DALLAS — Leaning into one of its core strengths — the willingness and desire to learn from one another — members of the convenience channel gathered at McLane Co. Inc.'s national trade show to get a taste of where the industry stands and where it is heading from a consumer perspective, operator perspective and product perspective.
Kicking off the McLane Engage convention in Dallas on Aug. 30, Daymond John, entrepreneur, author and TV personality on ABC's "Shark Tank," shared five key pieces of advice that help him succeed, or what he calls his Shark Points:
S: Set a goal
H: Do your homework
A: Amor, or love what you do
R: Remember your brand
K: Keep swimming
He also noted that there are two ways to learn in life: through mentors and through mistakes.
His message came as the convenience store industry stands on the precipice of change: change in consumer behavior, change in competition, and change in how it does business overall.
Freshening Up Foodservice
One key area that hits all three is foodservice. As most of the c-store industry can agree, foodservice is no longer a nice-to-have offering, but rather a must-have.
To help convenience retailers get in the game, McLane unveiled McLane Fresh, an expanded foodservice at retail program designed for convenience stores, at the event. As demand for and sales of fresh and higher-quality food items increase, c-stores are elevating their foodservice programs and in-store experiences to compete with fast-food and quick-service restaurants, the company noted.
Speaking during an education session, Jon Cox, vice president, retail foodservice at McLane, explained that the company tapped into internal data, customer data and third-party data to reimagine its foodservice offering. As a result, McLane Fresh concentrates on "the center of the plate" or core items, he said during the "Fresh Perspectives: Navigating the Dynamic Retail Foodservice Landscape" session.
As customers seek out a good slice of pizza or a cold sandwich, McLane is focused on helping retailers offer best-in-class programs. "Wherever you are on your foodservice journey, we want to be there for you," Cox added.
According to Farley Kaiser, senior director of culinary innovation at McLane, it usually takes 12 to 18 months to present a fully vetted program that is consistent and that customers can trust, taking several drivers into consideration including customer feedback and trends.
What's really important in the foodservice journey, Cox explained, is value. "People have different perceptions of value," he said. "How do you tell the story that this is a high-quality item at a value that gets customers coming back for more?"
To develop McLane Fresh, the company worked with its 26,000 team members and formed strategic partnerships with outside companies, according to Cox.
The Foodservice Journey
In addition to offering McLane Fresh, the company is providing solutions for retailers to roll out the new products to their customers — and this includes equipment and food safety solutions.
"We want to come alongside our operators wherever they are," Kaiser said. "We want to understand your hiccups. We want to understand your goals. We want to connect the dots between our strategic partnerships, McLane and our customers."
Along the foodservice journey, convenience retailers will come up against competition, but the competition is largely coming from outside the channel, not from within, Cox noted.
"When you start thinking about share of stomach, the competitor is not in this room. The competitor is the QSR [quick-service restaurant]. It is the McDonald's down the street," he said. "I truly believe we are going to win together. Go to NRA [the National Restaurant Association show] or any of the restaurant shows and the people they are afraid of are in this room."
The McLane Engage convention is taking place Aug. 29-31 at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas. The newly imagined trade show experience features booths from more than 160 exhibitors, as well as a new products showcase. The event also provides the opportunity to build meaningful connections with industry powerhouses, and learn from notable experts at a series of educational sessions.
Temple-based McLane Co. is one of the largest supply chain services companies in the United States. Through McLane Grocery and McLane Foodservice, it operates more than 80 distribution centers and one of the nation's largest private truck fleets, and provides alcoholic beverage distribution through its subsidiary, Empire Distributors.
McLane is a wholly owned unit of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.