By Heather Henstock, Contributing Editor
Taking steps to promote innovative
products and value pricing can elevate
the whole roller grill experience.
WHEN CONSUMERS THINK OF convenience store food, roller grill hot dogs are top of mind. Roller grills have developed a mixed reputation over the years, but they remain a staple of c-store
foodservice programs and produce much more than hot
dogs. Managing the grill with a little creativity and a lot of
quality control is the path to pro;tability.
Sixty-seven percent of the 80,000 c-stores that offer
foodservice have roller grills, according to Technomic, a
Chicago-based research ;rm. Ideal in the c-store setting, roller
grills take up a small footprint, are low maintenance and
provide convenient hot-off-the-grill foods for customers.
These advantages, however, can become problems if
roller grills are mismanaged. Because roller grills are so
low maintenance, c-stores too often neglect the department,
loosing sales and gaining reputations for poor quality food.
Rollers grills can do a lot, but they do not sell for themselves. Managing roller grill food sales is no different from
other foodservice categories in that c-store operators need
to deliver quality food that is aggressively promoted and
merchandised, not simply left in a corner and forgotten.
“Convenience stores need to merchandise the grill,” said
FILL THE GRILL
“The roller grill is a huge part of our business and the cen-
ter of our foodservice,” said Kirk Matthews, senior category
manager, TravelCenters of America (TA), Westlake, Ohio.
“The business is up and coming and huge because there are
so many new things happening on the grills out there.”
TA has one or two roller grills in nearly all of its 200 stores
and offers a broad variety of products, including hot dogs,
taquitos, corn dogs and hot tamales. While the plain hot dog
remains its best-selling roller grill item, TA always has a vari-
ety of hot dog, corn dog and taquito ;avors on the grill at
Dean Dirks, president of Dirks & Associates, a foodservice con-
sulting ;rm in Gig Harbor, Wash. “Merchandise to different
dayparts and consumer demographics. Breakfast and prod-
ucts targeted to Hispanics and Asians offer huge opportunity.”
Roller grill equipment and the foods prepared on them
have vastly improved since c-stores sold their first roller
grilled hot dogs years ago. Today’s savvy retailers embrace
the roller grill as an integral part of their business, keeping
customers interested with new products, paying homage to
the classics and merchandising the products for all dayparts.