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More consumers choosing “grocerants” over restaurants: Panel

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Consumers are increasingly preferring heat and eat offerings of grocery and convenience stores over restaurant fare, said a panel Sunday at the National Restaurant Association Restaurant-Hotel-Motel Show held in Chicago.

“Be afraid, be very afraid,” Bill Cross, SVP for business development at Broad Street Licensing Group warned a room of restaurant industry professionals.

Cross was one of the panelists for a session called “The Grocerants Are Eating Your Lunch: How Grocery Stores, C-Stores, Drug Stores and Home Delivery Are Taking Away Market Share.” Also on the panel were Jim Matorin, business catalyst for SMARTKETING, and Mike Sherlock, VP of Fresh Food and Beverage at Wawa, Inc.

By 4 p.m. each day, 80% of consumers don’t know what they’re going to have for dinner, said Cross. They’re finding supermarkets and other non-traditional food sources to be more convenient than restaurants to buy a hot entrée to take home. “They buy a rotisserie chicken, make a vegetable and they have dinner for their family,” he said.

Snacking is a growing trend that’s also benefitting supermarkets, said Matorin. Consumers now eat 2.35 snacks per capita every day. The number of meals and snacks purchased at restaurants dropped from 208 per person in 2007 to 192 in 2013. Consumers are turning increasingly to grocery, drug and C-stores as resources for grab-and-go meals for the office and home, and for late night snacks and beverages, said Matorin.

Convenience stores have also stepped up their game when it comes to grab-and-go food, said Cross. Having evolved beyond “heat lights and rollers,” Cross said offerings like sandwiches are made with produce that is the same as that found in chain restaurants.

In 2012, Wawa Convenience Stores started offering a segment it calls “fast-casual-food-to-go,” said Sherlock. Popular items are breakfast sandwiches, hoagies and smoothies.

He said Wawa customers want high-quality products delivered quickly as possible.

“We want to help customers get on their way,” he said. “We love [them] three to four minutes at a time.”

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David Orgel is executive director, content & user engagement, of Supermarket News (SN) and its website, SupermarketNews.com. Orgel delivers his opinions on industry trends through a bi-weekly...

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