Every Saturday. Without fail. We would stop at a gas station, called Happy Mart, located in Tazewell county and purchase potato wedges and popcorn chicken. They were delicious! And a special Saturday treat my parents would reward me and my sister with for being good children and not complaining for taking the long 45-minute commute for volunteer work.

The food made everything feel special. It was the only time we ever really stopped at Happy Mart. And it was rarely for gas that we stopped. We stopped specifically for potato wedges (Which my young self called wedgies. I know, wasn’t I cute?) and popcorn chicken.

Why start out with this story? We’re sure you can guess. If your gas station or convenience store is not making and selling its own food, you’re missing out on customers. Which means you’re losing out on profits.

In this short post, I would like to explain to you a few things 1) Who you can potentially reach by offering food that you’re not now, 2) What different types of foods do well at convenience stores and gas stations, 3) What time of day you will mostly see greater success during, 4) Where to place your cooking area, 5) What equipment you will need to cook the food, and finally- and most importantly- why it matters so much.

The Who

As mentioned above, my family and I didn’t stop at Happy Mart to get gas. We stopped specifically to get the food.

By offering food items at your convenience store, you are offering traveling customers the convenience of getting something to eat, a clean bathroom spot, and a place to fill up all in one! You will get the people who are traveling long distances and need to stop to use the restroom. Maybe the allure of delicious smelling food as it cooks and is prepared will prove to be too much for them! That’s money in your pockets. Maybe they stop to get gas and then realize they can grab an extra bite to eat while there instead of seeking out restaurants in unfamiliar territory. You see, you’ve already won extra income by convincing your own target market – those stopping to get gas or use the restroom – that you have something else besides clean restrooms and gas to meet their needs. This is especially true if you can offer them something they want as well.

The What

Food items that are commonly sold at convenience stores are pre-made, freezer foods that come pre-packaged so workers just need to heat them up (not necessarily recommended), specialty items that are specific to that convenience store (takes a little bit of creativity, but works wonders), and foods that are commonly considered “fast food” or “concession.”

Many convenience stores see great success with potato wedges (yes, they’re still a personal favorite) and fries, hot dogs and corndogs, pizza and pizza rolls, sandwiches and grilled cheese, soup, ice cream, and fried foods. I’ve also seen some convenience stores sell items like toast and other baked goods!

Depending on the size of your operation, it might be best for you to choose two or three of these to focus on as your “specialty” item. That way you don’t overrun your space with a lot of commercial grade equipment.

Don’t forget to offer drinks as well! You can offer coffee, cold drinks, or simply let customers purchase bottled pop (or soda, depending where you’re from) from the merchandisers that already align your convenience store.

The When

Based on our research, we believe that coffee does better in the morning or late at night when truckers and over-zealous travelers need a pick-me-up! Lunch hours do well as many people stop by to get gas during their lunch breaks or just need a quick bite to eat, but are tired of fast food.

The Where

We recommend creating a separate kitchen and cooking area, especially if you’re planning to make a lot of food items. An addition could prove to be worth it if you’re convenience store currently is too small. The average size of a convenience store, being built today, for instance is almost 800 square feet larger than they use to be. This is to accommodate kitchen areas and eating areas. They know that offering food can bring them profit!

If you can’t build a full kitchen, many convenience stores run it more like a concession stand and place their cooking equipment behind the counter and offer food near the register to increase impulse buys.

If you do have a kitchen area, you can consider keeping it separate from the rest of the convenience store, or create a self-service bar. It is your choice, and we’ve done all kinds for customers, but wherever you decide to prepare your food, please give yourself plenty of space for the equipment you will need and consult a professional contractor or us about what sort of line-up would be best for your equipment. This will save you headache later as we have the experience needed to know what order the equipment should go in to give you the most efficient operation.

The How

Cooking the food is easy with commercial grade kitchen equipment! Residential kitchen equipment will not have the stamina necessary to meet the demands of customers. We recommend browsing our site for what you need or check out a few specific products we would recommend at Convenience Store Specials.

The Why

There are 153,237 convenience stores within the United States alone and they make an average of $4 million per store ("What Is the Average Gross Revenue of a Convenience Store?")! Non-fuel sales increased by 3.2% in 2017 (" Convenience Store Profit Margins Get a Boost from Food Sales") and in-store sales increased by 2.2%, which was “a record $242.2 billion” in 2018! Foodservice sales made up 22.6% of these in-store sales ("Record U.S. Convenience Store Food, Merchandise Sales in 2018")! Offering food at your convenience store is a huge opportunity, worth taking advantage of.

If you are ready to expand your convenience store’s operation, please let us know. We would be more than happy to provide you with the restaurant and foodservice equipment you need to expand your business! And to bring happiness to other little girls just like me, eating potato “wedgies” from the backseat of their parents’ and caretakers’ vehicles.

Questions?

Call: 888.778.4815

Email: sales@deqonline.com