Game changer: C-stores win the loyalty of food + beverage customers

Katie Cofer | Jan 15, 2019 Katie Cofer 01/15/19

Capturing customer loyalty is everything in the service industry. Sure, getting people in the door and buying your product is the immediate goal, but making them happy and keeping them coming back for more is the long game.

And it’s one game c-stores are poised to win. By providing quality food and beverage items with quick, convenient service, they’re capturing a large spectrum of customers and delivering a better experience than quick service restaurants (QSRs). C-store food and beverage customers are leaving highly satisfied and returning quicker. In short: they’re becoming loyal customers. Here’s how:

C-stores are providing a positive experience + customers are returning quicker

Our research shows 60% of c-store food and beverage customers are visiting because of a previous positive experience. That’s twice as much as QSR customers.


Not only that, but c-store customers’ rate of return is 4.5 days quicker than QSR customers when they’re highly satisfied with their visit. This is huge. QSRs have traditionally dominated the “fast” food market but c-stores are bringing the heat. They’re providing customer-centric service and quality products with true convenience and value to the customer—who are then quickly returning, hungry for more.

C-stores are evolving at a rapid rate + drawing in more and more customers

The c-store industry continues to expand and is redefining “convenience.” Many c-store brands are making huge investments in store remodels—focusing not only on product offerings but cleanliness, convenience, and ambiance. They’re not just a pit stop anymore—they’ve become a full-blown destination.

Many locations of the c-store brand Sheetz feature a drive-thru, where hungry customers in need of groceries can pull up and order a cheeseburger and a gallon of milk. C-store brand Wawa offers their Fresh First line, full of built-to-order and ready-to-go food items made fresh every day. They also provide touchscreens for swift, efficient ordering. Even 7-Eleven, home of the Big Gulp, has expanded their offerings to include organic and fresh snacks.

In the wake of all this innovation, c-stores still have an untapped pool of potential customers. Our study shows only 14% of customers have bought both food and beverage from c-stores. But those who have will choose c-stores over QSRs 40% of the time. So as c-stores continue to improve and expand, their customer base will only continue to grow and those customers are likely to come back.



What’s next?

Charging stations. Free Wi-Fi. Views that don’t face gas pumps. Modern restrooms. Mood lighting and comfortable seating. These are just a few amenities of the new and improved c-stores out there today. They resemble coffee shops and cafes. They’re a place where customers want to spend time, not just pop in for a Snickers.

C-stores are biting at the heels of QSRs and converting a lot of their loyal customers. In order for QSR brands to remain competitive, they’ll need to come up with a strategy against this major disruption—because it’s clear industry lines are being blurred at a pretty rapid rate.

To go deeper on the data behind this transformation in the c-store industry and what’s driving it, download the report: 3 questions answered: How c-stores are disrupting the food + beverage industry.

Katie Cofer | VP, Customer Engagement

Customer Experience Update