Preparing for a Changing Market


The keynote speaker at the National Restaurant Association (NRA) 2014 Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show had a single piece of advice for foodservice operators at all levels.

?You have to have a winning attitude and mindset if you?re going to win in the restaurant world,? said Earvin ?Magic? Johnson, who since retiring from sports has focused on bringing jobs and brand-name businesses to underserved communities through the Magic Johnson Foundation and his own business ventures.

As a business owner, the former basketball star said he?s found success by being willing to do any job, even the small or dirty ones, in order to learn the business and show employees the kind of commitment to strive for.

He advised NRA Show attendees to truly understand their market and not rely on conventional wisdom that might not be helpful. ?Always know your customer. That?s very important,? he said. ?Then, you?ve got to speak to that customer each and every day.?

Hundreds of businesses exhibited their wares at the NRA Show, which took place May 17?20 in Chicago. Although occupying different segments of the industry, many agreed on one thing: The foodservice market is changing, and both retailers and suppliers must also change to keep pace.

The coffee and tea market, in particular, is evolving. ?Coffee is the new battleground for convenience stores vs. QSRs [quick-service restaurants],? Mike Keown, CEO of Farmer Bros. Co., told Convenience Store News on the expo floor. ?Many c-stores are finding they can sell a better-quality coffee at a higher price and still offer great value.? He also noted that Millennials will cause ?profound change? in hot and cold dispensed programs.

On the carbonated soft drink front, suppliers are doing their best to entice customers through the power of customization. The Coca-Cola Co. previewed a new, smaller version of its Freestyle fountain dispenser that offers fewer combinations of soda brands and flavorings but takes up less space. PepsiCo Inc., meanwhile, highlighted its own customization-focused fountain dispenser, the Spire, which is capable of making more than 1,000 beverage combinations in its largest format.


The NRA Show also featured multiple educational sessions. In one, Mike Sherlock, vice president of fresh food and beverage at Wawa Inc., discussed the convenience store chain?s path to becoming a foodservice powerhouse. He noted that c-stores and restaurants have more in common than some might realize, comparing the turnover of a parking space at c-stores to the turnover of a table at restaurants.

?We love the customers, but we love the customers three to five minutes at a time,? he said.

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