Reviving The Roller Grill

Look for portability and value to drive the roller grill category in 2013. Hot dog sales were up 1.5% from 2008-2012 and are expected to be up 3% from 2012-2015, according to Technomic. Operators are improving hold times and attracting customers with new varieties.

“Consumers choose the roller grill many times because it is quick and convenient,” said Timothy Powell, director of c-store programs at Technomic. “We have observed over the last three years that meals on the roller grill have evolved—such as the breakfast sausage and numerous taquito varieties. Value is where we’ll see two for two or other sorts of combo meals being offered. The roller grill will be the option for a ‘hot’ meal versus the grab-and-go case, which will be salads, sandwiches and cut fruit.”
Village Pantry does a strong roller grill business with 145 roller grills in its Southeast division and 56 grills in its Midwest Division, with grills ranging from 30-50 inches. Most stores offer one grill, with the exception of a couple that offer two, and most combine fresh condiments with the grill.

“We offer the traditional beef hot dog, sausages, along with Tornados, corndogs, egg rolls, burger dogs and in-and-out flavors,” said Chad Prast, director of foodservice for Village Pantry stores. “Overall sales have trended flat on traditional hot dogs and sausages. Our main growth has been more on the burger dogs, tortilla wrapped items and corndogs sold on the grill. Promotion wise the biggest growth has been from flavor extension, in-and-out items and combos offering fountain drinks with the grill items.”

Flavor-wise, Village Pantry is looking to go  back to more of the core items and best sellers for 2013, using new flavor extensions only as in-and-out promotions to help drive additional food sales on a daily basis.

Retailers can help keep their roller grill program enticing to consumers by keeping it fully stocked with fresh items and by bundling meals, such as a roller grill item, a bag of chips and a fountain drink at a discounted price.

More than ever, consumers are looking for value and QSR restaurants are meeting this desire with cheaper daypart options, like the dollar menu deals offered at McDonald’s, Wendy’s and others.

Talking to customers is a great way to get feedback on what’s working. Many retailers are also sticking to tried-and-true brands and flavors, but meeting the demand for variety with an extensive condiment bar nearby, which  allows customers to dress their brat or hot dog to fit their preferences.

Handheld Items
Recent data from VideoMining conducted in 2012 shows that the proximity of the roller grill to beverages has been shown to increase conversion with consumers.

Specifically, consumers are more likely to make a purchase from roller grills facing beverage coolers than those facing away from beverages or facing fountain drinks.
Consumers will only shop and buy if food is available throughout the entire day. Based on proprietary insights, Hillshire Brands Co. found more than 25% of all hot dogs at c-stores are sold before 10 a.m. Its operator partners see consistent traffic throughout the day, with most roller grill purchases happening during breakfast and lunch hours, according to VideoMining research conducted in 2012.  

Within the roller grill category, consumers prefer branded products to non-branded as VisionCritical data shows from 2012.

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