NACS SOI Summit: Routine Shifts Cause Daypart Disruption

Consumers have changed their daily eating habits, affecting c-store traffic.

April 10, 2024

Traditional eating habits have been rearranged, and with the emergence of new eating occasions, there are plenty of opportunities for c-store foodservice programs, David Portalatin, senior vice president and industry advisor of food and foodservice at Circana, said during his presentation at the NACS State of the Industry Summit.

According to data from Castle, Portalatin said, the estimated weekly office occupancy rate is somewhere around 50%. That decreased in-office rate, along with the Boomer generation exiting the workforce and rise of nontraditional employment, such as the gig economy, means that daily routines have been disrupted.

“Ultimately, this means that the things that have been used to create our rhythms of the day—What time do we get up? What time is breakfast? When and what time is lunch? How do we get home and make dinner? All of that is up for grabs,” Portalatin said.

In a year-over-year daypart trend compared to 2019, c-store traffic is down 7.5%, with the afternoon daypart period from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. accounting for more than half of that loss. Additionally, Portalatin noted, P.M. snack, what he called the most important daypart for convenience stores, declined in traffic by 2% in 2023. Lunch traffic also declined 5% year over year.

“C-stores currently dominate that P.M. snack daypart, but over the past year we’ve seen QSRs moving in that direction very, very heavily, growing 5%,” Portalatin said, noting that this shows a potential stealing of visits. However, Portalatin also showed that “food-forward” c-stores experienced a gain in P.M. snack visits, highlighting that foodservice is a way to increase visits.

Traditional dinner and lunch QSRs have been getting into the snack sphere through innovation. “Everybody’s getting in the snack game. Subway is doing pretzels and cookies, Taco Bell is innovating around beverages … the Colonel [KFC] is doing brownies, and Potbelly is in cookies,” Portalatin said.

C-stores should look to innovate, and rethink, their ideas of what a snack is. Portalatin asked the audience, “Who thinks of pizza as a snack?”

He continued, “But we’re talking about disruption. We’re talking about the emergence of new occasions with different foods. You wouldn’t traditionally think that, ‘Oh, that’s a snack.’ No, everything’s in play now. Because for that person, maybe it’s not really snack. Maybe it’s a mini meal that suits their lifestyle more.”

For more on disrupted dayparts and the NACS SOI Summit, check out the upcoming June issue of NACS Magazine. The NACS State of the Industry Report® of 2023 Data will be available for purchase in mid-June at