By Meline Beach
If we don’t have facilities to produce on site, we source our sandwiches, salads, fruit trays and other deli products from regional commissary partners.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, convenience stores across Canada are upping their game with fresh foodservice options for their customers. While the foodservice landscape remains competitive, C&G retailers are securing their share of the market with an innovative foodservice offering comparable yet more convenient than traditional QSRs.
Take for example, Parkland and Gas King. These C&G retailers are in it to win it with their fresh foodservice lunch program. Convenience & Carwash Canada spoke with them, along with foodservice providers, to find out their secret to success when it comes to lunch in the convenience channel. If you don’t already have a fresh foodservice program in place, or if your current offering is ordinary at best, this article will offer you some insights on meeting the needs of today’s health and money conscious, on-the-go consumer.
Fresh is Best
Freshii, just as its name suggests, serves fresh food designed to energize people on the go. Through its partnership with Shell Canada, Freshii offers C&G customers a diverse menu of bistro boxes, salads, wraps, juices and snacks – the green genius cold pressed juice and avocado smash bistro box are among some of the most popular. Prepared fresh from local commissaries, Freshii’s food offering lives up to its mission of making healthy food convenient and affordable.
As posted on their Facebook page, Gas King is pleased to launch freshly made, handcrafted sandwiches at two of their locations in Alberta. The level of detail of their foodservice offering is top-notch, from a variety of bread options (white or whole wheat thick slice, submarine and multi-flavour soft tortilla) to a range of deli meats, such as ham, turkey breast and beef; topped with leaf lettuce, real cheddar, green pepper and sliced sweet red onion, served with a side pickle or banana pepper rings.
“Our proteins and condiments are of the highest quality and our combos are very popular,” says Kelly Klimchuk, district sales manager at Gas King Oil Co. Ltd. For less than 10 dollars, a customer can purchase a handcrafted sandwich, wrap or submarine, with potato or macaroni salad and medium cold or hot beverage. A lighter fare and higher protein option of fresh pepperoni with real marble cheddar cheese is also available. “High quality ingredients at value prices will always be our mission.”
As more millennials and generation Z enter the workforce, Parkland has been responding to its changing customer demographic with its foodservice offering.
“Our customers’ palate for fresher, healthier and more diverse options is growing and we need to balance our offering to meet all tastes,” says Neil Turkington, national category manager, food services at Parkland Fuel Corporation, “If we don’t have facilities to produce on site, we source our sandwiches, salads, fruit trays and other deli products from regional commissary partners. As the consumer base is changing, we need to be mindful of their tastes and expectations. An egg salad wedge sandwich won’t cut it, although it is still a staple and a great seller.”
Another staple foodservice item is pizza and Les Tomlin, president of PFX Canada has stirred the market with what he calls, a pizzaruption Along with business partner Will Moyer, their claim to fame in the convenience foodservice channel is the launch of an automated artisanal pizza vending machine. Customers can purchase one of five types of personal-sized pizzas, featuring novel and traditional ingredients (BBQ chicken, honey with goat cheese, mozzarella cheese, and pepperoni), from a touch screen and tap of a credit card. Within three minutes, a freshly-heated pizza is ejected from the built-in oven.
The PizzaForno refrigerated vending machine holds 70 pizzas, made by local commissaries, and takes up 68 square feet of space – a key point to note for any C&G retailers interested in licensing this vending machine for their location.
“With zero labour costs and zero waste, PizzaForno is a turnkey solution for retailers looking to enhance their foodservice offering with great tasting, quick and convenient pizza at high margin,” says Tomlin, who first saw this technology in France and purchased the rights for North America and Mexico. Self-described as a serial entrepreneur, Tomlin plans to expand PizzaForno in the C&G channel and envisions home delivery right from the c-store a very likely possibility in the near future.
Freshii has also taken convenience to the next level with mobile ordering and fast delivery to any home or office through its partnership with Shell Canada and 25 of its gas stations, as part of its first phase rollout.
Gas King offers quick, counter service with its small, efficient in-store kitchen, that allows them to prepare food on site for the day’s inventory and on demand.
“The intent is to provide our guests with high quality, value priced, fresh food options prepared on site inside our store by food safety certified management,” says Klimchuk. “We are vertically integrated, which allows us to plan, prepare and deliver efficiently and effectively.”
“For new sites, we prefer to pair with a well-known QSR partner to handle our foodservice offering,” says Turkington. “We have found a winning combination pairing our On the Run c-stores with partners, such as Tim Hortons, A&W and Triple O’s. Combined with our well-established gas banners, our On the Run c-store, with recognized QSR brands, give customers the ultimate convenient experience under one roof.”
While Parkland values brand recognition, the independent marketer of fuel and petroleum products tries to accommodate regional nuances.
“Various acquisitions across the country have led us to adopt new programs regionally and have had success with fresh sandwiches delivered by Bread Garden in our British Columbia Chevron Network, as well as strong volume with our fresh made, onsite Transit Café sandwich program within our Ultramar network in Quebec.
A partnership between brands, Shell Canada General Manager Andrea Brecka states in their May 2018 press release, “We know from our 100+ years serving Canadians that convenience and choice is critical. Partnering with Freshii allows us to provide healthy and convenient choices to customers on the go that may not otherwise have time in their day to fit in a healthy meal.”
In terms of advice, Klimchuk encourages retailers to know their clientele’s needs and wants, and says: “This is achieved by relationship-building and simple questioning strategies. When an opportunity presents itself, take quick action to deliver and also keep inventing yourself by changing things up and measuring responses.”
Marc Rex, director of Fresh/Foodservice at Core-Mark International, also shares some insights on the lunch category. “Convenience is changing with more technology, instore execution and quality products.” Having helped many franchise and independent C&G retailers launch a fresh foodservice offering, Rex has seen the category evolve. He adds: “Home delivery, instore dining with seating and free WIFI, and mobile ordering from the gas pump with delivery are just some of the changes we expect to see in the C&G channel. Innovative possibilities in the foodservice category across the C&G channel are tremendous.”
Meline Beach is a Toronto-based communications practitioner and frequent contributor to Convenience & Carwash Canada. In addition to freelance writing, Meline provides communications and public relations support to businesses across Canada. She can be reached at www.mlbcomms.ca