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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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