Proprietary foodservice programs get a lot of love and admiration for their relentless innovation and ingenuity, and even branded fast-food concepts tend to get their share of attention from convenience operators who want a concept that will drive traffic.
But anyone who’s been in the convenience industry more than a day knows that grab-and-go foodservice is fundamental to any convenience store planogram.
The very nature of convenience, it would seem, demands that consumers are provided immediate solutions to their immediate needs – and prepared sandwiches do exactly that, whether they’re made in-house or provided through industry-leading suppliers.
This past year, a number of trend-setting convenience retailers rolled out programs to help them ramp up their fully prepared hot-and-cold sandwich offerings.
In January, Dallas-based 7-Eleven paired with Norris Food Services to open a new commissary and mixed-use distribution center in Long Island, where 7-Eleven plans to prepare fresh foods for nearly 700 of its stores in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
The commissary will allow 7-Eleven to introduce fully prepared hot and cold sandwiches, in addition to a number of other fresh products.
Similarly, Pennsylvania-based Sheetz announced plans last summer to introduce a new MTGo! (Made-to-Go) line of products that includes salads and sandwiches for time-pressed customers. The lineup will supplement Sheetz’ popular Made-to-Order (MTO) concept, but the MTGo! program specifically appeals to customers who don’t have time to wait for their meal to be prepared.
While larger chains like Sheetz and Rutter’s clearly enjoy economies of scale and the advantages of a larger workforce, Rutter’s Farm Stores President and CEO Scott Hartman was quick to point out that even two- and three-store owners can reap the benefits of the fresh food marketing movement by partnering with other local businesses that can supply fresh grab-and-go choices.
A sandwich shop with proprietary wrappings and some fresh fruit are a good way to begin. “Trying to do it on your own in a single store is very, very difficult,” Hartman said. “Find one or more third parties to see what solutions they might be able to provide.”
Finding a supplier that can do the work for you doesn’t necessarily exclude small chains either, said Chris Girard, president and CEO of Plaid Pantries Inc., in Beaverton, Ore.
Top performers in this segment—as identified by 66 key decision makers in the 2009 CSD Brand Preference Study—were Deli Express (E.A. Sween Co.), Landshire Inc., and Pierre Foods. Honorable mentions went to Jimmy Dean (Sara Less Foodservice) and Lettieri’s (Hot Stuff Foods).
Slightly more than 60% of the 66 key decision makers (about 40 people) said just one or two suppliers delivered sales presentations to them in the last two months. Eleven percent of the respondents, or about seven people, said they’d been contacted by three or four companies in the last 60 days, while 27% reported no sales presentations.
In fact, 99% of all key decision makers said they had less than five presentations from the 10 companies in this segment.