Gastronomic RevolutionThe blue-collar man who smokes used to account for the majority of gas station/convenience store sales. Today, it is a very different matter. More and more, the survival of these stores is based on non-fuel offerings. The trend is to turn gas station/convenience stores into a destination. Paying for gas at the pump – means less impulse buys in the store.

Upscale innovative designs are being incorporated with unique colors, woodwork, art, coffee bars, fireplaces, free Wi-Fi access, and dining areas with big-screen TVs. The goal of this chic strategy is to make it a pleasurable shopping experience.

While offering requisite items, many stores are constantly retooling offerings. Price and value are still vital but the trend is to amplify the appeal of the establishment. Convenience stores built today are 25 percent larger than those built a decade ago. Many owners will tell you they make more off a 12oz cup of coffee than a 12-gallon fill-up. Innovations of this epicurean uprising include homemade baked goods, garden-fresh produce, gourmet coffee, espresso bars, brick-oven pizza, packages deli-style lunch boxes, fresh seafood, and seating areas with magazines nearby. Many stores want to be perceived as a healthy alternative to fast food. Some states allow beer caves, a wine selection or roll-your-own-cigarette machines. To make the customer feel entertained and satisfied is the experience most inventive stores are after.

Swanky food won’t thrive in every neighborhood. Years of dreadful coffee and wrinkly old hot dogs have made customers reluctant to take convenience store food seriously. Today, it is not enough to say “Great location, extended hours or pretty good price.” How to find new ways to entice time-strapped patrons inside the store is the question; and innovation is the answer.