The price on the gas pumps isn’t what’s driving people to stop at convenience stores today.
Royal Farms has its fried chicken; Wawa has its hoagies; 7-Eleven has everything from hot dogs to taquitos. All those chains have established brands built around food rather than fuel. The importance of food to today’s convenience stores symbolizes an industry-wide shift away from a gas-first model and toward a more holistic, one-stop-shop design.
“Over the last 20 years, convenience stores have changed from being gas stations where you happen to pick up some food, to restaurants where you happen to fill up your gas tank,” Jeff Lenard of the National Association of Convenience Stores, or NACS, told the Baltimore Business Journal.
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From Lenard’s perspective as the trade association’s vice president of strategic industry initiatives, that change has come with new requirements and new challenges. First on the list is creating a food or beverage product consumers will make into a habit. But once that feat is accomplished, a whole array of factors come into play such as location, layout and space.
“As stores eventually become restaurants, you need more room. People are not enticed by fresh food when there are rows of merchandise pushed up against them,” Lenard said.