Rise and Shine Breakfast

Rise and Shine Breakfast

By Meline Beach

In the fast-paced world we live in, where mornings are often rushed, convenience is key. For many, the convenience and gas channel is a quick breakfast stop, addressing both the need for speed and the desire for a satisfying start to the day.

A significant shift in breakfast trends shows that convenience and gas stations are no longer just about grabbing a quick cup of coffee; it’s about offering a comprehensive breakfast experience that resonates with on-the-go consumers.

“There’s a wide variety of breakfast options available to consumers at every turn and we’ve seen the popularity for breakfast grow over the years,” says Joseph Belcastro, general manager, Classic Group of Companies. With roots dating back to 1962 and four divisions serving the foodservice industry, Classic Group employs well-trained teams and professional chefs focused on exceptional flavour and innovation to produce quality food products.

Country Style has a specially designed four-level breakfast and lunch foodservice program at over 400 express kiosks at convenience and gas retailers across Canada.

“The morning day part within the convenience and gas channel is very important,” says Karen Weldman, vice-president, New Business Development, Express Brands. “Ensuring owners have high-quality beverage, bakery, and food products available is important, especially in the morning. Since breakfast is Country Style’s key sandwich category and we are a morning business, breakfast is now the largest component of our overall sales.”

Diverse Grab-and-Go Breakfast Menus

The breakfast menus in convenience and gas stations today go far beyond the standard coffee and doughnuts. Retailers have expanded their grab-and-go offerings to cater to a broad spectrum of tastes, ensuring that there’s something for everyone. Whether it’s a commuter stopping for fuel or a traveller hitting the road, the demand for quick, portable breakfast options is ever-growing and retailers are responding by offering a wide variety of breakfast items, from classic favourites to innovative creations.

“For convenience stores, we’ve observed a growing demand for expanded options, encompassing choices that accommodate dietary preferences and new flavours, such as back bacon, honey bacon, maple-smoked breakfast sausages, and croissant sandwiches with chipotle mayo,” explains Belcastro. “While the traditional staples remain consistently popular, we also cater to customers seeking healthier alternatives and diverse tastes. This includes items like peanut butter and chocolate overnight oats, fruit and yogurt snack boxes, breakfast bento boxes, and fresh berry Greek yogurt parfaits. Among our offerings, breakfast wraps and burritos stand out as our most popular items.”

Belcastro adds, “Heat-and-serve options are becoming increasingly popular for convenience stores with warming oven capabilities. It’s an added level of convenience for the consumer who wants to grab-and-go without having to warm up in the microwave themselves. We offer a variety of breakfast sandwiches on croissants, biscuits or toast that can be kept in a warming oven and consumed right away.”

New warming ovens are a great feature that allows operators to warm up all foods with pre-existing settings for consistency. Some ovens also have multi-shelf features that can allow four to five items in the oven at once with each cooking or baking to their settings.

In addition to coffee and other hot beverages, Country Style offers a large variety of fresh bakery items, such as donuts, muffins, cookies and tarts, as well as eight breakfast sandwiches on bagels or English muffins and its wraps, as a recent addition.

“Our most popular breakfast sandwich is the Sunriser,” says Weldman. “We recently launched the new Spicy Chicken Sandwich on a croissant, which is being served as a breakfast item, capitalizing on the chicken trend.”

Like Classic Group’s experience with specific preferences, Country Style has also noticed this trend as customers can now request customized versions of breakfast sandwiches, such as vegetarian, prepared exactly as they want.

Guiding Success

Belcastro encourages convenience and gas retailers who are considering launching a breakfast program to start simple and build up slowly. “Anything new takes time to gain consumer trust and familiarity. Add combos or incentives to help entice new customers, such as free coffee with purchase or buy one, get 2nd 50 per cent off. Merchandise and organize coolers and/or warmers regularly and maintain a fresh rotation of breakfast foods with your foodservice distributor to keep your shelves full.”

Presentation and consistency are key factors for success. Customers need to know that they can consistently have a great breakfast at your store.

Classic Group of Companies, as a foodservice supplier, conducts in-person training programs for safe and effective food handling and Q&A sessions.

“We have helped larger companies with their food handling training and guidebooks for consistency in all of their c-stores across Canada,” says Belcastro. “We work with c-store distributors to ensure food options are always available. Breakfast is a growing category that, if done well, can have a lot of benefits long term.”

In addition to ensuring the location is well operated, Country Style helps retailers promote their breakfast menu with point-of-sale (POS) marketing materials for both the interior and exterior of the store. In addition, retailers are encouraged to promote their menu with pictures, testimonials and quality of products on their social media platforms.

Weldman encourages retailers to be aware of local competition and to partner with a foodservice provider that can offer quality food products at competitive pricing.

“By partnering with a company such as MTY, an owner can benefit from the buying efficiencies afforded due to the number of brands within our portfolio,” says Weldman. “We ensure our breakfast menu is efficient with limited menu items to control waste and our POS system allows owners to manage ordering and labour, which is important to understand when managing a business.”

Weldman emphasizes, “Consumers have many options, so creating a ‘point of difference’ can be key. If the owner maintains a clean and well-stocked location and ensures the staff are friendly, it forms a relationship, encouraging customers to return not only for the experience but also for the high quality and delicious food products.”

Looking Ahead

The convenience and gas channel is well-positioned to continue shaping breakfast trends. Innovations in menu offerings and clean, friendly practices are expected to gain prominence. Emphasizing convenience, diverse menus, and a commitment to quality, convenience stores are positioned to remain a go-to destination for those seeking a satisfying start to the day.

Meline Beach is a Toronto-based communications practitioner and frequent contributor to Convenience and 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.

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