2005 Campus C-Store Study: Campuses put more in store

More than half of colleges and universities in the United States operate c-stores or convenience-retailing units.

Convenience stores take on new life on college and university campuses, especially when meeting students’ demands for prepared meals.

Sales at campus convenience stores rose just under 2% from 2004 to 2005, according to FSD’s Campus C-Store Study, which shows that more than half of colleges and universities in the United States operate c-stores or convenience-retailing units.

Foodservice departments run the c-stores in about three-quarters of those stores, while bookstores, student governments and other organizations run the remainder.

It’s a category becoming increasingly lucrative for campus dining: 54% of FSD survey respondents say c-store sales increased last year. Total c-store sales volume averaged $1,324,755 in 2005, up from $1,301,546.

Other studies confirm the reason why campuses are expanding their c-store enterprises: 34% of respondents in Y-Pulse LLC’s 2005 College Student Eating Habit Survey rank convenience as a “major factor” affecting their choice of places to purchase meals, while 37% cite c-stores as a “place of purchasing a majority of meals outside the home.”

Meal-minded: Campus foodservice directors often have other factors in mind when opening c-stores, such as meeting students’ needs for prepared meals they can take back to dorms or other residences, such as off-campus apartments. “We offer home-replacement meals for students which are prepared in our dining halls and sold as plated meals in Ram’s Head Market,” says Ira Simon, director of food and vending services at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

There are two c-stores at Chapel Hill, plus a 6,500-square-foot market that opened in March 2005. C-store sales amount to about 8% of total foodservice volume. Simon says more students are interested in frozen and microwaveable meals than they are the plated HMR meals. “We are also able to offer a range of organic, kosher and other specialty food items that meet the needs of a small but important segment of our community.”

Campuses in the c-store business operate an average 2.2 stores in prime, high-traffic locations such as student centers and residences. At the University of Missouri-Columbia, there are four under the banner Mizzou Market; each name also identifies its location (e.g., Mizzou Market-Brady Student Commons).

Off-campus students are the stores’ largest customer segment, says Julaine Kiehn, director of dining services.

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