Adding even more pressure to the increasingly competitive restaurant industry, convenience stores are getting a bump from consumers seeking out foodservice options. According to new research from The NPD Group, more consumers (a 2.4-percent increase) cited "food prepared on site" as a reason to visit a specific c-store chain.
This is despite the overall drop in visits during Q1, driven by inclement weather across much of the country. Traffic to c-stores decreased by 3.5 percent in Q1 compared to last year.
However, those that visited a c-store during the winter months purchased more than in the same quarter last year, up 1.4 percent.
According to a news release, loyalty was also a benefactor of the severe winter weather, which discouraged consumers from making multiple stops. The first quarter of 2014 showed a 2.2 percentage point increase in consumers stating they typically visit one convenience store whereas multi-chain user visits declined by 2.6 percentage points. To further show the importance of loyalty, 9 percent of consumers, 2 percentage points more than same quarter last year, chose convenience store chains because of a rewards or loyalty program.
In addition to building customer loyalty, the importance of product selection and quality was apparent in Q1, The NPD Group said. There was a 3.4 percentage point increase in consumers choosing a convenience store chain based on its product selection, and a 1.6 percentage point increase in selecting a chain based on its product quality.
"Aside from the adverse effects of the weather on traffic, the first quarter shed light on the continuing importance of loyalty, product selection and quality, and foodservice to convenience store consumers," April Moffa, NPD convenience store industry analyst, said in the release. "Time will tell in the quarters ahead whether or not visits will improve."