The New Fast Food? Convenience Stores Add Hot, Cheap Options

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Saying “convenience store food” may make people think of spinning hot dogs by the counter, but places like 7-Eleven are expanding their hot food offerings in hopes of stealing customers away from fast-food chains.

The push by convenience stores into hot, fast, affordable foods is just one of the pressures facing chains. The traditional fast-food chains are also fighting for customers with smaller restaurant chains, and with supermarkets that offer prepared foods for busy shoppers.

Low prices and speed for ready-to-eat foods at convenience stores are big factors. Some fast food chains partly blame their declining number of customer visits in the U.S. on its failure to hold onto the deal-seekers at the cheaper end of its menu after eliminating the Dollar Menu.

If you go to convenience store conventions, all they talk about is the decline of gas and tobacco, so they have to become more like (fast food).

In the past year, 7-Eleven has added $1.99 chicken sandwiches and cheeseburgers kept in warming cases. That’s in addition to sandwich melts the chain introduced in 2015. The chain — which still sells hot dogs by the counter — has expanded to about 8,900 U.S. locations and says food is a top priority.

They can drop in a product (in stores) overnight, and all of a sudden they’re in a brand-new business,” says the company’s senior vice president of the chain’s food and drinks.

Convenience store prices points can also be a draw for people who may have less money to spend. About 60 percent of convenience store food customers have household incomes of less than $40,000, the National Association of Convenience Stores said in a recent report.

Prepared foods and drinks like pizzas, burgers and coffee accounted for 22 percent of convenience store sales last year, an industry report said last month, a figure that has risen from 13 percent in 2010. The industry says many people in rural areas who may not be near supermarkets often get their groceries from convenience stores, but the push into hot and prepared foods in recent years is driven by another factor. Cigarettes remain the No. 1 seller at convenience stores, but are generally on the decline. So convenience stores are expected to keep trying to sell more food as smoking rates fall.

Another chain, which is based in Pennsylvania and has more than 540 locations in six states, says half of its new locations are built with a drive-thru, an accommodation the fast-food industry relies on for the majority of its sales. While customers use the drive-thru mainly to order from the chain’s made-to-order foods like burgers, the company says they can also request items like a gallon of milk from elsewhere in the store if they want.

Source:, 5-1-2017


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