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.

Two stores are located in residential areas and offer Subway items, while a third offers Noble Roman’s pizza and is open around the clock. “We also offer frozen and canned entrees,” she says. “Students purchase items to eat at that time or later.”

At Miami (Ohio) University, six c-stores accounting for 17% of total sales meet students’ prepared meal needs “to a significant extent,” says Bill Moloney, director of student dining. Four of them offer prepared hot and cold menu items, while the other two offer the department’s Uncle Phil’s Express line of pre-packaged items: wraps, sandwiches, salads, fruits, parfaits and sushi. All are prepared in Miami’s Culinary Support Center and shipped to each store daily, Moloney adds.

Like Miami, Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., operates six c-stores which collectively generate 40% of total foodservice volume. Frank Gladu, assistant vice chancellor of business services, says they are “essential” in meeting the need for prepared meals. “And we can locate them close to living spaces,” he says.

Four of the stores are open around the clock, targeting (and meeting the demands of) the late-night crowd.

Meal plans: Students at UNC, MU, Miami and Vanderbilt are able to use their meal plans in the campus c-stores, but in different ways. UNC and MU students can spend debit funds at their stores but meal equivalencies (to, say, a meal in a 19-meal-a-week) plan are not permitted. They are, however, at Vanderbilt. “Our meal plans are based on combinations of food at any location on campus,” Gladu explains. “In our c-stores, we have combinations that they can use to qualify for their meal.”

Other results from the FSD Campus C-store Study show that:

  • Institutions in the southern United States are more inclined to be in the c-store business: they average nearly .5 stores per campus.
  • Campuses with foodservice purchases of more than $1 million per year are more likely to operate a c-store than those under $1 million.
  • Beverages are the most profitable c-store items, say 41% of respondents, while 17% say full-service sandwiches/entrees and 13% say self-service or grab-and-go sandwiches/entrees generate the most profits.
  • Branded concepts are a fixture in campus c-stores, just as they are in the street-based convenience store world. More than 70% of campus c-store operators say there’s a branded concept in their store, with Starbucks Coffee the most frequently mentioned brand. Others include Freshens Smoothies, Chick-fil-A, Subway and Taco Bell.

Traffic jam: Such concepts help drive store traffic, as does strategic placement of the stores themselves. For example, at the Univ. of Minnesota, Essentials Market & Deli is an Aramark-run c-store that features a licensed Java City set-up. The store is situated near a campus bus stop, and attracts 6,400 weekly customers.

In addition to coffee, the store’s menu of Express foods, made daily, includes stacked meat sandwiches, fresh fruit cups, cheese and meat cups, hummus and pita, veggies and dip, fruit and dip, and yogurt parfaits.


Sales: $616,165 (annual)
Transaction: $4.80
Square footage: 1,290
Days in operation: 6.2 (per week)
Hours in operation: 9+ (daily)

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