Nearly two years ago, Stinker Stores launched its in-house fresh food program across most of its 100-plus convenience stores. The program, Pete’s Eats, has done so well up to this point that Stinker has decided to remodel many of its stores — and build new ones — to fit the mold and experience of a quick-service restaurant.
“We're competing with QSRs,” Nate Brazier, president and chief operating officer for Stinker, said in an interview. “We’ve known that and we've seen that, but how do we get even better and continue our journey?”
On May 11, Stinker held the grand opening for its new location in Grand Junction, Colorado. Besides the large forecourt featuring numerous fuel pumps and a wide selection of standard items inside the 5,000 square-foot store, the open kitchen is the star of the show.
The goal of the new setup was to have the Pete’s Eats section within the customer’s line of sight as soon as they enter the store, Brazier said.
“You walk in, and food is front and center,” he said.
The open kitchen design, situated between the hot and cold food grab-and-go-shelves, features an ordering counter with digital menus positioned overhead. Prepared food options available at Stinker’s Pete’s Eats counter include breakfast sandwiches, pepperoni and sausage pizzas, cheeseburgers and beef and pork burritos. Customers can also purchase various candies, jerky, nuts, chips, bottled water and more from the Pete’s Eats private label line at other points in the store.
This location — and future stores of this same format — will feature a bigger menu moving forward, Brazier said.
Beyond the food itself, Stinker has built its newest large-format site for the in-store dining element, Brazier said. The location features a large “communal” table in the middle of the store where people can sit and eat, or even spend extended periods of time catching up on work.
Other convenience retailers are tapping into this idea as well, such as Twice Daily with its White Bison Coffee shop. Social distancing and travel restrictions from the pandemic boosted demand for a compelling store experience, experts say, and convenience stores have an opportunity to become community hubs where shoppers want to eat, drink and spend time.
“They can pull out their laptop, charge their iPad, and just take a break for a minute,” Brazier said. “Have some good food and utilize that space for that.”
Stinker already has plans in place to debut more of these large-format, food-focused locations, Brazier said. The retailer is currently doing “several scraping rebuilds” throughout its network in Idaho, Colorado and Wyoming, as well as three new-to–industry sites in Idaho and one in Colorado, he noted.
“We've gone in and done several remodels, and we'll continue to do several remodels to implement the Pete’s Eats program,” Brazier said.
When asked why Stinker is so focused on foodservice moving forward, Brazier recalled something he overheard at NACS’ State of the Industry Summit earlier this year: that if you’re not in foodservice, you’re not going to survive.
“I truly, 100% believe that,” he said.