Finding Your Foodservice Direction


For convenience store operators looking to get into foodservice or those seeking to take their existing fresh food and beverage programs to the next level, day one of the NACS Show delivered a wealth of insights.

Presenters in the foodservice track of educational sessions said there's no question that c-store retailers should be in foodservice in a bigger way since it is not only a significant growth category for the industry year after year, but it is also how most of the top performers differentiate themselves.

In the educational session, "Define Your Foodservice Direction," Brad Duesler, president and CEO of Food Concepts Inc., offered a list of 10 things to consider when implementing a foodservice program: Capital investment

  1. Operational commitment
  2. Space allocation
  3. Employee head count and training programs
  4. Cost vs. retail accounting
  5. Food safety
  6. Parking
  7. Supply chain capabilities
  8. Storage
  9. Marketing plan

He also detailed the three approaches to foodservice that c-stores can take: proprietary brands, manufacturer brands (grab-and-go) and franchise brands. "All foodservice wants to be branded," Duesler noted.

Grab-and-go was the subject of a separate educational session during which Joseph Chiovera, principal of XS Foodservice Solutions, explained that this segment is growing in importance, especially among college-aged consumers. He advised retailers to offer a core range of grab-and-go products; price to sell units, not to increase margin; and position grab-and-go items front and center in the store.

"If you're going to hide it because you don't want to invest in equipment, don't bother," he said.

Fellow presenter Bart Stransky, executive director of food programs and offers for RaceTrac Petroleum Inc., said for every foodservice decision, retailers must ask themselves: "Would you eat it?"

RaceTrac has evolved to provide its stores daily delivery of fresh sandwiches, salads, fruit and bakery from local commissaries. The company's mantra is "quality first and safety always."

For c-stores just getting into foodservice, Stransky's advice was to not try and catch up. "Don't try to go from zero to 100. Build [your program] to be the best it can possibly be," he said.

In the final day-one foodservice session entitled, "Branding Your Own Foodservice," speakers offered tips for those operators interested in doing proprietary programs. According to Ed Burcher, president of Burcher Consulting, retailers must be honest with themselves when evaluating their capability, opportunity and comfort level among company leaders.

He also stressed the importance of utilizing processes. "Step through a process to make sure you're using facts and data to make decisions, not just gut reaction," Burcher said.

Retailers must also have patience in reaching their target return on investment, which could take three to five years depending on the program, noted Jerry Weiner, vice president of foodservice at Rutter's Farm Stores. "This is a long-term investment," he said. "Most companies don't have the patience [needed]. They say they do going in, but nine months later, they expect [the end result.]"

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