McLane on Board to Support Foodservice Growth
TEMPLE, Texas — The growth of foodservice at convenience stores, and consumer demand for more fresh food offerings, has been one of the major challenges for the entire c-store supply chain.
McLane Co. Inc., the nation’s largest broadline distributor to the convenience store industry, is rising to meet that challenge in this, its 120th year in business.
In a recent interview with CSNews Online, Tom Sicola, McLane’s vice president of marketing, discussed the Temple-based wholesaler's efforts to help retailers grow their foodservice business, along with several new technological advancements designed to facilitate retailer operations.
At the company’s retailer trade show in Orlando, held earlier this month, McLane felt it was important to tell its story by packaging all of its foodservice suppliers into one section, unlike past shows where foodservice suppliers were scattered throughout the trade show floor.
“Several thousands of foodservice SKUs were displayed all in one area to give retailers a clearer view of the breadth and depth of our foodservice offerings,” added Holly Veale, foodservice category manager for McLane Grocery Distribution.
To make it even easier for retailers to sort through all of McLane’s foodservice offerings, the wholesaler developed a Foodservice Menu containing factoids about foodservice sales and trends from various research sources, and solutions organized by different dayparts. These dayparts include bakery, breakfast sandwiches and lighter fare for breakfast, soups, salads and dressings, small bites, gourmet sandwiches, wraps, burgers, hot dogs, and more for anytime eating.
“We all know that retailers are looking for higher margin categories like foodservice to counter the impact of the decline in tobacco,” Veale noted.
The new Foodservice Menu, designed to look like a restaurant menu, also features solutions from specific vendors, such as the Tyson Chicken Program, Tony’s Pizza Program and JCX Coffee Program. In addition to food and beverage items, McLane features its extensive selection of foodservice support solutions, such as equipment, cups and other store supplies.
The trade show, themed "Make Profits Happen," drew 185 exhibitors, including 36 new suppliers; and 1,200 attendees, including 400 McLane customers — a 25-percent increase over its 2013 show, according to Dawn Letson, category development manager for McLane Grocery Distribution.
ADVANCEMENTS IN TECHNOLOGY
On the technology front, McLane introduced a new direct-store delivery (DSD) solution that combines two ordering technologies into one.
“With the new DSD solution, customers can check in, count or create an order for any DSD product using the same device they use to place their electronic order with us,” said Deon Johnson, applications director for the distributor.
Johnson explained that retailers using McLane’s Smart Handheld Device along with a data interface from their back-office system can now create orders for all McLane and non-McLane inventory in real-time. The device helps retailers eliminate inconsistencies, streamline processes and reduce errors, while saving time and money.
“The retailer has one device” to deal with, Johnson pointed out.
The company listed these retailer advantages with the DSD application:
- Place orders, receive deliveries and take inventories by category or distributor.
- Check in deliveries in real-time to eliminate unauthorized products from entering your store.
- Order exactly what you need, take control of how much DSD product is brought into your store.
- One piece of equipment handles all products, which means less employee training is required.
- Create shelf labels for DSD products when you need them.
- Data interfaces allow for the entire product lifecycle to be reviewed, from receiving to final sale, through the back-office system.
- Time savings as a result of the technology allows store managers to have more time to spend with customers.
McLane also introduced a new lottery application for its Smart Handheld Device. As a retailer sells all the tickets of one game of lottery books, a replacement book needs to be activated. By activating the replacement book, the retailer takes on the financial responsibility for all tickets in the new roll.
However, unless the store manager takes the time to communicate to headquarters, the store owner or home office will not know the liability occurred. With the average book of lottery tickets exceeding $200 in value, it’s important that this information is communicated as soon as possible.
“The new lottery application on the handheld allows retailers to activate lottery books from any state with an automated interface,” said Johnson. These activations are then immediately communicated to the back-office system so that owners know what’s going on in their stores in real-time. Compared to manual operations, the automated lottery application reduces errors and improves cash flow, he added.
Among other advantages, the new lottery application provides retailers with a back-office interface that matches the game and the serialized book, which will tie directly to the lottery commission of each state. Multiple games or books can be activated at the same time, and the device has a history function that shows what lottery books have been updated for the past 10 days.
Looking to 2015, McLane has two new technology advances coming. Currently, McLane’s Customer Managed Inventory (CMI) allows retailers to better manage inventory in their stores by leveling out peaks and valleys in ordering. In addition, point-of-sale data automatically replenishes orders to prevent stores from having excess inventory. Next year, retailers will be able to use CMI on non-McLane products.
Also next year, retailers will be able to place orders on their smartphones and tablets through an app that can be downloaded from Apple’s App Store or Google’s Play. Beta tests will begin in January.