Casey's Shares Its Recipe for Success

Chief Merchandising Officer Tom Brennan discussed the brand's three-step approach to food innovation during the 2023 Convenience Foodservice Exchange.
Angela Hanson
Casey's Chief Merchandising Officer Tom Brennan
Tom Brennan

NASHVILLE — Casey's General Stores Inc. may be a highly successful convenience store chain, but it's even better known for having put foodservice at center stage.

Reaching more than $1.2 billion in prepared food and dispensed beverage sales in 2022, Casey's Chief Merchandising Officer Tom Brennan estimates the Ankeny, Iowa-based chain should rank among the top 50 restaurant chains in the United States.

Despite this, Casey's leadership sees plenty of room for growth. "We've got a ton of runway," Brennan said during his keynote presentation, "Making Foodservice the Centerpiece of Your Convenience Store Business," at the 2023 Convenience Store News Convenience Foodservice Exchange (CFX) event, held in Nashville.

The retailer plans to lean into increasing its off-premise liquor licenses as one way to better differentiate itself and deliver for guests.

In the fall of 2020, Casey's launched a branding update initiative that included a new logo and visual identity to match its contemporary guest experience. The changes did receive some pushback — "any time you change something that's been around for 50 years, your guests are going to let you know about it" — but the reaction also indicated that Casey's customers had a strong attachment to the brand, which is especially notable considering more than half of its stores are located in towns of just 5,000 people or less, Brennan explained.

"We literally are a part of those communities, and we take a great sense of pride in that," he said.

[Read more: PHOTO GALLERY: 2023 Foodservice Innovators Awards Winners Celebrated]

Casey's also benefits from its reputation of having friendly in-store employees.

"One thing that we consistently hear is our team member friendliness. Having spent some time in convenience [and QSR], that's typically not what you hear, right? You typically don't get a lot of credit for your team member friendliness," Brennan said, adding that Casey's makes a point of maintaining and building upon this.

Success also comes from leaning into the competitive advantages that make a brand different and unique. In Casey's case, this includes its rural footprint, self-distribution, digital experience (which includes more than 6.4 million rewards members, half of whom are actively engaged on a monthly basis), and its business trifecta of fuels, general merchandise and grocery, and prepared food.

Brennan encouraged his fellow retailers in the audience to consider ways they can profit across dayparts, noting that Casey's "iconic" pizza offering gives it more flexibility in meeting consumer needs regardless of the time of day.

"Having that offering allows us to play across breakfast, lunch, dinner, even late night," he said. "For our stores that are open late, we should have that offer available."

Casey's approach to foodservice has evolved since it was founded in 1968 and continues to do so, but one key aspect it refuses to change is its use of fresh, quality ingredients for its handmade-from-scratch pizzas.

"We take a lot of pride in the quality that we deliver every single day," Brennan said. "We will not compromise on that quality."

He also shared Casey's winning formula for foodservice, which is a combination of innovation, execution and team. At the innovation stage of a new offering, the company asks whether it can achieve three key objectives:

  • Desirability: If it's not a craveable product, it goes back to the drawing board.
  • Feasibility: It must be feasible to execute, but trying to answer this question too early in the process is a bad idea.
  • Viability: If it's not driving profitability, it's time to start over.

Once launched, a product must be executed consistently or it will fail, no matter how innovative it is. Consistent execution throughout a brand's footprint is where the team comes in.

"That happens because of people," he said.

The eighth-annual CFX event, held May 4-5, was an exclusive networking and experience-focused conference that gave attendees actionable knowledge and research to strengthen their foodservice business. Multiple executives from leading food-focused convenience store chains spoke at the event.

[Read more: Lessons From Kwik Trip on Instilling a Foodservice Culture]

Sponsors of the 2023 Convenience Foodservice Exchange included gold sponsors Autofry/MTI Inc., BOHA! by TransAct Technologies Inc., Chain Link Services, Everest Ice and Water Systems, Finlays Americas, Hunt Brothers Pizza LLC, Southern Visions LLP, The J.M. Smucker Co., and Wasserstrom; silver sponsors Supplyit By Jera Concepts and Tyson Foods; and innovation zone sponsors 33 Degrees Convenience Connect, Kitchen Technology Innovations Integrated Control, and Smoodi.

About the Author

Angela Hanson

Angela Hanson

Angela Hanson is Senior Editor of Convenience Store News. She joined the brand in 2011. Angela spearheads most of CSNews’ industry awards programs and authors numerous special news reports. In 2016, she took over the foodservice beat, a critical category for the c-store industry. 

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