There were 153,237 convenience stores in the U.S. as of Dec. 31, 2018 according to the 2019 NACS/Nielsen Convenience Industry Store Count. This is a reduction of 2,198 stores from the all-time high of 154,958 units reported in 2017. NACS says this was only the fourth time since the year 2000 the c-store count has declined.

It is a bit surprising the number of convenience stores fell since new ones seem to open all the time.

Single-store operators accounted for the losses, per NACS, but the organization also points out this demographic accounts for more than 60 percent of all c-stores. It is interesting to note that c-stores represent more than 34 percent of all the brick-and-mortar retail stores in the U.S.

And 554 fewer c-stores sell motor fuel. NACS believes there is a trend in the industry to put more emphasis on in-store sales, particularly foodservice.

Economic News This Week

Foodservice News This Week

  • Food truck business slows in some markets. One reason for the slowdown is consumers no longer view food trucks as a novelty. Another reason for the decline, according to one food truck owner, is the situation used to be like “the wild west” but now regulators are getting stricter. Other factors contributing to slow food trucks’ progress include over saturation and changing menu tastes.
  • Digital orders for foodservice continue to grow. Restaurant digital orders have grown at an annual rate of 23 percent since 2013, per The NPD Group. NPD expects the volume of digital orders to triple by the end of 2020. Mobile apps account for 6 out of 10 digital orders.
  • Chipotle Mexican Grill reported digital sales accounted for 11 percent of the chain’s sales last year. Digital sales rose 66 percent in the last quarter of 2018, the chain reported.
  • A new food hall is coming to Chicago. New Orleans-based developer Will Donaldson has opened food halls in his hometown and in Miami and will build one in McDonald’s corporate headquarters in Chicago’s Fulton Market area. The hall is expected to feature operations from 12 chefs.
  • Sysco announced additional layoffs. The broadline distributor said the reduction in staff was an effort to streamline its business and offset rising supply chain costs. Sysco’s CEO said there would be fewer than 300 employees laid off. In December Sysco said the company would reduce the number of finance personnel it employs. The move was being taken despite Sysco’s earnings per share beating Wall Street’s expectations.
  • The Panera Bread Company closed its last “pay what you want” location. The program was “not sustainable,” per a Panera spokesperson. Perhaps Panera’s management remembered a cardinal rule of economics: There is no such thing as a free lunch.
  • Corporate Stirrings: Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group reached an agreement with Engaged Capital LLC, the chains third largest stockholder. Del Frisco will cancel its recently adopted shareholder’s rights plan and at Engaged Capital’s request add Joe Reece to the board. Engaged Capital also agreed to a standstill provision. Food delivery startup Postmates intends to go public. Before this filing Postmates raised more than $675 million. Details of the IPO were not provided.
  • Growth Chains: Bennigan’s, which was once down to 15 units, is now in the comeback mode with 100 restaurants in various stages of development. Franchise consulting firm MBB has signed agreements for seven Tony Luke’s in the New York City area. FAT Brands plans to open 60 co-branded Fatburger and Buffalo Express restaurants in India in the next 10 years. Saladworks will open two restaurants in ShopRite stores in Philadelphia in the first quarter this year with tentative plans for three to four more by the end of 2019. Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer plans on opening seven to nine more restaurants which will double its current number of locations.
  • Comparable Store Sales Reports: Bad Daddy Ham Burgers up 0.2 percent, Chipotle Mexican Grill up 6.1 percent, Papa Murphy’s down 1.3, YUM! Brands (KFC up 1.0 percent, Pizza Hut up 1.0 percent & Taco Bell up 6.0 percent), and YUM China (KFC up 3.0 percent & Pizza Hut down 4.0 percent.)

For details and same-store sales of other chains, please click here for the latest Green Sheet.