Quick, Convenient and Plenty of Choice – The Formula for Breakfast Success
By Meline Beach
As we continue to experience the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, many C&G retailers have secured their position as an essential service in the communities in which they operate. C&G foodservice continues to be a viable option for consumers craving quick and healthy meals on the go – more so as many grocery stores have scaled back their hours of operation and restaurants have turned to takeout and delivery services only.
The breakfast category is a strong growth segment within foodservice and a great entry point for C&G retailers looking to enter the market. As an important meal of the day, many consumers appreciate fresh, quality and a wide selection of breakfast items beyond a traditional coffee and donut. With the right level of effort, a breakfast offering can boost your profits and build a loyal customer base.
Variety is the spice of life
According to a recent NPD report, Future of Foodservice Snapshot: Restaurant Revival, many foodservice operators have limited or streamlined menus due to uncertainties around the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the report goes on to suggest that retailers continue to seek out variety and consider innovative foodservice solutions.
From breakfast sandwiches, wraps and bagels to English muffins, parfaits and baked goods, Classic Group of Companies, through its Classic Touch Foods division, offers a wide variety of grab-and-go breakfast items for the C&G channel. Distributed through Core-Mark, the shelf life of these freshly prepared breakfast items is seven to eight days.
“Western special on toast and breakfast burrito are customer favourites,” says Joseph Belcastro, assistant general manager at Classic Group of Companies. “Sold in the cooler section or by the coffee station, our grab-and-go breakfast items can be quickly heated or consumed as is.”
Open air cooler grab-and-go foods or behind the counter freshly prepared food items – there are plenty of food options to accompany one’s morning cup of coffee in the C&G channel. The growth of the breakfast category represents the preferences of a diverse customer base.
“We have a customized menu for convenience and gas retailers,” says Karen Weldman, vice president, new business development at Express Brands. With over 400 express kiosks, Country Style has a specially-designed four-level foodservice program for C&G retailers across Canada. “In high volume locations, we have a level four breakfast and lunch program, which features one of our most popular items, The Sunriser – a sumptuous bagel breakfast sandwich made with egg, bacon, lettuce, tomato and real Cracker Barrel cheddar cheese.”
The sausage and egg breakfast sandwich and apple fritter represent a close second and third in terms of consumer favourites. In addition to coffee, from a quality and value perspective, the breakfast sandwich is the most profitable and popular product.
Weldman adds: “In all of our locations, we also offer a variety of bakery items, which includes donuts, muffins, tarts and cookies, which are always popular grab-and-go items throughout the day and especially the morning, along with a freshly ground and brewed coffee. We are very proud that we are able to offer C&G customers a branded breakfast which is easily executed within a small footprint.”
Room to flourish
Space is a key factor in a successful C&G foodservice program. The layout and location make first impressions and create experiences. According to Countrystyle.com, a typical in-store franchise requires 1,000 to 1,500 square feet with an entry cost of approximately $280,000 to $312,000.
Some C&G retailers have installed equipment to support a more robust foodservice breakfast program. This includes heating/warming ovens to prepare items on the spot.
Innovation is an important factor in keeping the breakfast category current and relevant to consumer needs. Classic Group is in the process of launching its Overnight Oats breakfast meal. As a healthy grain and great source of fibre, oats are gluten-free and pack important vitamins and minerals – a great way to start the day, satisfy hunger and fuel energy levels.
“Consumers are interested in a healthy start to their day,” says Belcastro. “Our Overnight Oats is a portion-controlled grab-and-go option that serves as a satisfying and nutritious meal at breakfast and any time of day.”
Readily available grab-and-go breakfasts appeal to customers who work unconventional hours yet crave breakfast any time of day. More C&G retailers understand the value of all-day breakfasts and have expanded their grab-and-go product line or extended their behind-the-counter breakfast servings beyond the morning hours.
All day breakfasts are also easily managed through an innovative piece of equipment called SCRAEGG. Exclusively distributed by Calgary-based Speciality Beverage Solutions and Food Service Equipment, SCRAEGG scrambles eggs, prepares oatmeal and heats soup in just a few seconds. Using a steam wand and high velocity, this compact machine requires 220 volts of power, which is consistent with common kitchen and household appliances. With a built-in water tank to produce steam, SCRAEGG does not require any plumbing, and at approximately 144 square inches in length/width, and 18 inches high, this innovative machine is countertop friendly.
“We’re thrilled to bring this German engineered and built equipment to North America,” says Daren Schwengler, president at Specialty Beverage Solutions and Food Service Equipment. “At the push of a button, C&G retailers can offer their customers a wholesome breakfast. You can park the carb a works like a steam wand on an espresso machine and requires a simple wipe down with sanitizer in between use.”
With a price tag of approximately $7,500, Schwengler is confident retailers can recoup their investment within two to three months with the right marketing. The order process takes three weeks and includes free shipping and free training. Interested retailers can explore a trial period and inquire directly at sbsolutions.ca
Make or break reputation
Having a foodservice program does not lead to profitable success alone. Quality food and good service are essential in building a loyal customer base. Competition is steep and customers will frequent c-stores that are clean and well lit with a visually appealing foodservice counter. Knowledgeable staff who are personable and can answer questions will help drive sales. On the flip side, poor customer service will drive customers away and detract others based on word-of-mouth referrals and social media comments. Customers are likely to return based on positive interactions and experiences.
Weldman concurs. Based on Country Style’s foodservice sales results, often small, independently run c-stores outperform petroleum retailers based on an intricate level of customer service, driven by a desire to deliver results.
“Our franchisees are the owners of the petroleum station and convenience store,” says Weldman. “If they own a high-volume location, in today’s market they need that point of difference to attract and retain new customers. When an owner decides to provide their customers with a quality, branded hot beverage and fresh food program, they must understand it requires dedicated and motivated staff who ensure operational and food quality standards are maintained at all times.”
While some C&G retailers may have experienced a dip in sales due to the Covid-19 pandemic with fewer commuters on the road, the year 2021 should be more promising as more people return to their workplace. The key is to keep customers well served and well fed with quick, convenient quality food and plenty of choice.
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