Inflation may be driving pain at the pump—but it's also driving consumers inside the C-store for a cheaper slice of pizza. What can we learn from pizza's recent success?
Pizza is thriving at the C-store
It’s hard to imagine a time when pizza wasn’t popular, but continued inflation is shaking up the landscape of where consumers turn for their favorite slice. According to Technomic’s 2022 Pizza Consumer Trend Report, 17% of consumers have started seeking cheaper pizza options due to rising prices. Who’s been answering the call for a more budget-friendly pie? C-stores, and the effort is paying off.
The lure of cheaper pizza is proving profitable, as pizza programs are helping to boost C-store sales around the country. For example, Cubby’s convenience stores, which offer both Godfather’s Pizza and Godfather’s Express, reported that pizza sales were up 14% YoY.
What does pizza’s newfound prominence tell us about C-store customers?
Takeaway #1: They’re looking to the C-store as a replacement to restaurants
Beyond price, pizza’s success also indicates the growing interest in C-store food offerings as a meal replacement. Nouria’s New England stores, which feature a pizza program, have been seeing a “steady increase” in sales at lunch and dinner. Why? For one thing, the quality is there. A majority of U.S. consumers don’t see a big quality difference between food at the C-store and the meals they can get at their neighborhood QSR. According to The Convenience Experience Report, 59% consider C-stores on par with QSRs.
Convenience also plays a role. As wait times at fast food chains lengthen, more consumers are turning to the C-store for a faster option.
Takeaway #2: They like to grab & go
Pizzas that are already ready-made have extra appeal for C-store customers: 42% said they preferred C-store pizza to be sold as slices. This preference reflects a broader trend in C-stores: the growth of the grab-and-go segment. According to Datassential, more than one in five consumers purchase grab-and-go foods from C-stores “numerous times a week.” Grab-and-go is all about the time savings: when consumers are already on the way to work and stop for gas, they can take care of breakfast, too (provided the C-store has good options)
Takeaway #3: They want options
Yes, C-store customers are generally in a rush, but that doesn’t mean they want one-size-fits-all meal options. According to Technomic’s study, 36% of consumers’ foodservice pizza orders are build-your-own or customized, 28% are one-topping and 19% are chef-designed. And in Datassential’s 2023 C-store Keynote Report, 38% chose “ability to customize toppings,” as a top priority for C-store pizza, while 34% selected “large variety of toppings/flavors.”
Variety is the spice of life—and the source of sales at the C-store.
How can C-stores apply these takeaways?
We know that C-store customers are looking for a variety of quality meal replacements in a convenient, quick format. But before you start drawing up a new marketing plan, it’s critical to understand how these preferences map across your specific customer base. Consider the following:
Can you identify, understand and engage customers who make in-store purchases?
- How well do you understand attributes like preferred items, price sensitivity, daypart, frequency and more?
- Based on past purchases, what other grab-and-go or QSR items besides pizza might attract and retain new customers?
- What’s the right price point? Where can you compete—and win?
With SKU-level purchase insights, you can begin to understand which items are most popular, when they’re being purchased—and which new items could boost sales. Finally, once you’ve chosen new items, how will you promote them? Are you able to target the right people with the right offers to drive in-store traffic and sales? You need to have a robust foundation of first-party data and longitudinal profiles on all your customers to deliver on new customer preferences for the C-store.
Get your pizza the pie with Bridg
Don’t let the opportunity to compete with the right food items pass you by. We help brick-and-mortar businesses identify the individual behind in-store transactions, creating unified, privacy-safe customer profiles with SKU-level purchase behavior and over 300 enriching demographic, socioeconomic and lifestyle attributes. Understand your entire customer base and activate data-driven targeting and personalization strategies across virtually any channel with Bridg.