Stand Out for Breakfast | NACS Online – Media – News Archive
Sign In Help

The Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing

Skip Navigation LinksNACS Online / Media / News Archive

Stand Out for Breakfast

Frank Beard shares four strategies that will help convenience stores be the place to go for the morning meal.
October 13, 2017

​By Frank Beard

When it comes to the most important meal of the day, competition is stiff. Although many convenience stores have evolved and expanded their breakfast offerings, so have QSRs, fast-casuals, and coffee shops. McDonald’s offers breakfast all day, Starbucks has expanded their line of sandwiches, and according to QSR Magazine, 40% of Dunkin’ Donuts’ morning sales come from food.

That’s why it’s vital to stand out. Having observed and enjoyed the breakfast offerings at gas stations across the United States, here are four strategies to do just that.

1. Think outside the box. It’s tempting to emphasize traditional and familiar breakfast offerings at the expense of new ideas, that strategy can sometimes be a mistake. “Guests grow tired of seeing the same products month after month,” said Michael Elliot, RaceTrac’s category manager of hot foods, in the February 2017 issue of NACS Magazine. “Featuring unique, new offers give us something to invite our guests to try.”

Consider Pilot Flying J’s recent “town hall” event—where truck drivers recommended that they offer different meat on breakfast sandwiches than bacon and pork sausage. Pilot Flying J is taking these and other suggestions seriously, and celebrity chef Tim Love is helping them improve and upgrade their offerings.

Kum & Go also has options for those who want something different than a traditional biscuit or croissant sandwich. Health-conscious customers can purchase a 260 calorie egg-white, turkey sausage, and cheese sandwich, and those who want something more indulgent can enjoy a breaded chicken sandwich with Belgian waffle buns.

Other brands offer a wide range of options beyond sandwiches. Smoothies are a popular choice at GetGo, and QuickChek has an expansive menu with items like the West Coast Veggie Burrito—which includes egg whites, avocado, salsa, and shredded cheddar and pepper jack.

2. Spruce it up a bit. Another method to stand out is by organizing ingredients in new ways. Consider breakfast bowls. By putting a lower-calorie portion of eggs, cheese, and a choice of meat into a car-friendly snap-top bowl, QuikTrip is able to appeal to appeal to health-conscious customers who may not have purchased a biscuit or croissant. For those who want something more indulgent, Maverik’s Bonfire Grill offers a number of options including the Lumber Jack’d—which consists of a biscuit, sausage gravy, eggs, cheese, ham, and bacon.

Another option is to reconsider the ingredients in traditional items. At Hy-Vee Gas, customers have access to more than just basic donuts. Their gourmet line includes powdered cake donuts topped with mixed berries and bananas, and Long Johns with maple frosting and chopped bacon.

For stores with touchscreen-based menus, an excellent option is to include “build-your-own” functionality. This accommodates your customers’ individual preferences and enables new and exciting uses of your existing ingredients.

3. Consider CPGs. Not every convenience store is in a position to offer foodservice, and not all customers are looking for it. Sometimes they just need a snack—or something small to complement a piece of fruit.

That’s why it’s important to consider your CPGs. Do you have the right snack bars, mixed nuts, and other products available? Can both health-conscious and indulgent customers assemble breakfast at your stores?

Products like Ready Egg Go! from Crystal Farms are a great solution. I recently purchased one from HyVee Gas that came with pistachios, cheddar cheese and a single hard-boiled egg.

4. Good coffee is good for business. Many customers are unwilling to visit separate locations during the morning commute, and good coffee can help drive your breakfast sales. In Q2 2017, stores with excellent coffee ratings on GasBuddy saw a 12.5% increase in foot traffic between the hours of 5 a.m. and 10 a.m.

Today’s leading brands don’t just offer a decent cup—they directly compete with coffee shops. Kwik Trip’s customers can order espresso and other drinks using a touchscreen-based Franke machine that grinds the beans. Customers at Kelley’s Market have access to a high-quality Kona blend—brewed fresh every 30 minutes using reverse-osmosis purification—and can even purchase ground beans to brew at home.

Cold brew also presents another opportunity to stand apart from the competition. The 36 Lyn Refuel Station offers cans from Big Watt Beverage Co—a popular cold brewing company based in Minnesota—and Hy-Vee Gas recently introduced taps of STōK Coffee’s unsweetened and vanilla cold brew.

Frank Beard is a regular NACS Daily contributor who has traveled to more than 1,000 convenience stores in 24 states. He raised awareness of the industry's healthful food options with his "30 Days of Gas Station Food" experiment, and he's an analyst/evangelist for convenience store and retail trends at GasBuddy. Follow Frank on Twitter here.