ANKENY, Iowa — As Casey's General Stores Inc. embarks on its next three-year strategic plan, the guest and the guest experience still remain firmly behind all of its strategic goals, even if not spelled out. The three primary strategies of this leg of the retailer's growth journey are to accelerate its food business, grow its store count and enhance operational efficiencies.
"What I want all of you to understand is that we are taking aggressive steps to make our stores more efficient and easier to run. Our goal is not only to lower operating costs, but to improve the guest and team member experience," Ena Williams, chief operating officer, said at Casey's Investor's Day on June 27. "I see this as a critical part of enabling growth."
According to Williams, Casey's store operations have been, historically, too complex — its tools, processes and technologies were not streamlined or very efficient.
The retailer is working to change that. Notably, leaders in its new centralized Store Support Center "bring a disciplined, data-driven approach to improve operations and hit financial targets," Williams said. "As a result, we are now measuring almost everything that happens in our stores so that we can understand where we can improve."
The convenience store chain's approach to boosting operational efficiencies centers around four strategic steps that Williams outlined:
Store simplification: removing steps from any process that don't add value; equipping managers and team members with the right tools and support to make running the stores easier; streamlining communications; and modernizing labor and management.
Streamline the kitchen: introducing equipment, technologies and supplies, all intentionally laid out to be at the right places to drive efficiency and cut down the time for preparing and delivering each order.
Faster service: rolling out self-checkout and artificial intelligence (AI) solutions like AI-enabled ordering; and improving point-of-sale capabilities.
Inventory optimization: simplifying the ordering process; placing the right products in the right places; and establishing store-level inventory management.
These four strategic steps are rooted in two foundational elements: store modernization and a culture of continuous improvement.
To get to this point, Casey's began gathering feedback from its c-stores through surveys and interviews conducted over two years. It also established a store manager advisory board representing stores across its footprint, according to Williams.
"We asked what their biggest challenges were and how we could help them be more successful. The feedback was clear — managers had too many tasks that took them away from the guest. There were too many steps in each process. They didn't have the latest tools and technologies," she said. "Operations were not designed for efficiency. This was the starting point for our strategy. We decided to take the voice of the store seriously."