In the library of content on its 2018 NRA Show site, the National Restaurant Association looks at a recent Technomic report that shines a light on how retail food outlets continue to steal market share from restaurants.

As much as this has to do with the evolution of more food-oriented convenience stores and the like, it also has a lot to do with the coming of age of the Millennial and Z generations.

Consider this from Technomic: “56% of consumers feel convenience stores are ‘just as capable as restaurants in offering fresh foods and beverages’,” particularly among younger consumers (Millennials led this opinion group at 67%) who are “unencumbered by preconceived notions of c-stores and food.”

Meanwhile, citing another Technomic report, CSP recently outlined how Gen Z (age 23 and under) is a hot target for grab-and-go choices, in part, because they “tend to not view roller-grill items as ‘gas station food’.”

Bottom line, these younger consumers are bringing entirely new c-store perceptions to the table, and operators have a great opportunity to revolutionize their roller grill sales.

Here’s how . . .

1. Diversify Your Roller Grill Menu

Variety. Adventurous appetites. Ethnic cuisine.

Like many of the leading trends in foodservice, this desire to break away from the same ’ol same ’ol isn’t just validated by wider-view media on the level of Consumer Reports.

Industry-specific authorities, from Convenience Store Decisions to Convenience Store News are all reporting that the new, younger consumer wants new flavors—and you’d be amazed how that translates to roller grill sales opportunities.

While the conventional hot dog, brat and smoked sausage still hold the majority of receipts across most c-stores, more creative cylindrical options—pizza rolls, cheese sticks, egg rolls, even shrimp-and-rice rollups—can create some higher margin, brand-building excitement.

Further still, you can take it to another level and outfit your roller grill station with complementary options—like hot queso dip to go with Mexican taquitos or warm maple syrup for pancake-sausage rollups.

2. Take Your Roller-Grill Image Seriously

Along with the evolving perception of c-stores and, specifically, roller-grill fare as more than ‘gas-station food,’ comes an expectation to uphold that image.

Again, citing Technomic research, CSP points out that, “half of consumers surveyed say cleanliness is the top attribute they look for at the roller grill station. In addition to showcasing variety, flavor and abundant options for snacking, (they) expect to see a clean and sanitary area . . . ”

So, stay on top of your roller-grill station—from a planning, as well as an operational, standpoint.

Keep it clean and orderly. Complement the dogs and brats with other unique items. But, also, strike the ideal stocking balance that reflects popular sales— where the rollers remain loaded, but not completely full all the time.

3. Equip Your Roller Grills to Sell, Sell, Sell

Even with the potential for a renewed roller grill image, some age-old truths will never change—namely, the undeniable ROI of food merchandising and promotions.

CSP and Technomic contend that, “nearly two-thirds (64%) of c-store consumers who purchase roller-grill items do so for snacking—the highest response given compared to any other daypart or occasion. This suggests that roller-grill purchases are largely driven by cravings and impulse buys.”

Capitalize on this with more practical sales-generation techniques—such as grills with custom graphics or stair-stepped rollers that improve visibility of the food—as well as more creative promotional ideas around LTOs, food-and-drink bundling and so forth.

All of these efforts continue to pay out, especially with the younger consumer base.