Supermarkets and convenience stores (c-stores) are raising the bar on their foodservice offerings. That’s why an increasing number of consumers are choosing these outlets for their prepared meals and snacks in addition to quick-service restaurants (QSRs), according to “QSR Plus Retail Market Monitor,” a continuous daily tracker produced by Chicago-based The NPD Group that monitors awareness, trial and usage for QSR operators in major markets nationwide.

Quick and convenient food from c-stores and supermarkets has incrementally added customers to the fast food/foodservice market, the report says. Further, the number of fast food purchases made at retail outlets per customer in the March 2015 through June 2015 period is over six visits higher than those made to QSRs in an average 4-week period.  

The majority of consumers are using multiple channels, retail outlets and QSRs when purchasing prepared meals and snacks. Less than one-quarter of QSR customers are going only to a traditional QSR outlet in a 4-week period. Most QSR customers are using all available retail channels to meet their quick-service meal requirements. Those who are exclusive traditional QSR customers are more likely to dine in at the restaurant than customers who use multiple channels for quick-service.

C-stores hold its highest shares of these product categories—coffee, snacks, breakfast foods, soft drinks and Mexican foods. QSRs offering morning meals are the most likely to feel the impact of c-stores on their customer base. The morning occasions are likely in-and-out, grab-and-go visits where convenience and fast service trump QSR chain preference. In between meal and snack purchases are another vulnerable time of day for QSRs, reports NPD. Grocery stores hold a high share of purchases of chicken, side dishes and salads. These stores are providing an easy and convenient ready-to-consume meal for multiple family members.

“Consumers use QSRs, convenience and grocery stores interchangeably for fast food, particularly when they find the same quality and variety,” says Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst. “The lines between retail foodservice and QSRs are blurring for consumers, and these channel s are competing for visits from consumers looking for a quick meal or snack.”