Are c-stores delivering a better customer experience than QSRs?

Katie Cofer | Dec 12, 2018 Katie Cofer 12/12/18

Grabbing a quick bite to eat used to mean pulling up to your favorite fast food restaurant for a burger and fries. But with the rise of food and beverage purchases from convenience stores (c-stores) over the past few years, this assumption is no longer. When the craving strikes, more and more people are skipping the drive-thru and choosing to pop into their favorite c-store for a slice of pizza, fresh sandwich, or specialty latte.

Why the shift? Many c-store brands have evolved their food and beverage offerings and are providing fresher, tastier options. And since today’s consumers are craving quicker, convenient experiences more than ever, c-stores are becoming a preferred alternative for those hungry customers.

To better understand this disruption and what it means for the future of c-stores and the food and beverage industry, we turned to our market intelligence tool BrandGeek®—the fastest, most accurate source of behavioral data linked to customer feedback in real time. With more than 120,000 responses from c-store and QSR customers, we learned that c-stores are not only providing better food and beverage options, they’re offering more satisfying experiences all around. Let’s look at where they have a leg up:

C-stores are creating more satisfied customers than QSR brands

Hold on to your Big Gulp®. Our data shows that with a food or beverage purchase, 80–90% of the top 10 brands for Overall Satisfaction were c-stores, not QSR brands.


Here’s a look at those scores combined by industry. Overall Satisfaction for c-store customers is higher than QSR customers—and by a significant amount.


When we looked at what’s driving this satisfaction, we discovered that c-stores are coming out on top across key experiential measures.


With grab-and-go options and quicker in-store transactions, c-stores are scoring higher with Speed of Service. And when it comes to Taste, customers clearly don’t feel they’re sacrificing quality food and beverages by choosing c-stores over QSRs.

No matter the time of day, c-store customers are more satisfied

When we look at the data by daypart, c-store wins the morning and late night crowd. And even though QSR is ahead with visit share during lunch and dinner, it’s not necessarily by as much as you’d think.


Looking at Overall Satisfaction by daypart, c-stores come out on top all day long.


Again, convenience is key. Early morning patrons want to fill up on gas and grab a fresh cup of coffee. Lunch customers pop in for a sandwich and a couple household items they need. At dinner, they want to avoid long lines and wait times at restaurants, so they swing in to the closest c-store for a pizza to take home to the family. C-stores have become a one-stop shop and customers are happy about that.

Men, women, young, + older—customers across demographics are loving c-store offerings

Though it may be easy to assume men would be happier than women with food and beverage purchases at c-stores, our research shows fairly equal satisfaction.


C-stores are also winning with customers of all ages.


Customers under the age of 34 are generally happier with c-store food and beverage purchases, though customers over the age of 55 are pretty pleased, too. Being able to capture the hearts (and stomachs) of millennials and Gen Z means the future looks pretty bright for c-stores.

So, are c-stores really delivering a better customer experience than QSR?

In a word, yes. Our research shows the c-store experience is rated better than QSR when a food or beverage is purchased. C-stores are providing customer-centric service and quality products with true convenience and value to the customer—giving QSRs a run for their money.

For more, download the report: 3 questions answered: How c-stores are disrupting the food + beverage industry.

Katie Cofer | VP, Customer Engagement

Customer Experience Update