SAVANNAH, Ga. — More than 40 years ago, Parker's Convenience Stores didn't offer dispensed beverages because it couldn't get a soda company to supply a fountain. Today, the retailer considers itself a fried chicken specialist and offers made-from-scratch food at more than 30 stores.
"We want to be a foodservice company that sells convenience items, rather than vice versa," said CEO Greg Parker, who’s been selected as the 2018Convenience Store NewsFoodservice Leader of the Year for his spearheading of the transformation. "There is an enormous, seismic shift going on in the world of retail."
Locals and visitors to South Carolina and southeast Georgia now know Parker's as a reputable chain of 53 retail locations where they can buy fresh, hot, Southern-inspired food under the Parker’s Kitchen brand, along with fuel and traditional convenience items.
To differentiate itself, the retailer uses hormone-free, antibiotics-free, never-frozen, hand-selected chicken tenders cooked in premium oil with fryers that are filtered every fourth fry. Parker's made a major investment in a fresh oil monitoring system that tracks the oil's quality.
"We're really focused on quality; on cooking smaller amounts more often, rather than 48 tenders at a time," Parker said, stressing the importance of the "first crunch" when biting into a chicken tender, which he says is easy to lose over time when cooking in large batches. "Consistency matters."
Parker’s is committed to its food program as it continues to grow in store count. All new Parker's stores will offer Parker's Kitchen, and it’s been added to existing stores where possible.
Some of its highest-traffic stores are generating sales on par with many top fast-food competitors. This is good news for Parker's, which sees a food-focused future for itself.
To take a foodservice program from good to great, Parker believes operators must "hyperfocus" on the consumer, understanding what their regional desires are. A focus on food quality is also integral to success, he said, as is upholding food safety standards.
He also credits the "three legs of the stool" of his foodservice team for the chain’s success: Chief Marketing Officer Brandon Hoffman, Director of Foodservice Heather Davis, and Serena Davis, the company's top foodservice training specialist.
"We have a culture of continuous improvement in our company," Parker explained. "We're never satiated, never satisfied. We never think we've got it all right even though our numbers are pretty extraordinary."
Click below to learn more about our 2018 Foodservice Leader of the Year Greg Parker in our full report, "Thinking Small Yields Big Results for Parker's."