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4 reasons why convenience stores are the new coffee shops

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As someone who works from home, a change of scenery is necessary to stay focused and productive. Sure, I could head to the local coffee shop, but an even better option is the local gas station.

I’m serious. Hear me out!

Over the years, convenience stores have evolved into true destinations to pick up the morning cup of joe. Today’s top brands often feature high-quality blends, upscale self-serve machines, and options for espressos and lattes. At some stores—like Kelley’s Market, Wawa, and Kwik Trip—they even sell ground beans and K-Cups. This is fantastic news for the 60% of GasBuddies who purchase coffee on their morning commute.

Having visited hundreds of stores around the United States, here are four reasons why gas stations are the new (better) coffee shops.

1. TECHNOLOGY
The designs of many convenience stores have evolved alongside their coffee and foodservice. Indoor and outdoor seating, Wi-Fi, and charging stations are becoming standard features.

At the Kum & Go marketplace store ten minutes from my home, I often choose the outdoor seating. Rather than using small umbrellas which struggle to block the sun, the roof is extended to provide plenty of shade. Space heaters are built into the underside to provide warmth during the spring and fall seasons. Inside the store, each table has a wall outlet, and there’s a power strip at the bar seating.

For those who need internet access, free Wi-Fi is common at today’s top stores. Last year, Wawa began providing Wi-Fi at each of its more than 700 locations.

2. BETTER FOOD & COFFEE
Freshly-prepared food is becoming the new norm at convenience stores. Whether it’s made-to-order meals or grab-and-go snacks, the leading brands offer more—and better—options than many coffee shops.

And they’ve upped their coffee game. In a recent test of iced coffee by Insider, the winner wasn’t Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts—it was 7-Eleven.

At the Sheetz “MTO Market” near West Virginia University in Morgantown, WV, customers can order directly from an espresso bar. At Kelley’s Market, high-quality Kona blends are brewed every 30 minutes using a reverse-osmosis purification system. And 7-Eleven recently announced a plan to introduce sustainably-produced, single-origin Colombian coffee.

When you’re finished working on the laptop, perhaps you want to take home a growler of craft beer? Stores like Kum & Go provide growler stations with a variety of local brews.

3. OPEN & INVITING
Forget being tucked away in a corner of a small, tightly-packed coffee shop—away from natural light. The larger footprint of convenience stores enables a more open and inviting atmosphere.

At QuikTrip’s upscale marketplace concept in Midtown Atlanta, tables are available along the sidewalk for those who want to enjoy scenic views of Peachtree Avenue. There’s also standing tables for those who need to eat in a hurry.

4. MORE LIVELY
When I work remotely, I enjoy being around other people in a lively environment. I don’t want to be tucked away in a dark corner of a coffee shop—surrounded by people quietly typing away with headphones.

That’s why I enjoy convenience stores. When I bring my laptop to the local Kum & Go and use their outdoor seating, there’s a constant flow of people coming in and out of the store. It’s especially busy during the lunch hours. Road crews, construction crews, local office workers—everyone goes there.

Analyst, Convenience Store and Retail Trends

Frank Beard is a passionate advocate for convenience stores who brings a wide range of experience to the GasBuddy team. His "30 Days of Gas Station Food" experiment has raised awareness of the fact that most — if not all — convenience stores have healthful options available. He's spoken at events like the 2016 NACS Show and the Partnership for a Healthier America's 2017 Summit, and he's a contributor to NACS Magazine and NACS Daily. Having visited more than 1,000 convenience stores in 24 states, Frank helps communicate the fact that convenience stores truly are the perfect pit stop.