Beyond The Microwave: Hot Food Options For Your C-Store
Six options for improving your food offering.
Look around and it’s clear to see. Appetites have evolved! Expectations have changed. As a result, new equipment options and food trends are displacing the once mighty microwave in C-stores.
CTM asked our independent C-store Consultant, Mark Walsh, about different equipment options available to help you take your food offering to the next level.
OPTION 1: Combi Oven
“The combi oven is the workhorse of the convenience food industry. No piece of equipment gives you greater flexibility and allows you to serve a wider variety of products. They’re ovens. They’re steamers. Some can even be used a smokers. All in one convenient, compact unit.
Depending which combi oven you choose, you can effortlessly cook pizza, chicken wings, lasagna and French fries. You name it. The options are endless. They are extremely easy to operate and can be used for fresh, frozen and prepared food items.
Combi ovens come in a variety of sizes, models and capabilities. If there is one piece of equipment worth owning, this would be it.”
OPTION 2: Sandwich Bar
“You don’t have to be Subway to sell a sandwich made before your eyes. You can easily create a fresh sandwich station in your store with all of the requisite storage trays and cutting area. Toaster ovens provide a nice option for customers who like it hot. Customers like the idea of seeing the sandwich being made, so I recommend a visible preparation area, protected by a sneeze guard. Because the customer is watching, it’s crucial that your ingredients look fresh and your workstation is clean.”
OPTION 3: Panini Grill
“A Panini grill takes your sandwich offering to the next level, toasting your bread with those perfect grill marks and melting the cheese to mouthwatering perfection. You can use it as part of a fresh-made sandwich offering or with a specialty prepared sandwich line.”
OPTION 4: Roller Grill
“While a roller grill may seem like a back to basics option, you can think beyond the humble hot dog and diversify your menu. Bratwurst, smokies and Italian sausages are premium options you can offer. Corndogs are incredibly popular with kids and teens. Taquitos are a quick and tasty snack that come in a wide range of flavours.”
OPTION 5: Heated Soup Urns
“A piping hot bowel of soup, chili, jambalaya or stew hits the spot on a cold winter day. Heated soup urns offer a delicious low maintenance, self-serve food option. It’s the perfect complement to a sandwich bar. Again, you’ll find a host of high quality, ready-made products on the market.”
OPTION 6: Proofer and Bake-Off Combination Unit
“Fresh baking has long been a trick realtors like to use at open houses. The smell is irresistible. These units allow you to create professional-quality, melt-in-your mouth cookies, cinnamon buns, cheese sticks, loaves, muffins and more… right in your own store. You can bake from scratch or serve up commercial products developed to minimize prep time.”
“If the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, the way to his stomach is through his eyes. In other words, if you want to sell your hot food… customers need to see it! A Warm Display Case is essential for showcasing the goods you’ve cooked in your combi oven.”
“If pizza is part of your plan, consider a Heated Rotisserie Merchandizer. These spinning pizza racks allow you to set up a lucrative pizza-by-the-slice business. Display in a visible location to ensure your pizza is impossible to ignore – and keeps guests coming back for more.”
“Standard condiments no longer cut it. A fully stocked condiment station will make those hotdogs, burgers and smokies harder to resist. Create a more gourmet experience with fresh cut onions, pickles and jalapenos. Spice things up by offering Dijon mustard or Sriracha sauce (a favourite with the younger crowd). It may seem like extra work and expense, but trust me… it makes a difference.”
Whatever food options you decide to pursue, proper venting is a must for both safety and for eliminating cooking odors that otherwise overwhelm your customers in a C-store setting. Gas operated equipment involves additional attention around safe installation and operation. Equipping your C-store to meet food handling and health requirements is a top of mind concern. We’ll be covering these topics in a future blog post.