The c-store channel is on the verge of a revolution. One-stop shopping that takes a step up in foodservice may soon eclipse the c-store of the past with its cheap, gut-stuffer food and Big Gulp fountain drinks. The Pride Stores in the Chicagoland area are at the forefront of this revolution. With 12 locations, the company recently revamped the way it does food.
With two foodservice concepts — Urban Counter and Pride Café — the chain offers its customers sandwiches, salads and wraps, all made onsite. Urban Counter is more like a fast-casual restaurant while Pride Café focuses heavily on the open-air cooler selection.
“We try to surprise people and beat that back with good quality food, made-to-order, fresh items that they won’t see in other convenience stores,” said Mario Spina, CEO, The Pride Stores. “There aren’t a lot of people doing what we do where we do it all in-house or a restaurant concept is all made-to-order and fresh.”
Initially, the company outsourced all its food preparation, but managers were unhappy with the quality of ingredients being used, so they brought food preparation in-house. Immediately, The Pride Stores looked for better quality ingredients, starting with the bread.
“Whenever you make a good sandwich, no matter what it is, you need good quality bread,” Mr. Spina said. “Especially in an open-air cooler, the first thing you see is the bread, so if you don’t have a nice wheat bread or bread roll for a sub, it’s just not going to work, and people won’t buy it.”
The Pride Stores partnered with Gonnella Baking Co. to supply these breads. Mr. Spina liked not only the quality of the products but also the fact that Gonnella was a local bakery. Today, The Pride Stores not only uses Gonnella’s breads for its foodservice menu items, but it also sells Gonnella bread loaves and buns in its retail aisles.