BONUS CONTENT: PC&F Manages Change on the Front Lines

As with any widespread corporate-driven change, making sure it's understood and implemented by those on the front lines is a critical element of success. At Pacific Convenience & Fuels, this responsibility falls on General Manager of Operations, Chris Wilson, who joined the company in May 2009 after leaving a director of marketing role at Circle K's West Coast division.

"We have to manage the change in terms of the overall company culture and getting [employees] to understand our direction," Wilson said. "We have 2,000 people who work in our stores."

Getting the right store-level personnel in place to execute the company's new programs is the No. 1 focus of the operations team. The first step, according to Wilson, is to retrain existing employees through a change management training program. The next step is to elevate the company's standards in regards to the personality and character traits it seeks in the hiring process.

As Wilson explained, "You can have the best food products in the world, but they won't do you any good if you have a disgruntled employee behind the counter."

Pacific Convenience & Fuels considers several businesses to be first-rate examples of the type of customer service and consistency it wants to provide. One such company is Starbucks; another is In-N-Out Burger, a regional chain of fast-food restaurants in the western United States.

In-N-Out Burger has a completely different model than other fast-feeders, Wilson noted. For instance, the company does a great job in recruiting the top end of its applicant pool and hires people with great personalities, who represent themselves very well. "If you sit back and admire their operation, it shines through how far above they are from their competitors," he said.

Going forward, Pacific Convenience & Fuels intends to follow this same model. The chain will look for personality first; experience and skill set second. "When you start dealing with food, you want to make sure your whole operation is delivering a fresh message," said Wilson.

Aside from labor, operational efficiency is another area of focus for the general manager.

One initiative underway involves using a more scientific approach for staffing. The company contracted with Empower on a new time and attendance system, which will be installed in May and up and running by June 1. The system will capture transaction data from the retailer's point-of-sale systems and then build schedules based on the number of transactions per hour.

"It's not about reducing costs so much, but increasing efficiency," Wilson said.

On the other hand, reducing energy costs by 15 percent is a goal for Pacific Convenience & Fuels this year. The chain started in March retrofitting all of its existing stores with LED lighting, photocells, sensors, etc. The project is expected to be completed by June 1.

"We're looking for ways to drive costs out of the business without having any negative impact on the customer. We're very customer-centric, so we only want to improve what we're doing," said Wilson. "We're standing behind our commitment to reinvest and grow the company."

For more on Pacific Convenience & Fuels, check out the May 2 issue of Convenience Store News.