The Restaurant Industry’s Secret Competition
It’s been one of those days where you’re driving around in a freak rainstorm with a growling stomach and a gas light that’s been on for miles. You struggle back and forth about whether or not to take your chances and test that gas station sushi myth because it’s just so convenient. As you walk into QuikTrip you instantly realize you do not smell that usual c-store smell, but the most mouthwatering, fresh pizza and flatbread smell you love. That’s right; there’s a new threat in town and it isn’t what the restaurant industry expected.
The first rule that FastCasual.com recently stated in the article “7 Ways to Grow Your Brand Via Nontraditional Spaces” is to meet the customers where they are at. Customers have to fill up their gas tanks and their stomachs at some point, so why wouldn’t c-stores capitalize on this theory. Luckily for QuikTrip, testing this theory has already begun. The Tulsa, OK-based c-store chain is testing a new in-store, sit-down restaurant concept called QT Kitchens at only one of its 707 U.S. locations. The restaurant offers sandwiches, flatbreads, pizzas, drinks, and even dessert. The customer can order from a touch-screen computer or at the counter. Later this fall, the location will add a drive-thru window for even more convenience.
While c-stores like QuikTrip and Wawa might have the upper-hand in convenience and are in direct competition with fast casual brands, restaurants are continuously looking for smaller and more unusual outlets to provide their customer with familiar brands. In particular, TravelCenters of America has been very successful in offering a wide variety of family restaurants and even quick service restaurants like Black Bear Diner, Iron Skillet, and Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen. Many gas stations and c-stores are equipped with Krispy Kreme or Dunkin’ Donut locations for those looking for breakfast food while Pita Pit, Subway, and BLIMPIE can be found to satisfy lunch and dinner cravings.
Both fast casual and quick service restaurants are going to need to start reconsidering who the real competition is and what it will be like when c-stores start to take hold of the dining out market. Pretty soon c-stores will start converting the hotdog roller grills to Chipotle-style ordering, and changing consumers’ views on gas station sushi.