same time period.
▶ Two out of five visits (39%) during the breakfast time frame are beverage-only trips, meaning a big chunk of breakfast visitors leave without buying food.
But the gap for c-stores is not a chasm. While some cross-channel competitors have put dollars behind innovation, pricing and advertising, “a lot of the same things they’re doing, c-stores are also known for,” Higar says. “It’s just a matter of proving they can [do it right].”
A Recipe for Breakfast
Many of the necessary steps toward making a successful breakfast program are prioritized in a study conducted last year by Technomic. (See sidebar at end of story.) They include high-quality items, the perception of freshness, healthier items, improved pricing, drive-thrus and some kind of coupon or promotional marketing.
Higar augments that with his own guide:
▶ Being “demonstrably fresh”: Visual, written and verbal cues raise appeal. “You hear it, you see it, you talk about ingredients and sourcing,” Higar says. “If it’s a pizza concept, you can watch it being made.”
▶ “Better for you”: Retailers can approach this concept in three ways: nutritional, focusing on reducing things such as trans-fats or carbs; tolerance, including items that are gluten-free or made for those who are lactose-intolerant or allergic to peanuts; and “quality of life,” with items that give people energy to get through the day.
▶ Credibility: Here’s where premium ingredients count and where “irregular” or “not perfectly formed” items may lend themselves to authenticity.
▶ Co-stars: Good coffee can raise the perception of a breakfast program, as can high-quality bagels or related companion products.
▶ Proprietary elements: These are things that are distinctive, things people will return for. It could be a unique product or even ongoing cleanliness.
▶ Consistency of experience: While customers may enjoy the uniqueness of an independent operation, they may prefer the consistency of a chain, especially when customers’ dollars are important and value is a priority.
▶ Hospitality: Higar says everyone likes to be appreciated and that it’s important to hire the right kind of person to continually exude a welcoming attitude.