OIL COMPANY EXPANDING BRANDED IN-STORE CAFES

CHICAGO -- Satisfied with the early results at more than 40 new convenience-store cafes, petroleum giant BP is getting ready to enter new markets with another 30 stores under construction.BP launched the Wild Bean Cafe in the Atlanta, Orlando (Fla.), Indianapolis and Chicago markets, and now plans to move into new markets, including New York City and Denver.The company had high expectations for boosting

CHICAGO -- Satisfied with the early results at more than 40 new convenience-store cafes, petroleum giant BP is getting ready to enter new markets with another 30 stores under construction.

BP launched the Wild Bean Cafe in the Atlanta, Orlando (Fla.), Indianapolis and Chicago markets, and now plans to move into new markets, including New York City and Denver.

The company had high expectations for boosting food-service sales volume within its c-stores when it replaced "normal convenience-store [food] fare" and, in some cases, nationally known sub sandwich shops, with a new brand of quick-service, sit-down dining establishment, according to an official with the company. A full 40% of floor space inside the BP Connect stores is devoted to the Wild Bean cafes, which take up 1,600 to 1,700 square feet.

Set off in rich brownish-red tones, the 1,600-square-foot cafes offer seating for 20, with about 16 feet of service counter space, where associates make the sandwiches. Wood-look flooring sets off the hot beverage area from the rest of the store.

While coffee is a big part of the business, the cafe also offers bagel and croissant sandwiches, muffins, pastries, cinnamon and pecan rolls and filled croissants for breakfast, said Ed Doyle, manager of quick-service restaurants for BP. The baked goods range in price from 65 cents for a bagel to $1.79 for a pecan roll.

Business is strong in the mornings with consumers stopping by on their way to work, Doyle told SN. The coffee and breakfast fare "has taken off," he said. "The bagel and croissant sandwiches do very well."

For lunch, consumers choose from among five specialty sandwiches, three soups, and chef and Caesar salads, as well as custom-made sandwiches that let customers pick their own bread, meat, cheese and condiments, Doyle said.

The most expensive sandwich sells for $5.45, with other sandwiches retailing for $3.99.

One of the top sellers is the Boston turkey club, a $4.99 combination of hot roast turkey breast with cheddar cheese, bacon, tomatoes, romaine lettuce and herb mayonnaise on toasted country white bread.

For $1 more, consumers can get a 22-ounce fountain drink and their choice of a bag of chips or a freshly baked cookie.

If the Wild Bean Cafe's menu looks similar to the fare at Au Bon Pain, that's because it is. BP uses a supplier that also works with Au Bon Pain, Doyle said.

"We source similar products," he said.

BP also worked out a consultation agreement with Au Bon Pain, whereas the national bakery cafe chain provides support services, such as training and assistance with store openings, he said.

"It's targeting a completely new audience, not your typical convenience-store audience," Doyle said.

Another goal for the company is building the bakery side of the business.

"One of our objectives is to be seen as the local bake shop as well," Doyle said.