This is part of the Nation’s Restaurant News annual Top 200 report, a proprietary ranking of the foodservice industry’s largest restaurant chains and parent companies.
Convenience stores continued to nibble at the edges of restaurant foodservice sales in the past year, nipping at low-hanging fruit and making their namesake convenient offerings more so.
Borrowing sales techniques from the rest of the restaurant industry, such as delivery, loyalty programs and even voice-activated ordering, the Convenience-Store segment nosed ahead in Top 200 share of sales, growing from 2.55 percent to 2.59 percent.
Share of the Top 200 sales pie outpaced the segment’s unit growth: Convenience-Store brands grew unit counts 2.4 percent in the Latest Year, and grew sales at twice that pace, posting 4.8-percent growth.
Among the six Convenience-Store brands that qualified for the Top 200, the leader in sales growth was Wawa Inc., which saw sales increase 9.3 percent in the Latest Year, followed closely by Sheetz Inc., at 8.9 percent, and Circle K, at 7.2 percent.
Corpus Christi, Texas-based Stripes, which led the way in the Preceding Year, with 13-percent growth in estimated sales, slipped to No. 4, with 6.5-percent growth in the Latest Year. Ankeny, Iowa-based Casey’s General Store was No. 5, with 6.4-percent growth in the Latest Year.
Trailing the pack was Dallas-based 7-Eleven, with estimated foodservice sales slipping 1.4 percent in the Latest Year. While 7-Eleven was the sole brand to lose share in the Convenience-Store segment, slipping from 34.4 percent in the Preceding Year to 32.4 percent in the Latest Year, it remained the largest. Wawa gained ground on 7-Eleven by growing its chain share of the segment to 26.1 percent in the Latest Year from 25 percent in the Preceding Year.
Wawa, Pa.-based Wawa Inc. has more than 750 convenience retail stores, and about 550 of those stores sell gasoline. The brand has a footprint in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and, more recently, Florida, where it announced in 2017 that it would open 25 to 30 units in each of the next several years.
Wawa has been expanding its foodservice selections, including Wawa brands such as built-to-order hoagies, brewed coffee, breakfast sandwiches, built-to-order specialty beverages, and an assortment of soups, sides and snacks.
In late 2017 and into early 2018, Wawa began expanding its online order-delivery of beverages, chips, candy and desserts. In January, it added a New Jersey unit to its six delivery stores in Pennsylvania, including Ardmore, Bethlehem and Philadelphia.
Altoona, Penn.-based Sheetz, which has more than 560 units in Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, for many years has been offering touch-screen order terminals that allow for the customization of its Made-to-Order branded menu items and drinks.
In December, Sheetz created a new skill for Amazon’s Alexa, which allowed interactive voice ordering.
“We could not be more excited to bring this next generation of innovation to our customers and industry,” said Ryan Sheetz, Sheetz assistant vice president of brand strategies, in a statement at the time.
“From the inception of our MTO menu more than 30 years ago, to the introduction of touch-screen ordering in 1993, to the launch of the voice-activated ordering today, our goal has always been to continue to innovate and reinvent ourselves in order to provide the ultimate convenience to our customers,” he said.
To use voice activation, customers had to have an existing Sheetz online ordering account and an Alexa-enabled device.
Sheetz also echoed the enhanced loyalty programs of large restaurant chains in April 2017, introducing a Sheetz Freakz program that built upon the existing MySheetz Card.
The Sheetz Freakz platform layered onto the loyalty card and allowed redemption of accrued reward points through the Apple and Android smartphone app as well as online.
“The No. 1 request from our customers has been to earn rewards on all of their purchases,” said Joe Sheetz, CEO of Sheetz.
“We heard them and responded with bigger, better and more rewards,” he said. “It’s our way of showing the love to our most loyal customers.”
2018 Top 200: Segment Trends
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