Earlier this year, we completed our latest study on capturing opportunities in c-store prepared foods. It’s robust reporting with data on operator perspectives and plans as well as consumer behavior and attitudes. (And it’s currently on sale for a limited time!)

But as we’ve recently been looking back on the industry as a whole to see where operators stand in their post-pandemic strategies, we’ve been making some updates focused on market activity: the actions operators have taken thus far in 2023 to maximize their performance. What follows is a snapshot of some of the trends we see with c-stores, emphasizing ongoing efforts to resonate as a foodservice destination.

 1. Food-Forward Models an Ongoing Focus

Some foodservice operators have maintained streamlined offerings that facilitate greater efficiency and faster service, and c-stores are not an exception. Yet others are ramping up, continuing to invest in new store models that allow them to do more on the foodservice front.

Dash In’s new location in Chantilly, VA, was billed as a reimagined store experience when it debuted this summer (complete with a limited-time signature burger created with celebrity chef Spike Mendelsohn to celebrate the opening). It offers a new and expanded menu promising “Made for You and Fresh to Go” offerings like signature salads; Stackadillas (hearty double-stacked quesadillas); and Kitchen Bowls (customizable creations with different ingredient combinations served over choice of: greens; quinoa and brown rice pilaf; or tater tots). The beverage program includes a self-serve automated shake and smoothie machine that can prepare more than 40 different drinks to order. And the overall design not only emphasizes the open kitchen but includes in-store and patio seating that encourages lingering.


  • Twice Daily joined the ranks of c-stores promoting made-to-order foodservice this summer. Customization options include choice of cheese or style of egg preparation on breakfast sandwiches and freshly warmed pretzels served with salt or without.
  • Friendship Stores expanded its proprietary Friendship Kitchens model with a new store in Oak Harbor, OH, this summer. Described as “a Friendship Store with More,” Friendship Kitchens offer a menu spanning all dayparts, including breakfast sandwiches and burritos, hand-breaded chicken and pizza.
  • Stewart’s Shops announced plans to substantially expand its commercial kitchen to meet growing demand for foodservice items.
  • And Spinx is planning an “alternative format” for a new store in Greenville, SC, that will be not a gas station, but a food marketplace emphasizing quick-serve food prepared onsite.

2. Amid Changing Consumer Habits, Coffee and Breakfast Evolve

After working from home normalized preparing coffee and eating breakfast (and lunch) at home, foodservice players need more distinctive offerings to lure customers back to purchasing offsite. C-stores included. Coffee programs are expanding, upgrading and targeting quality that can be offered in less labor-intensive ways.

  • The new Weigel’s outpost in Piney Flat, TN, (another location that represents a c-store company’s largest to date, measuring 6,400 sq.ft.) noted the variety of its coffee program as one of its foodservice amenities. It includes Franke machines that produce espresso drinks as well as bean-to-cup, nitro, and organic drip options.
  • Spinx also emphasized bean-to-cup coffee and Nitro Cold Brew as highlights when it opened a new store in West Union, SC.
  • And Kum & Go has expanded its partnership with sustainably sourced, small batch-roasted, specialty grade coffee purveyor BLK & Bold, featuring its blends in its whole bean-to-cup machines in more than 300 stores.

All-day breakfast also remains a focus, even as some, such as McDonald’s, have abandoned the idea in favor of simplifying operations. Rutter’s brought an LTO option back to its all-day breakfast platform this spring: scrapple with egg and cheese on a choice of: biscuit, waffle, Texas Toast, croissant, tortilla, sub (or served in a waffle bowl).

3. Better-For-You Approaches Continue Customer Pursuit Beyond Bubba

The image of Bubba as the typical c-store patron continues to recede in the rearview mirror, and recent examples of c-stores’ approaches to better-for-you further solidify that.

  • 7-Eleven Hawaii hopped onto the plant-based bandwagon this summer with a meat-free version of musabi (a local specialty typically made with grilled SPAM, rice and nori).
  • GetGo also has a plant-based menu, featuring plant-based nuggets and an Impossible Burger.
  • Loop Neighborhood, which launched 10 years ago with females and Millennials as its focus, offers veggie-forward options like a Dal Saag Rice Bowl featuring a spinach and split pea stew.
  • TravelCenters of America featured another of its Cleveland Clinic-approved offerings on its Summer of Sizzle menu: Tango Mango Salmon or Chicken that is grilled, seasoned, topped with mango salsa and served with steamed vegetables.

4. Dinner Pursuit Continues, with Pizza Taking a Starring Role

C-stores continue to target pizzerias as competitors, with Wawa one of the latest to offer whole pies. Rolling out this summer and promoted as an expansion of its dinner platform, they are available in create-your-own and signature combinations. Casey’s also built up its popular pizza platform, adding a new thin-crust option in June.

5. Grocers are Honing Food-Focused C-Stores

Grocers are also contributing to the food-oriented image of modern c-stores.

  • H-E-B began rebranding its collection of c-stores this spring to convey a broader array of choices available following a concept refresh. Now known as H-E-B Fresh Bites, the revamped stores offer fresh produce, snacks and expanded foodservice, including salads, sandwiches, sushi and grab-and-go chef-inspired prepared meals like Orange Chicken with Rice. They also feature H-E-B’s True Tacos quick-serve restaurant, which serves breakfast and specialty tacos that can be customized at a salsa bar.
  • Giant Eagle also continues to expand its c-store model: GetGo Café + Market. The first new-build location to feature a drive-through opened in Mentor, OH in February. GetGo has an expansive made-to-order foodservice menu, bolstered with services like digital ordering and curbside pickup.

Manufacturers Looking to Position as Advisors Need to Offer Data, Inspirations and Solutions

Data-driven storytelling that shares voice of the consumer and operator is more and more prevalent and increasingly key to conveying credibility. But manufacturers that want to differentiate and assume the important role of true foodservice advisor to c-stores also need to be able to share current insight into marketplace activity. This means both the competitor actions that can highlight real potential threats and opportunities and the latest push-the-envelope ideas. The latter may not be suitable for all operations (not everyone should have an in-store restaurant or barista-prepared drinks), but they can offer potential “real-life” inspiration for other ideas.

To learn more about FSIP’s Management Consulting Practice, click here.

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