Have Convenience Stores Become Quick-Service Restaurants?

You pull the app and place your order. After a few minutes of waiting, you drive down to the location and walk inside to get your food. There's a special location inside where you can go and sit down while other customers come in to do their usual business. After a short wait, an employee comes out with your food all wrapped up neatly in a paper bag, and you depart.

Now, here's the question: Did this scenario take place at a McDonald's or a Sheetz convenience store?

Some of you may say McDonald's, justifying the claim by noting that the fast-food chain is well-known for its mobile orders and that many people use the app to skip the wait in drive-thru lines. While that is a fair argument, some could also argue that doesn't sound too far off from the Sheetz experience. In 1986, the gas station/convenience store debuted the "MTO"—the Made-to-Order system—which introduced the idea of custom-made sandwiches to the average American driver looking for lunch (via Forbes). The gas station now boasts a menu of burgers, fries, cheese bites, chicken tenders, and much, much more. It's not only the food that has people talking, but also the unique touch-screen menus and the impressive coffee bar (via Business Insider).

If more gas stations and convenience stores adopt such a model, what exactly separates them from being the next generation of fast-food restaurants?

It's entirely possible.

The idea of your local 7-11 or Publix becoming the next McDonald's or Burger King may not be too far fetched, according to Restaurant Dive.

Restaurant Dive reports that it's "entirely possible" that convenience stores can become the next quick-service restaurant sometime in the future. Reports show that many customers view convenience stores in the same way they view fast-food restaurants — in fact, 30% of consumers purchase fast food from a convenience store whenever they visit. While the report notes that gas stations are able to maintain a "captive" customer base, as many customers can't go anywhere until they finished pumping gas, convenience stores also generate a profit by offering a wider selection. You could purchase just about anything from a hot dog, an enormous cup of soda, or a bag of chips and a handful of candy.

The growth of convenience stores in the fast-food market isn't a recent development. Restaurant Business Online reported that in 2011, convenience stores were beginning to expand their food options, putting some pressure on an already heavily-saturated fast-food market. In 2014, Convenience Store News noted that a large number of consumers polled (53%) believed that the food purchased from a convenience store was of much higher quality than what they could get at a normal fast-food outlet.

While there's nothing wrong with getting some burgers from your local convenience store, there are some foods that you're best skipping out on just to be safe.