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In His Element


As a professor for many years before delving into the world of convenience foodservice, Dr. Jack Cushman has always had a passion for teaching and learning. So, he couldn’t be happier for the education opportunities in his new role as director of foodservice for CST Brands following its acquisition of Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes, his former employer.

The 16-year Nice N Easy veteran, who previously served as executive vice president of foodservice and led the development of Nice N Easy’s signature Easy Street Eatery concept, is now tasked with taking the best offerings and practices from Nice N Easy to CST’s Corner Stores in the U.S. and Canada, including the Dépanneur du Coin stores in Québec, and integrating them across the organization.

“How do we leverage the strengths?” is the question Cushman works to answer each day.

CST’s Corner Stores in the U.S. have a mature, successful offering in the morning, consisting of coffee, doughnuts, breakfast tacos and kolaches (a Czech pastry). Nice N Easy is strong at all three dayparts, including its coffee, fresh-baked muffins, made-to-order sub sandwiches and pizza. CST’s Canada stores are less robust in foodservice, but do a good business in coffee and fresh-baked muffins.

Nice N Easy’s food program is one of the things that attracted CST to acquire the Canastota, N.Y.-based chain, according to Cushman, noting that Easy Street Eatery is a well-established concept that’s been around for roughly 10 years. CST leaders believe in the program so much so that they’ve decided to open five new-to-industry prototype stores in Texas with similar made-to-order offerings. The goal is to have these prototype stores up and running before the end of this year.

While it’s unlikely the concept will be called Easy Street Eatery in Texas (a name was still being decided as of press time), the items on the menu will largely be the same, incorporating the morning daypart successes in Texas with the lunch and dinner successes of Easy Street Eatery. “As you move into lunch, people expect personal service and the ability to customize,” Cushman said, touting the advantages of made-to-order during the lunch and dinner dayparts.

He is delighted that the program the Nice N Easy team created will now reach beyond the central New York region Nice N Easy serves. “I always knew this business model would take off coast to coast,” he said. “CST is young, smart, aggressive enough and has the capital to invest. It’s exciting for me. I’ve been waiting for this kind of opportunity. I know we can enhance the overall business model at CST.”

Other examples of ways CST is “cross-pollinating” under Cushman’s guidance include Nice N Easy’s adoption of Corner Store’s Texas pecan coffee and signature Whoopie Pies.

Of course, integration is not without its challenges. Since assuming the director of foodservice role at CST, Cushman has spent countless hours educating himself on the differences between operating in Canada vs. the United States. He has made many drives across the border, stopping at quick-service restaurants and other c-store chains along the way to learn.

“Every time I travel, I explore,” he said. “I like to learn. I have an intellectual curiosity. This is fun for me, dealing with different procurement models, menu items, competition and customers.”

Among the challenges of operating in both Canada and the U.S.:

  • Canada is a huge country with a small population, making distribution networks challenging.
  • Some equipment used in Canada stores must have the Canadian ULC certification, which means certain equipment used in U.S. stores must be designed to meet Canadian specifications.
  • Some products used in U.S. stores are also available in Canada, but some are not and it is a challenge finding purveyors to ensure ingredient consistency.
  • Salami is a very popular pizza topping in Montréal, along with many other nuances.

Along with being a team builder, Cushman understands the complexity of bringing layout and design, construction, procurement, operations and marketing together to formulate success. He is building teams in various markets to achieve the objectives. He considers himself the “resource guide” to see other people become confident and successful.

“Kim [Lubel] talks a lot about servant leadership and I have always believed in this philosophy, too,” he said.

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