What you need to know

Convenience store prepared meals and ready-to-eat, fresh drinks, and snacks have proven to be one of the most promising areas of growth within foodservice. However, all of the optimism is met with some caution; in particular, the stigma that convenience stores cannot serve high-quality foods. Regardless, a number of brands are proving that restaurant-quality foods are the future for the growing category. This report discusses convenience store visitation, drivers regarding made-to-order foods, consumer definitions of fresh, top items ordered, and attitudes and behaviors of consumers who purchase foods and drinks from convenience stores.

This report builds on the analysis presented in Mintel’s Convenience Store Foodservice – US March 2014 report, as well as the April 2013, March 2012, and 2011 reports of the same title.


For the purposes of this report, Mintel defines convenience stores as establishments that retail a limited line of goods, primarily groceries and ready-to-consume beverages and snacks, and are in easily accessible locations. The majority of convenience stores also sell motor fuels.

According to the National Association of Convenience Stores, common characteristics of convenience stores are:

  • Building size of less than 5,000 square feet

  • Stock of at least 500 stock-keeping units (SKUs)

  • Off-street parking and/or convenient pedestrian access

  • Extended hours of operation, with many open 24 hours a day, seven days a week

This report includes food and beverage sold as “freshly” prepared or made-to-order. The report does not include retail/grocery food items such as packaged food, candy bars, bottled sodas, etc, as well as excludes foodservice outlets that are franchised and/or operated by third parties, such as Subway restaurants housed inside the convenience store.

Throughout the report, convenience stores are also broken down into the following types:

  • Standalone chain convenience store without a gas station (eg 7-Eleven, Circle K)

  • Gas station based convenience store (eg Shell or Wawa)

  • Independent/neighborhood convenience store (eg not part of a major chain)

  • Highway travel-based convenience store (eg truck stop, Pilot Flying J, Love’s)

  • Other transportation-based convenience store (eg inside train station, bus depot, airport)

Value figures throughout this report are at retail selling prices (rsp) excluding sales tax, unless otherwise stated.

Data sources

Consumer survey data

For the purposes of this report, Mintel commissioned exclusive consumer research through Lightspeed GMI to explore consumer attitudes and behaviors toward pizza restaurants. Mintel was responsible for the survey design, data analysis, and reporting. Fieldwork was conducted in August 2014 among a sample of 2,000 adults aged 18+ with access to the internet.

Mintel selects survey respondents by gender, age, household income, and region so that they are proportionally representative of the US adult population using the internet. Mintel also slightly over-samples, relative to the population, respondents that are Hispanic or Black to ensure an adequate representation of these groups in our survey results and to allow for more precise parameter estimates from our reported findings. Please note that Mintel surveys are conducted online and in English only. Hispanics who are not online and/or do not speak English are not included in the survey results.

While race and Hispanic origin are separate demographic characteristics, Mintel often compares them to each other. Please note that the responses for race (White, Black, Asian, Native American, or other race) will overlap those that also are Hispanic, because Hispanics can be of any race.

Consumer qualitative research

In addition to quantitative consumer research, Mintel also conducted an online discussion group among a demographically mixed group of adults aged 18+. This discussion group was asynchronous (ie not run in real time), functioning like a blog or bulletin board, with questions remaining posted for a predetermined period of time. This method allows participants to respond reflectively, at their leisure, or to log off to think about any issues raised, and return later to respond. Participants were recruited from Lightspeed GMI’s online consumer panel with responses collected in July 2014. All quotes are included verbatim, and as such, include typos and other grammatical errors as they originally appeared.

Abbreviations and terms


The following is a list of abbreviations used in this report:

BLS Bureau of Labor Statistics
c-store convenience store
CPI Consumer Price Index
LTO limited time offer
MTO made to order
RTE ready to eat
QSR quick-service restaurant


The following terms are used in this report:

Chain Multiunit foodservice concepts operating under a single brand name, such as McDonald’s or Pizza Hut. A restaurant chain consists of two or more restaurants owned by one person or company. Typically all restaurants in a chain have similar décor and serve the same food.
Consumer unit Defined per the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) as either: 1) All members of a particular household who are related by blood, marriage, adoption, or other legal arrangements; 2) A financially independent person living alone or sharing a household with others, or living as a roomer in a private home or lodging house, or residing in permanent living quarters in a hotel or motel; or 3) Two or more people living together who pool their incomes to make joint expenditure decisions. Financial independence is determined by the three major expense categories: housing, food, and other living expenses. To be considered financially independent, a respondent must be able to provide at least two of the three major expense categories.
Fast casual A hybrid segment of fast food and casual dining, combining the convenience of limited service with the ambience and quality of full service. Defining features include check averages of $6-9; décor that is more sophisticated than a QSR (quick-service restaurant); and food prepared to order, with customization of ingredients by patron being the norm.
Fast food Used interchangeably with QSR.
Foodservice All places that prepare food outside the home are included as part of the foodservice industry, including food operations in supermarkets, schools, hospitals, factories, and prisons. Restaurants make up the largest part of the foodservice industry.
Franchise In most franchise agreements, a restaurant owner grants another person or company the right to use the name of his/her restaurant. This right also includes the use of the original owner’s patented products, building designs, and trademarks. In return, the original owner receives a fee. In addition, the franchisee usually pays a percentage of the restaurant’s income to the original owner.
Full-service restaurant Establishments that provide table service. Food is ordered at the table and is paid for at the end of the meal. The segment comprises several subsegments, differentiated primarily by check size. These include family/midscale restaurants and casual dining restaurants.
Independent A single restaurant that is not part of a chain.
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Generations are discussed within this report, and they are defined as:

World War II The generation born in 1932 or before. In 2015, members of this generation are aged 83 or older.
Swing Generation The generation born between 1933 and 1945. In 2015, members of the Swing Generation are between the ages of 70 and 82.
Baby Boomers The generation born between 1946 and 1964. In 2015, Baby Boomers are between the ages of 51 and 69.
Generation X The generation born between 1965 and 1976. In 2015, Generation Xers are between the ages of 39 and 50.
Millennials* The generation born between 1977 and 1994. In 2015, Millennials are between the ages of 21 and 38.
iGeneration** The generation born from 1995 to present. In 2015, iGeneration are aged 20 or younger.

* also known as Generation Y or Echo Boomers

** previously known as Post-Millennials, Matrix Generation

In order to provide an inflation-adjusted price value for markets, Mintel uses the CPI to deflate current prices. The CPI is defined as follows:

CPI The Consumer Price Index is a measure of the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for a market basket of consumer goods and services.

The CPI and its components are typically used to adjust other economic series for price changes and to translate these series into inflation-free dollars. Examples of series adjusted by the CPI include retail sales, hourly and weekly earnings, and components of the national income and product accounts. In addition, and in Mintel reports, the CPI is used as a deflator of the value of the consumer’s dollar to find its purchasing power. The purchasing power of the consumer's dollar measures the change in the value to the consumer of goods and services that a dollar will buy at different dates.

The CPI is generally the best measure for adjusting payments to consumers when the intent is to allow consumers to purchase, at today’s prices, a market basket of goods and services equivalent to one that they could purchase in an earlier period. It is also the best measure to use to translate retail sales into real or inflation-free dollars.

Based on Bureau of Labor Statistics definition.
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