Modern mini marts

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There's a new trend in some corner stores: Food, drinks and dining turned upscale, even healthy. (KFSN)

You might call them mini marts or convenience stores, where you fill up your tank, run in, grab a snack or a slushy, and you're on your way. But there's a new trend in some corner stores: Food, drinks, and dining turned upscale, even healthy. And you may even want to stay awhile.

We're talking fresh from the grill chicken wraps, stir-fry, mouthwatering meatloaf and custom omelets. "There's certainly a move towards more healthy items at convenience stores," says Jeff Lenard from the National Association of Convenience Stores. "You want something indulgent? Great. You want something healthy? Great. It's all under one roof."

Of course, you can still snag a giant soda, candy bar and a bag of chips, but we also found mini-restaurants inside some mini-marts, where employees make your food to order.

Some of the 165 million customers who go to convenience stores each day in the U.S. told us they're liking the variety. "My favorite healthiest menu option is definitely grilled chicken," Keith Berkley says. "I like how I feel after I eat it. I feel healthier," Jessica Hardy adds.

And for some Americans, the 154,000 corner stores in the country are where they buy much of their food. So, the National Association of Convenience Stores partnered with Partnership for a Healthier America. "We are working with nutritionists who can basically help tell us what is credible and what is not," Lenard says.

Some stores allow you to fill up your tank, grab your food, and then dine on café style seating, patios with umbrellas or on leather loungers.

One store offers a burgers and beer joint, featuring local craft beers and it's also a speakeasy. "There certainly is a growing trend to look at what is hip, what is new, what is exciting. A lot of people come to stores, and they want to be surprised, they want to be wowed," Lenard says.

Other stores are going high tech, allowing you to use touchscreen menus inside the store and then pick up your food. Others are working on technology to let you order food from the gas pump on a touch screen and then duck in to get it inside the store. And with 83% of items purchased for immediate consumption, experts predict, "When you look at convenience stores in the next ten years they'll be different, and they will focus on what customers want, fast, fresh and get them on their way," Lenard says.

Last year sales convenience store sales topped 600 billion dollars. That number is comparable to grocery store sales.
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