Dining out might bring to mind Zagat-rated joints with candles and an adult beverage, but a recent report from CNN notes that in many places, including northcentral Pennsylvania, people are increasingly turning to the once-lowly gas station counter for their meals.
In the last 10 years, convenience stores nationwide have increased sales by 30 percent and the number of locations has increased by 28 percent since 2000, according to the National Association of Convenience Stores.
In 2010, Americans started spending more money on food prepared outside the home than on food to take home, according to the Department of Agriculture.
"Our bullseye is kind of that younger age group — the late teens to the early thirties for food and beverage," Travis Sheetz, chief operating officer at Sheetz, told CNN. "They tend to be much more accepting of eating at a gas station."
Sheetz, based in Altoona, had over $7 billion in sales in 2019 with over 600 East Coast stores. Sheetz recently started moving into eastern Pennsylvania, placing new stores at the same exits in the Lehigh Valley as Wawa, which with over 800 stores has long been the standard for hoagies in that part of the state.
Travis Sheetz pointed out to CNN that his stores have always served breakfast all day and all night, a change that McDonald's made only recently.
7-Eleven, the country's first and largest convenience store based in Dallas, bought over 1,000 Sunoco A-Plus stores in early 2018, with plans to change branding of those stores over the next five years.
Dandy Mini Marts, a family-held chain of about 65 stores based in Athens, has added three locations in the last two years, building a new location in Waverly, N.Y. and buying two existing stores in Ithaca, N.Y.