- Midwestern convenience store chain Yesway announced it has hired Carlos Acevedo as its culinary innovation and research chef, according to a news release.
- Acevedo, who previously worked as a restaurant critic, food magazine editor and restaurant chef, is charged with identifying promising culinary trends and developing unique food creations for Yesway.
- BW Gas & Convenience, Yesway’s parent company, plans to acquire, remodel and rebrand 500 convenience stores throughout the Midwest under the Yesway brand over the next several years.
BW Gas & Convenience started the Yesway brand last year, and has since expanded to a little more than 100 stores in states like Iowa and Texas. With more and more shoppers prizing grab-and-go convenience, the company sees an opportunity to offer a lively, fresh-focused brand that’s a step up from the traditional c-store concept.
Currently, Yesway offers a selection of sandwiches and other handhelds, along with on-trend beverage options like pumpkin spice coffee. BW Gas & Convenience has positioned Yesway as a meal destination as well as a filling station, and its hiring of a culinary innovation lead shows the chain clearly wants to get ahead of the curve.
Recent data shows this could be a very smart move. According to the National Association of Convenience Stores, companies with store sales that rank in the top fourth of the industry sell three times more prepared foods and 6.6 times more hot coffee than companies that rank in the bottom fourth.
Convenience stores are in an envious position right now because their small size and multitude of locations cater to consumer shopping preferences. According to research firm IRI, two-thirds of all shopping trips these days are so-called “quick trips” to snag a meal or a few fill-in groceries. Many chains have revamped their foodservice offerings to include a wider, fresher variety of grab-and-go foods. Sandwiches, wraps, salads and cut fruit are common finds at c-stores these days, as are ethnic, vegetarian and gluten-free offerings. It’s all a far cry from stale coffee and a few hot dogs lazily spinning on a heating rack.
For supermarkets, this amounts to increasing competition from a channel they’ve long written off. It’s also a sign that quick shopping trips stand to transform food retailing. In the past few years, grocers, who have long operated their own c-store formats have built more convenience-focused locations. Giant Eagle’s GetGo gas stations are being remodeled and rebranded as GetGo Café + Market, and carry groceries as well as a variety of prepared foods. Hy-Vee has also invested in its convenience stores, while Martin’s in Indiana earlier this year introduced a Martin’s Express format.