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Convenience Store News February 2021



A Category in Constant



Volume 57, Number 2


Local, State and Federal tobacco taxes and restrictions on the sale of tobacco products can hurt your business. Governments often pass new laws quickly, so you need to stay informed about what is happening in your area. You and your business matter and making your voice heard is crucial to our success in fighting for fair tobacco policies.

YOU need YOU Take this survey to learn more about how you can get involved


Provided on behalf of Philip Morris USA, U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co., John Middleton, and Helix Innovations. Š2021 Altria Group Distribution Company | For Trade Purposes Only


What to Expect From Biden Presidency Convenience store industry should brace for sweeping climate change, labor regulations IT’S AN OLD AXIOM that businesses generally prefer a divided government with power shared by the two major political parties over one-party rule because they generally prefer stability over the unknown effects of unpredictable change.

After the Republicans’ Senate losses in the Georgia runoff elections last month, the White House, Senate and House of Representatives are now all in the hands of the Democratic Party. So, what regulations and laws are likely to be enacted in the coming year that will affect convenience store and fuel retailers? Climate change is probably among the first issues that the Biden Administration and Dem Congress will address. Biden believes the Green New Deal is “a crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face.” The U.S. will rejoin the Paris Climate Accord, make “historic” investments in clean energy and climate research, and establish mechanisms to force companies to reach emissions targets no later than the end of his first term, with a goal to achieve a 100 percent clean energy economy and net-zero emissions no later than 2050. I hear the collective groan from the petroleum industry and anyone who sells petroleumbased motor fuels. Another major area of concern for retailers is on the labor front. On a recent NACS podcast, government affairs expert Jon Taets said: “I think we’ll see him [Biden] starting to roll back a lot of what the Trump

Administration did over the last couple of years, such as the overtime rule and joint employer rule.” Biden has also said he would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour and mandate paid family and medical leave for up to 12 weeks. (See story on page 42 for more on the key labor issues currently facing c-store retailers.) On taxation, Biden says he will raise taxes and undo Trump’s tax cuts of 2017. He wants to raise the corporate tax rate to 28 percent, after Trump had reduced it to 21 percent, from the previously onerous 35 percent. Considering how helpful social media technology giants were to his campaign, I don’t expect Biden to push any new restrictions on what content companies like Facebook and Twitter can control and censor on their platforms. On a more positive note, expected investments in infrastructure and a more generous COVID-19 relief package for Americans will likely benefit convenience retailers. Biden is likely to portray the past election as a sweeping mandate for change. More likely, it was a referendum on Trump. After the past four years, Americans wanted to turn the page. I think at least half the country would settle for gridlock at this time. For comments, please contact Don Longo, Editorial Director, at (201) 855-7606 or dlongo@ensembleiq.com.


EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD Brett Atherton Bolla Management

2018 Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award Finalist, Best Editorial Use of Data, June 2017

2013 Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award Best Single Issue, October 2012

2013 Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award Finalist, Best Profile, August 2012

2020 Eddie Award, Folio: magazine Business to Business, Retail, Series of Articles, September 2019 2018 Eddie Award Honorable Mention, Folio: magazine Business to Business, Retail, Website Business to Business, Retail, Full Issue, October 2017 Business to Business, Editorial Use of Data, June 2017

Rick Crawford Green Valley Grocery

2017 Eddie Award, Folio: magazine Winner, Business to Business, Retail, Single/Series of Articles, May 2017 Honorable Mention, Business to Business, Retail, Single/Series of Articles, June 2016

Edward Davidson ER Davidson & Associates (7-Eleven Inc., retired)

2016 Eddie Award Honorable Mention, Folio: magazine Business to Business, Retail, Full Issue, October 2015 Business to Business, Retail, Single/Series of Articles, August 2015 2016 American Society of Business Press Editors, National Azbee Awards Gold, Best How-To Article, March 2015 Bronze, Best Original Research, June 2015 2016 American Society of Business Press Editors, Midwest Regional Azbee Awards Gold, Best How-To Article, March 2015 Silver, Best Original Research, June 2015

2015 Eddie Award Honorable Mention, Folio: magazine Business to Business, Retail, Single Article, February 2014

2013 American Society of Business Press Editors, Midwest Regional Azbee Awards Bronze, Best Editorial/Commentary, July 2012

Jim Hachtel Eby-Brown Co.

2014 Eddie Award Honorable Mention, Folio: magazine Business to Business, Retail, Full Issue, October 2013 Business to Business, Retail, Single Article, February 2013

Chris Hartman Rutter’s

2013 Eddie Award Honorable Mention, Folio: magazine Business to Business, Retail, Full Issue, October 2012

Ray Johnson Speedee Mart

2015 American Society of Business Press Editors, National Azbee Awards Silver, Best Profile (long form), February 2014 2015 American Society of Business Press Editors, Midwest Regional Azbee Awards Gold, Best Special Supplement, November 2014 Silver, Best Profile (long form), February 2014

Laura Aufleger OnCue Express

Joe Lewis ExtraMile Convenience Stores Ruth Ann Lilly GPM Investments Danielle Mattiussi Maverik Inc. Vito Maurici McLane Co. Inc. Jonathan Polonsky Plaid Pantries Inc. Greg Scriver Kwik Trip Inc. Bill Stein Core-Mark Roy Strasburger StrasGlobal

Jack Lewis GPM Midwest

2020 Trade Association Business Publications Intl. Tabbie Awards Honorable Mention, Best Single Issue, September 2019 2016 Trade Association Business Publications Intl. Tabbie Awards Silver, Front Cover Illustration, June 2015


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Convenience Store News 3






A Category in Constant







FEBRUARY 1 302 0A2 Category CSNEWS.COM

in Constant Motion Regulation and legislation are continually changing the state of the tobacco business. FEATURE

42 Labor Pains The pandemic has created a challenging, competitive labor market for c-store retailers.

3 What to Expect From Biden Presidency Convenience store industry should brace for sweeping climate change, labor regulations. 8 CSNews Online 22 New Products

26 Don’t Have Just Your Head in the Cloud Cloud-based technology can be a big advantage for the small operator.

4 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

66 Destination: Nostalgia Wally’s is a family-friendly travel center focused on enhancing the road trip experience. INSIDE THE CONSUMER MIND





64 Anne Flint, EG Group The 2020 TWIC Woman of the Year encourages aspiring female leaders to keep their expectations high.

82 Seeking a Recipe for Recovery Consumer shifts due to the COVID-19 pandemic have upended convenience foodservice.





9:49 AM



DUOS 2 F L AV O R S • 1 P O U C H






8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., Ste. 200, Chicago, IL 60631 (773) 992-4450 Fax: (773) 992-4455 www.csnews.com

BRAND MANAGEMENT Vice President/Group Brand Director Paula Lashinsky (917) 446-4117 plashinsky@ensembleiq.com EDITORIAL Editorial Director (201) 855-7606



10 Wawa Drives Up Convenience With New Service


12 EXCLUSIVE: Study Finds Omnichannel Amenities Will Staunch C-store Traffic Declines 14 Eye on Growth 14 Fast Facts 16 Retailer Tidbits 19 Supplier Tidbits TECHNOLOGY

49 Keeping the Innovative Spirit of 2020 Alive A look at some of the food, drink and flavor-discovery trends forecasted for the year ahead.

Don Longo dlongo@ensembleiq.com

Editor-in-Chief (201) 855-7608

Linda Lisanti llisanti@ensembleiq.com

Senior News Editor (201) 855-7618

Melissa Kress mkress@ensembleiq.com

Associate Editor (201) 855-7619

Angela Hanson ahanson@ensembleiq.com

Associate Managing Editor (201) 855-7604

Danielle Romano dromano@ensembleiq.com

Contributing Editor (303) 741-3377

Renée M. Covino reneek@aol.com

Contributing Editor (201) 280-2614

Tammy Mastroberte tmastroberte@gmail.com



50 Entering a New Era of Foodservice The COVID-19 pandemic hit the prepared food and dispensed beverage categories hard, but retailers can take the first steps toward recovery now.

Associate Brand Director & Northeast Sales Manager (508) 385-2524

Rachel McGaffigan rmcgaffigan@ensembleiq.com

Associate Brand Director & Western Sales Manager (330) 840-9557

Ron Lowy rlowy@ensembleiq.com

Associate Publisher & Midwest Sales Manager Kelly Fischer (773) 992-4464 kfischer@ensembleiq.com Account Executive & Classified Advertising Terry Kanganis (201) 855-7615 tkanganis@ensembleiq.com Classified Production Manager Mary Beth Medley (856) 809-0050 marybeth@marybethmedley.com EVENTS

60 Workforce Management to the Rescue Getting communication, in-store operational efficiency and compliance in order is more important than ever in today’s world.


53 Using Data to Boost Foodservice Sales Combining internal and external data can help c-stores positively impact performance.

Executive Vice President, Events & Conferences Ed Several (860) 830-8321 eseveral@ensembleiq.com AUDIENCE List Rental (914) 309-3378

MeritDirect Marie Briganti

Subscriber Services/Customer Care TOLL-FREE: (877) 687-7321 FAX: (888) 520-3608




56 Capitalizing on the Packaged Beverage Boom The category is on an upswing as dispensed drinks continue to be hard-hit by the pandemic.


Vice President, Production (877) 687-7321 Creative Director (973) 607-1320

Derek Estey destey@ensembleiq.com Colette Magliaro cmagliaro@ensembleiq.com

Advertising/Production Manager (773) 992-4418

Ed Ward eward@ensembleiq.com

Art Director (973) 607-1321

Lauren DiMeo ldimeo@ensembleiq.com

CORPORATE OFFICERS Chief Executive Officer Jennifer Litterick Chief Financial Officer Jane Volland Chief Innovation Officer Tanner Van Dusen Chief Human Resources Officer Ann Jadown Executive Vice President, Events & Conferences Ed Several Senior Vice President, Content Joe Territo


The contents of this publication may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the consent of the publisher. The publisher is not responsible for product claims and representations.

Convenience Store News (ISSN 0194-8733; USPS 515-950) is published 12 times per year, monthly, by EnsembleIQ, 8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., Ste. 200, Chicago, IL 60631. Subscription rates: Subscription rate in the United States: $125 one year; $230 two year; $14 single issue copy; Canada and Mexico: $150 one year; $270 two year; $16 single issue copy; Foreign: $170 one year; $325 two year; $16 single issue copy; Digital One year, digital $87; two year, $161. Periodical postage paid at Chicago, IL 60631, and additional mailing addresses. Copyright 2021 by EnsembleIQ. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Reprints, permissions and licensing, please contact Wright’s Media at ensembleiq@wrightsmedia.com or (877) 652-5295. POSTMASTER: send address changes to Convenience Store News, 8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. Ste. 200, Chicago, IL 60631.

6 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

GSK is now the leader and your strategic partner for health and beauty care in Convenience.

Get all of your favorite brands from one familiar place! Contact your local GSK C-Store representative on how to order or email Scott.F.Breisinger@gsk.com




California Delays Start of Flavored Tobacco Ban


FDA Grants PMTA Approval to Next-Generation IQOS Device


The sale of flavored tobacco products in California can continue, for now. A flavor ban — which includes menthol cigarettes — was set to go into effect on Jan. 1. However, state officials agreed to delay the new law’s implementation after opponents to the ban petitioned to bring the issue to the voters.

On Dec. 7, Altria Group Inc. announced that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized commercialization of the next generation of its IQOS tobacco heating system device. FDA authorization follows review of the IQOS 3 Premarket Tobacco Product Application submitted by Philip Morris International Inc.


GPM Investments Begins Next Chapter as Arko Holdings & Haymaker Tie-Up Closes

In September, GPM Investments parent company Arko Holdings Ltd. entered into a definitive agreement with Haymaker Acquisition Corp., a publicly traded special purpose acquisition company, to form a business combination. With the transaction now complete, Arko Corp. — the new company — moves forward as a U.S.-listed public company as GPM embarks on an aggressive store remodeling program.


Stewart’s Shops Wraps Up $45M in Investments in 2020

Stewart’s Shops invested $45 million in 17 new or rebuilt stores in 2020, the last year of its $245 million five-year program. The company had slated $75 million in new builds and rebuilds this year to mark its 75th anniversary; however, the COVID-19 pandemic altered those plans, according to President Gary Dake.


Pilot Co. Forms Strategic Alliance to Better Meet Trucking Industry’s Tire & Maintenance Needs

Pilot Co. is forming a strategic alliance with commercial tire dealer and retread manufacturer Southern Tire Mart to launch Southern Tire Mart at Pilot Flying J. The venture will leverage the strengths and conveniences of Pilot and Flying J travel centers along with Southern Tire Mart’s tire and maintenance expertise, the companies stated.


Identifying Key Value Items & Avoiding Inconvenient Mistakes Convenience stores provide a unique shopping experience that differs from other brick-and-mortar retailers. In the c-store format, every single product offering plays a much larger role in the overall success of the business, unlike grocers or mass merchants that can more easily survive a few unproductive items due to larger assortments, writes Matthew Pavich, managing director of global strategic consulting for Revionics, an Aptos company. Because a shopper is usually running into a c-store for a quick need or last-minute buy, c-stores must have an astute awareness to know which items to make competitive and which to promote more often. In order to leverage key value items (KVIs) for the maximum benefit of pricing perception, c-stores must accurately define which items are the most strategically important to convenience shoppers. 8 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

ON DEMAND: 2020 Convenience Store News Future Leaders in Convenience Event Convenience Store News hosted its 2020 Future Leaders in Convenience (FLIC) event virtually, honoring an impressive group of young professionals who are striving for excellence; achieving notable, verifiable results in their past and current positions; and serving as strong role models to the teams they oversee as they help shape the future of convenience. The Dec. 10 virtual awards presentation celebrated the 2020 FLIC class — the largest yet consisting of 20 up-andcomers and young seasoned executives from c-store chains of all sizes. Their roles range from a company president, to a chief financial officer, to category managers, and marketing and human resources execs. For more exclusive stories, visit the Special Features section of csnews.com.


White Owl Swirl: Chocolate & Vanilla Cigarillos White Owl Swirl: Chocolate & Vanilla Cigarillos feature two popular flavors in one. The pairing is highlighted in an eye-catching, dual-colored wrapper created by the brand’s Dominican Republic team. The product was slated to arrive in stores nationwide in early January and is available in either a “2 for 99¢” or “Save on 2” format, allowing for retail pricing flexibility. To commemorate the release, Swedish Match is holding a “Share Your Swirl and Win” sweepstakes that encourages consumers to share their Swirl pictures via a QR code, which automatically takes them to the White Owl brand website.

Swedish Match Richmond, Va. (310) 551-4100 swedishmatch.com

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Wawa Drives Up Convenience With New Service The c-store chain is offering drive-thru for the first time WAWA INC. MARKED two major milestones in its history this winter: it opened its first convenience store with a drive-thru and, less than a month later, it opened its first standalone drive-thru location.

On Dec. 18, the Pennsylvania-based retailer welcomed customers to its first drive-thru store, located in Westampton, N.J. The store is a traditional full-service format with fuel that’s equipped with a custom drive-thru experience featuring two lanes, separate order points with digital menuboards including a QR scan menu option, and one “point of pay and pickup window.” Operating between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. daily, the Wawa drive-thru team can quickly que up to 19 cars in line for breakfast, lunch and dinner, according to the retailer. “Wawa continues to test new store concepts with this latest drive-thru format,

10 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

providing an opportunity for our customers to experience and enjoy their favorite Wawa products while remaining inside their car,” said Terri Micklin, director of construction. “Wawa is committed to increasing convenience and providing new options for service while keeping safety and comfort top of mind. Wawa hopes to learn from the layout, workflow and traffic flow at this location, as it continues to explore alternatives for longer term application to stores post-COVID-19.” Three weeks later, on Jan. 8, Wawa celebrated the grand opening of its first-ever standalone drive-thru location. The Morrisville, Pa., store focuses on fresh food, and offers drive-thru service and curbside pickup only from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. The location can serve 12 cars at a time. The store offers Wawa’s most popular freshfood menu items, specialty beverages, iced coffee, salads and Kids Meals, as well as a limited selection of packaged products, including doughnuts, soft pretzels and Wawa iced tea.


Phone: 888-824-3256 | www.cbprices.com www.hempbombs.com | www.naturesscript.com


EXCLUSIVE: Study Finds Omnichannel Amenities Will Staunch C-store Traffic Declines Retailers should focus on services like food delivery and integrating gas prices into their apps By Don Longo CONVENIENCE STORE RETAILERS looking to increase foot traffic may want to lean in on amenities such as omnichannel shopping, pay by scan, delivery, and buy online, pick up in-store. Doing so would result in better customer satisfaction and more repeat visits, according to researchers at Northern Illinois University and University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

A new study, conducted by Numerator Inc., polled 323 c-store shoppers to uncover the reasons for overall trip declines over the past five years, and to “add to the retailing literature of what convenience stores can do to overcome these challenges.” Another finding that should interest c-store retailers is to whom they should target their advertising. Generation X is the predominant shopper at c-stores today, followed by millennials. “This suggests that Gen Z should be a key target market for c-stores going forward,” according to the report. “Advertising to the millennials to bring their children up into the c-store environment would be ideal.”

They also studied what they called “hedonic” vs. “utilitarian” value. Hedonic value is measured by a feeling of escape, joy and beach-like atmosphere, while utilitarian value is measured by “I got what I needed from this shopping trip and I felt smart.” The research supported their original assumption that c-store customers are primarily utilitarian focused and that a clean store with proper food handling procedures and high service quality, and with adequate product assortment, are required to satisfy customers and create revisit intentions. The other hypothesis tested was whether c-stores would benefit from having more hedonic features and if that would affect customer satisfaction and revisit intentions. All stimuli were significant to the hedonic experience, with the exception of store atmosphere, cleanliness and food cleanliness (which points to customers expecting this in a utilitarian setting).

The scholarly study used various models to measure consumer preferences in c-stores. One framework looked at the stimuli that affect customer experience and customer satisfaction: product assortment; cleanliness, including food cleanliness; store atmosphere; price; and service quality.

As for which omnichannel options are preferred by customers, the study showed that c-stores might want to focus more on such things as food delivery, integrating gasoline prices into their apps, ensuring consistency of prices between their stores and app, offering buy online, pick up in-store, and offering scan-and-pay without waiting in line.

“We then added omnichannel as stimuli items — such as pay by scan, delivery, and buy online, pickup in-store,” said the researchers.

Additionally, a particular focus should be on hedonic, fun ways to engage with their app and making the app convenient to use, the report stated.

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AriZona Trade Ad CSN FINAL.indd 1

2021-01-12 3:59 PM


Eye on Growth

Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. closed on its $360-million purchase of Convenience Retail Asia Limited (Circle K HK), which marks its entrance into Asia.

Majors Management LLC picked up eight convenience stores and numerous dealer supply accounts from OSAN Petroleum Co. Inc. The deal increases Majors Management’s presence in Georgia.

Pester Marketing Co., which does business as Alta Convenience, sold to a joint-venture entity between Fortress Investment Group LLC and a subsidiary of Phillips 66 Co. Post-closing, senior executive management will continue to lead the company.

Smoker Friendly’s holding company, Bolder Panther Group LLC, completed a $51.7-million minority recapitalization and debt restructure with Main Street Capital Corp. The deal includes assistance with the company’s acquisition growth strategy.

TravelCenters of America Inc. signed 21 franchise agreements and opened 10 new franchise locations in 2020. The first TA travel center of 2021 was slated to open Jan. 12 in Huntington, Ore. Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores threw open the doors to the largest travel stop in its network on Dec. 17. Located in Bliss, Idaho, the travel stop measures more than 21,000 square feet.

CEFCO also celebrated the opening of its second groundup build of 2020, in Mount Enterprise, Texas, in early December.

CEFCO Convenience Stores ended 2020 on a high note as the retailer closed on its first acquisition of the year. The chain picked up Young’s Market, located in Marlin, Texas.

Offen Petroleum is acquiring Ozark Mountain Energy and its affiliate trucking company, Petroleum Express. They will become a combined entity under Ozark Mountain Energy. U.S. Petroleum Partners LLC (USPP) purchased the wholesale assets of TriLakes Petroleum LLC. This transaction will further utilize USPP’s existing pipeline terminal and dealer portfolio in southwest Michigan and northern Ohio. The new entity will be named USPP-Tri-Lakes LLC. Thorntons welcomed customers to several new stores as 2020 drew to a close. The convenience retailer opened two stores in Chicagoland, including in Palos Hills and Worth, Ill., as well as a new location in Huntley, Ill.


13.4 million

More than one in three longerterm CBD users, or an estimated 13.4 million adult consumers, tried at least one new CBD product format during the past six months. — High Yield Insights

14 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

Regular U.S. retail gas prices averaged $2.17 per gallon in 2020 — a decrease of 44 cents per gallon, or 17 percent, compared to 2019.

Since 2015, consumers added 25 between-meal snacking occasions per capita, bringing the total number to 530 in 2020.

— U.S. Energy Information Administration

— Eating Patterns in America, The NPD Group





Over 13 million adult consumers (more than 1/3 of longer-term CBD users) tried at least one new product format in the last 6 months.*


2022 150%


CBD Drinks are expecting nearly 75% growth in 2021 and 150% growth in 2022,* the largest estimated growth among all CBD product types.



2021 75%

CBD Drinks are predicted to become the category’s #1 revenue driver by product type in 2023.*

of adult CBD consumers are likely or very likely to purchase products containing CBG.*

VA OR’S H GH T R S Among adult c-store shoppers, nearly 7 in 10 Disposable Vape consumers use CBD products daily.*

W FORTH™ Juice Drinks. Vape Pens. CBD + CBG Tincture Drops. Get the new products adult consumers want. *Applies to Convenience and Gas channel All data sourced from Brightfield Group and High Yield Insights

©2021 EAS.

To request more information, visit Forth .com/ ontact- s


Product packaging not final


Retailer Tidbits

Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores extended its boosted benefits related to the coronavirus through March 31. They include a $2-an-hour pay increase for hourly store employees and guaranteed quarterly bonuses for current store managers.

Under the plan, the retailer will convert six former Red-Kap convenience stores it acquired to Stewart’s Express.

7-Eleven Inc. is giving c-stores in the Oklahoma City market a makeover that includes changes to their offerings, as well as their look. The retailer picked up the sites through its recent acquisition of 7-Eleven of Oklahoma.

Stewart’s Shops is bringing a smaller store concept to the marketplace. The new format will be a test to see how these shops perform with a decreased product offering and the omission of handscooped ice cream.

Shareholder CVR Energy Inc. urged Delek US Holdings Inc. to make several changes, including selling its convenience store network. CVR Energy holds approximately 15 percent of the outstanding common stock of Delek US.

Casey’s General Stores Inc. added 100plus new snack and beverage products to the Casey’s private brand. The new products reflect the retailer’s updated branding and refreshed merchandising strategy.

Pilot Co. teamed up with Southern Tire Mart to launch Southern Tire Mart at Pilot Flying J. As of Jan. 1, the alliance took over management operations of the 35 Pilot Flying J Truck Care maintenance facilities.

EG America is expanding its partnership with Sbarro in the Columbus, Ohio, market. The opening of its second Sbarro restaurant inside a Turkey Hill convenience store marks the first of seven planned for 2021.

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W MEN IN CONVENIENCE OCTOBER 6, 2021 | CHICAGO The 2021 Convenience Store News Top Women in Convenience awards program recognizes the integral role women play in convenience retailing. Women will be honored from the retailer, wholesaler and supplier communities in four different categories: AWARD CATEGORIES* Women of the Year

Senior Level Leaders

Rising Stars







Vice President and Brand Director 917-446-4117 plashinsky@ensembleIQ.com Associate Brand Director/West Coast 330-840-9557 rlowy@ensembleIQ.com

TWIC2021_FullPg_0121_Final.indd 1

Associate Brand Director/Northeast 508-385-2524 rmcgaffigan@ensembleIQ.com


Account Executive/ Classified Advertising 201-855-7615 tkanganis@ensembleIQ.com

Associate Publisher/Midwest 847-894-8134 kfischer@ensembleIQ.com

1/27/21 5:56 PM


Supplier Tidbits

Mondeléz International acquired Master Holdings, parent company of Hu Products. Hu, which comes from the phrase “Get Back to Human,” is a U.S.-based snacking company focused on high-quality snacks made from simple ingredients. Reynolds American Inc. is integrating its Trade Marketing team with its Digital and Commercial Activation teams. Frank Silva will lead the new team as senior vice president, Trade Marketing and Activation. Convenience distributor GSC Enterprises Inc. is acquiring selected assets of Brenham Wholesale Grocery Co. Inc. The transaction was expected to close Jan. 29.

PDI acquired Cybera The transaction creates Inc. and ControlScan a new line of business Managed Security called PDI Security Solutions. Services. Both companies provide managed security solutions to protect customers against cybersecurity threats. Petrosoft LLC is now a Verifone EPS loyalty partner. The expanded pact allows Petrosoft to build on its existing Verifone partnership and integrate Go Loyalty with Verifone’s point-of-sale terminals.

The Convenience Distribution Association will hold its Convenience Distribution Marketplace 2021 in a virtual format from Feb. 15-17. Suppliers can book one of four package options outlined in the Marketplace Virtual supplier prospectus.

Welbilt Inc. entered into a strategic partnership with HCL Technologies Ltd. The deal will accelerate the development of Welbilt’s KitchenConnect digital platform and its rollout to Welbilt customers.

On Sop Forour Contour All-In-One Waste/Windshield Station Enhance your brand image Convenience for you and your customers Ready-to-use

www.forteproducts.com | 816.813.3337 F E B RUARY

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Convenience Store News


Unified Workforce Management and Human Capital Management Solutions:

A New Frontier for C-Store Retailers A merger of Kronos Incorporated and Ultimate Software has created UKG™ (Ultimate Kronos Group). Convenience Store News sat down with Amanda Nichols, senior manager of the retail, hospitality, and food service practice at UKG, to explore what c-store retailers can gain from implementing a unified workforce management and human capital management (HCM) system, much like what the newly formed company will bring to market. Convenience Store News: C-stores face many challenges when they use standalone solutions or try to link together multiple point solutions, rather than one unified system for workforce management and HCM alike. What are those challenges? Amanda Nichols: While individual point solutions can take manual tasks out of employers’ hands, standalone systems don’t give your managers access to the complete data view they need to make the right decisions around those tasks. When building a weekly schedule, for example, the necessary data may be there (i.e., you’re already monitoring store traffic, forecasting sales, and you know when employees are available to work), but if that data is trapped in silos, then you’re not getting the greatest value from it. It’s not optimized. What’s more, the latest generation of workforce management and HCM solutions utilize artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, and these intelligent systems need a wide swath of data to function at their highest capacity. If an integration between two, three, or multiple solutions is done well, you’ll be able to funnel data appropriately and reveal some interesting and intelligent insights. But standalone solutions present barriers that prevent you from utilizing your data in more meaningful and effective ways.

UKG, for example, is bringing together HCM, payroll, HR service delivery, and workforce management solutions. This will enable retailers to access data across all these different solutions and take advantage of their capabilities within a single application. That wealth of data forms the basis for smarter, more strategic business decisions that helps managers and leadership attain their business goals. CSN: What benefits should c-store retailers expect from a unified workforce management solution? AN: The latest generation of workforce management solutions are powered by AI and machine learning—which thrive on data. The more real data they’re fed from different sources, the more effective these solutions become. And that’s important, because data serves as a strong foundation for automating and optimizing operational tasks, like building weekly schedules. A unified solution, like UKG Dimensions, will pull together all available and relevant data variables—labor forecasts, time and attendance data, employee records, compliance rules, overtime limits, training certifications, and so much more—and propose weekly schedules based on real-time insights that are well beyond a store manager’s instinctual knowledge.

CSN: In general, how does a unified workforce management and HCM solution address such challenges?

The system can also intelligently take into account what changes managers and/or employees have made to a published schedule, or how timestamps might consistently differ with scheduled shifts, and then consider what it’s learned from this data over time to get the job done.

AN: In a unified platform, the data natively lives in one single location, which removes all of the obstacles related to data integration. By brining all that data together, managers can easily uncover insights and the unified system then allows them to act on those insights and make smarter decisions.

For example, say Mary is scheduled to work from 1 to 7 p.m., but always ends up staying until 7:30 p.m. to accommodate the rush. With an AI-powered system, that pattern is identified; automatic adjustments to forecasts and employee schedules are made so the store has adequate staff coverage.


Because the time and attendance system is baked into— not just integrated with—your scheduling system, the schedules you create actually reflect what’s going on in your stores. They jive with stores’ needs and become increasingly accurate as the scheduling and labor forecasting systems learn patterns from time and attendance data. Predictive scheduling replaces guesswork. Next generation workforce management systems can also offer value by bringing in data from outside sources, like vendors. Suppose a retailer wants to push a two-for-one beverage promotion. When the workforce management system has data about the promotion embedded right into it, store managers can keep the promotion front and center. If point-of-sale data is also embedded into the system, management can see from that data which employee pulled off the promotion best—and can give that employee a bonus, which increases engagement. For c-store retailers that work with a lot of vendors, being able to embed vendor data brings great value to the merchandising team. Compliance is a big issue for c-store retailers, too. Intelligent workforce management solutions can help to simplify compliance because rules can be built in and customized by managers. Let’s take minors as an example. In many states, laws restrict what hours minors can work, how many hours per shift they can work, and the number of hours or shifts they can work each week. So, if Mary is a minor and the system “knows” from the built-in rules she can’t do late-night shifts, it won’t schedule her for any, and compliance is automatic. The system can even alert Mary’s manager if she’s approaching her cut-off time so the manager can ensure she clocks out before she violates a minor regulation. Managers might also choose to add compliance attestation tools to the mix. CSN: How about c-store employees—what benefits would a unified workforce management solution offer to them? AN: As in any industry, an engaged workforce is key to c-store retailers’ success. UKG Dimensions gives employees the flexibility and control they need to adjust their schedule and remain engaged in their work. Right in the mobile app, employees can post or swap a shift, find and pick up open shifts, and see which co-workers they’ll be working with. They could even pick up a shift at another store the next town over if they want to. By combing UKG Dimensions with UKG Pro, c-stores can extend that same people-centric approach across HR and payroll. Their employees can complete open enrollment, update payroll deductions, and quickly get answers to related questions from their mobile app. Employee sentiment analysis separates what employees say from what they may be too shy to share. The more c-store retailers give employees a balanced, healthy work experience, the less like they will be to seek jobs elsewhere. This type of employee engagement benefits everyone within the organization.

Pushing the Workforce Management and HCM Innovation Envelope The merger of Kronos and Ultimate Software to become UKG creates one of the world’s largest HR solutions providers, with 12,000 employees worldwide and annual revenues of approximately $3 billion, and nearly $2 billion in combined R&D spend over the past five years. The merger gives rise to a company that takes HCM and workforce management to the highest level of innovation, harnessing tightly integrated, complementary products and a combined 70 years of expertise to get there. UKG is empowering c-store retailers to manage their most important resource—people—more effectively, with the cloud as a linchpin. This, in turn, drives better business outcomes, improves HR effectiveness, streamlines the payroll process, and makes work a better, more connected experience for every employee. Designed specifically to meet the needs of retailers, the UKG for Retail suite of award-winning solutions includes: • UKG Dimensions: A global workforce management solution on a unified platform. • UKG Pro: A comprehensive suite of HR solutions—from payroll, benefits, and recruiting, to service delivery and engagement surveys, and everything in between. • UKG Ready: A single solution for HR, payroll, time, and talent to help centralize management of the entire employee journey.






1. Dos Equis Five-Liter Draft Keg

2. Rice Krispies Treats Homestyle

3. CBD Living Disposable Vapes

Dos Equis Lager is now available in a five-liter draft keg format, starting in Texas and rolling out to additional markets during 2021. The innovation is designed to meet consumers’ preference for brewery-fresh beer as they do more drinking at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The product launch is being supported by social media, digital display, e-commerce, search, and geotargeting around retail locations. High-impact merchandising materials include a fitfor-format display rack, plus cooler and beer cave signage.

Inspired by the homemade treats crafted when families gather, Rice Krispies Treats Homestyle are 50 percent larger than the originals and contain extra marshmallows folded into every bite. Individually wrapped, each treat includes a writable wrapper, allowing consumers to leave a little extra love in a handwritten note. Rice Krispies Treats Homestyle are available in original and chocolate varieties.

CBD is now extra portable in the form of CBD Living Disposable Vapes. Available in Mango, Piña and Strawberry Banana flavors, each 0.5-gram precharged disposable vape contains 250 milligrams of CO2-extracted nano CBD oil and a full terpene profile, including CBC, CBG and CBN cannabinoids. The new product line is 100 percent THC free, and free of heavy metals, toxins, pesticides and PG/VG.

Kellogg Co. Battle Creek, Mich. (800) 962-1413 kelloggcompany.com

CBD Living Corona, Calif. cbdliving.com

Heineken USA White Plains, N.Y. heinekenusa.com

4. Stoelting Flavor Burst Soft Serve System Flavor Burst is a versatile system for soft-serve machines that creates visually appealing, customized treats with up to eight flavors out of one spout, in a striped or blended pattern. The Flavor Burst spout assembly installs directly onto a Stoelting freezer’s spout, and the syrup lines that create the colorful designs can be easily connected and disconnected. The system is controlled by a 10-inch color touch panel. The concentrated syrups come in 38 flavors for striped machines and 17 flavors for blended machines. Stored in 1-gallon, ready-to-install bags, the syrups have a long shelf life and do not require refrigeration. Each 1-gallon syrup bag provides 560 5-ounce servings for striped flavors and 400 5-ounce servings for blended flavors. Stoelting Foodservice Sheboygan, Wis. stoeltingfoodservice.com

5. NRS EMV EZ Pump Solution The NRS EMV EZ Pump Solution is a convenient, affordable pay-at-the-pump retrofit and payment processing service. The solution accepts EMV (chip) payment cards, as well as contactless payments, mobile wallets, tap to pay, and other options to eliminate common touchpoints at the pump. The NRS EMV EZ Pump Solution includes NRS Pay credit card processing to provide integrated credit card processing at hypercompetitive rates for additional savings. NRS Pay also works hand in hand with NRS Petro’s point-of-sale terminals for retailers who want a fully integrated management system and flexible loyalty program. National Retail Solutions Inc. Newark, N.J. (888) 260-0112 nrspetro@nrsplus.com nrsplus.com/petro 22 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m


Retailers that merchandise with the ZYN Zone

INCREASE THEIR VELOCITY GROWTH 2X MORE than retailers with other merchandising solutions*


STOCK AMERICA’S #1 TOBACCO-FREE NICOTINE POUCH TODAY *Source: MSA 26 weeks ending 10/04/20 vs. 26 weeks ending 04/05/2020. For Trade Purposes Only ©2020 Swedish Match North America LLC




6. Johnsonville Handheld Sandwiches Johnsonville unveiled two new handheld sandwiches specifically for the convenience store market. The new enrobed sandwiches come in two varieties — Jalapeño Cheddar Sausage and Beef Hot Dog — and are designed to offer a quick, delicious option for those seeking something more substantial on the go. Each portable sandwich comes packaged in a sealed, microwavable film. The Jalapeño Cheddar Sausage Sandwich is made with 100 percent premium pork that’s been naturally hardwood smoked and filled with real cheddar cheese and diced jalapeño peppers. The Beef Hot Dog Sandwich is also naturally hardwood smoked. Johnsonville Sheboygan Falls, Wis. foodservice.johnsonville.com


7. Core Power Elite Strawberry Core Power is adding strawberry as the newest flavor in its Elite line of ready-to-drink, high-protein shakes, alongside chocolate and vanilla. Each 14-ounce bottle of Core Power Elite has 42 grams of complete protein, along with 230 calories, nine essential amino acids, and seven or eight grams of sugar. The protein shakes are made with real cows’ milk that has been filtered using fairlife’s patented cold-filtration system to concentrate the protein and some of the electrolytes naturally found in the milk, according to the maker. The shakes are lactose free, gluten free, and made without the use of artificial growth hormones.


8. Pringles Scorchin’ The new Pringles Scorchin’ line adds fiery heat to three Pringles original flavors — Cheddar, BBQ, and Chili & Lime — bringing a spicy sensation to the varieties fans already know and love. Each bite is designed to test snackers’ limits, delivering bold flavor followed by a heat that builds over time. Available first through a limited release with retailers nationwide beginning in December 2020, Pringles Scorchin’ come in 5.5-ounce cans with a suggested retail price of $1.99. A full release, including a Grab & Go size, is slated for 2021. Kellogg Co. Battle Creek, Mich. (800) 962-1413 kelloggcompany.com

fairlife LLC Chicago corepower.com

10. Vollrath 1-Series Delivery Bags With food delivery gaining in popularity, Vollrath rolled out its 1-Series Delivery Bags. Ideal for operators looking to start or increase the quality of their delivery program, the line features bags for carrying sheet pans, delivering pizza, transporting snacks and beverages, and more. A moisture-resistant outer shell shields food and beverages from external forces that could negatively affect their quality. Insulation on all four sides maintains temperature so that products arrive as intended. Each bag comes with carrying straps and a sturdy floor bottom. The Vollrath Co. LLC Sheboygan, Wis. vollrathfoodservice.com 24 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m


9. EarthCraft Series Waste Management Center The EarthCraft Series is an advanced and customizable waste management center suitable for virtually any indoor or outdoor facility. It features a sleek, upscale design and is built with durable, UV-resistant recycled plastic material that stands up to the elements. Customization options include a choice of waste or recyclers, colors, roof styles and opening shapes. The EarthCraft Series is available in either single or dual-stream units, and with or without decorative design on the doors and sides. Commercial Zone Products Milwaukee (800) 782-7273 commercialzone.com












9:02 AM




Don’t Have Just Your Head in the Cloud





Cloud-based technology can be a big advantage for the small operator CLOUDS. Throughout the centuries, clouds have indicated power and mystery. The Greek gods lived on Mount Olympus above the clouds. The heavenly kingdom has always been imagined in the clouds above the earth. Thoughts of freedom are represented by birds soaring through the clouds.

By Roy Strasburger, President, StrasGlobal

When I travel, one of the things that always mesmerizes me is looking at the tops of clouds while flying in an airplane. I find it fascinating that something so delicate can look amazingly solid from above. Have you ever had the experience of being in the window seat and watching as the plane descends into a cloudbank? It’s like entering the ocean. As you gradually drop, you see the clouds rising up toward you. Small wisps of vapor come off the surface like steam. As you continue in your descent, it looks like you’re going to land on a surface covered with snow. The plane continues to fall and gradually, like the water rising in a bathtub, the cloud slowly engulfs the plane — rising above your window until all that is outside is white. So, how did we come to associate clouds with computing? No doubt, you are familiar with terms like “storing it in the cloud” or “the software is in the cloud.” Cloud-based technology has become all the rage in helping companies maintain their data and support their business. In case you’re not familiar with the term, “cloud computing” basically means that

instead of storing information on a hard drive in your office, you are using a hard drive located somewhere else. And because no one knows where that server is, we just say it’s “in the cloud.” Actually, I’m joking about that last part. The reason it is called a “cloud” is because there are millions of computer servers linked to each other around the world that share data and resources so that you have instant access to your information anytime you want it. Your information is everywhere — like a cloud. As this technology continues to develop, it is becoming cheaper and easier to use. The cloud can be a big advantage for the small operator. Not only does using the cloud decrease your equipment cost, but it also can ensure that your computer security is up to date and that you constantly have a backup copy of your information located off your premise. So, how can a small operator take advantage of cloud-based computer technology? Using the cloud breaks down into three components: software, storage and security. Let’s have a look at each one of these to see how it can benefit your business.

Software Those of you who are old enough to remember the time before 2010 will know that back then, when you purchased a software program, you actually bought a physical box containing either a floppy disk or a CD-ROM. The software was contained on these physical objects; you inserted them into your computer and copied the software program onto your computer’s hard drive. This meant that if something happened to your computer, you lost your software. Having the software reside on your computer also took up a lot of space on your hard drive in order to store it. By today’s standards, that is a lose-lose situation. Today, you can buy a software program either by purchasing it online or through a subscription-based service and the software resides on a computer other than your own. Your computer communicates to the cloud computer and gets the

26 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m


information when it needs it. Anytime an update is required for security or quality reasons, the software company just updates the version that’s online and it automatically updates the version your computer is using. It has made computer software much easier to use and cheaper to provide since having physical media is no longer necessary. For example, our company StrasGlobal has launched a new online service called Compliance Safe. The Compliance Safe software resides on our servers in a data warehouse somewhere in the world and when you pay for your annual subscription, your computer accesses the software in that warehouse. In our case, Compliance Safe provides a document management system to keep you updated on the status of your business permits and licenses. Nothing is stored on your computer.

Storage Back in the day, all of your critical information would be placed on a hard drive either in your desktop computer or on a server located in your office. This meant that you had to spend money on hardware and servers in order to store your information and the more information you had, the more equipment you needed to buy. If something happened, such as a power surge or a fire in your building, your equipment — and therefore all of your information — could be lost, never to be retrieved. To avoid this, companies created a routine of backing up their computers or servers on a regular basis and taking those copies to a safe place at a different location. This redundancy is now automatically done when you use a cloud storage system such as iCloud, Google Drive or One Drive. Your information is not necessarily kept on your computer, but in massive server farms owned by Apple, Google or Microsoft, respectively, or some other third party such as Amazon. Now, if your building burns down, all your information is safe and secure because it could be located on a server in a different state, Iceland, or even under the sea. The server farms are massive, which makes the cost of storage incredibly low. A further advantage is that, unlike your desktop computer which was the only way you could access the information on that computer, with cloud storage you can access your information with any device that is connected to the internet. With our Compliance Safe program, we store copies of your permits, licenses and other documents on a cloud server owned and operated by a third party. This way, we can ensure your information is secure and always accessible to you wherever you are and whenever you want it.

Security If you have not heard about all of the security concerns

regarding your information, welcome to the 21st century. Every day, we hear reports about cybercrime, hacking, malicious software, and viruses attacking and invading people’s computers. It is a constant task to keep your computer and software upgraded to the highest security levels. In addition, it’s expensive. The advantage with cloud storage is that the servers are owned by large multinational companies that tend to specialize in software. It is their job to stay ahead of, and on top of, malicious software and security attacks. Since their businesses are so heavily dependent upon keeping their data safe, these companies spend huge amounts of money on software development and security. That doesn’t mean they are un-hackable, but it does typically mean that if a software attack happens, there is a very good chance your data will not be lost because it has been duplicated elsewhere, and that it would not be controlled by a third-party ransomware attack. At Compliance Safe, in addition to our own security measures, we have the resources of our storage provider helping us make sure our vulnerability to a cyberattack is as low as possible. So, this is all very cool. The question is: How can this help the small operator? An initial suggestion is that you should back up all of the information on your computer to a cloud-based system. That way, if your computer stops working, gets stolen or is destroyed, you will have a workable copy of all your information. There are many online storage companies for you to choose from. When you do decide to use an online service or storage program, be sure to research its security rating and customer reviews. If you find that customers are frequently complaining about security issues, downtime or not being able to access their information, don’t use them. Security and reliability are the two main reasons you’re using a service, so it needs to be a service that does well in both these areas. The next step is to transfer all of the software products you currently use to a cloud-based version. If you have already purchased a software product, most companies will allow you to upgrade to a subscription version (because they make more money that way). Examples of cloud-based software are your email provider, your accounting programs, your grocery ordering programs, and any other type of software product you might use. By going to a cloud-based service, you, too, can feel like one of those Greek gods. All of your information is at your control and you have the power over its destiny. Just be sure not to get the lightning bolts too close to your computer. CSN

Roy Strasburger is president of StrasGlobal, a privately held retail consulting, operations and management provider serving the small-format retail industry nationwide. StrasGlobal operates retail locations for companies that don’t have the desire, expertise or infrastructure to operate them. Learn more at strasglobal.com. Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News. 28 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m


A CATEGORY IN CONSTANT MOTION Regulation and legislation are continually changing the state of the tobacco business By Melissa Kress WHEN IT COMES TO REAL ESTATE, it

is location, location, location. When it comes to tobacco, it is legislation, legislation, legislation. Over the past few years, tobacco legislation has resembled a patchwork quilt across the United States: Tobaccobuying age rules that don't cross state borders. Flavor ban ordinances in one municipality, but not in another 10 minutes away. It was enough to make even the most seasoned tobacco retailer’s head spin. Uniformity began to creep into the landscape in late 2019. On Dec. 20 of that year, President Donald Trump signed legislation to amend the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and raise the federal minimum age on the sale of tobacco products from 18 to 21. It is now illegal for a retailer to sell any tobacco product — including cigarettes, cigars and e-cigarettes — to anyone under 21 years old.

Just three weeks later, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began a 30-day countdown on the removal of all unauthorized flavored pod-based vapor products from retail backbars. The rule went into effect Feb. 6, 2020 and since that point, the FDA has not authorized any flavored pod-based vapor products for market. The move resulted in what could be considered an outright ban. Couple this with the Sept. 9, 2020 deadline for companies to submit premarket tobacco product applications (PMTAs) for electronic nicotine delivery systems, or ENDS, and 2020 brought even more challenges to the backbar.

The Impact at Retail As category manager for tobacco at Cruisers, the convenience store banner of Boyett Petroleum, Lindsay London has had a front-row seat to swings in tobacco regulation. Based in Modesta, Calif., Cruisers was one of the first retailers to feel the impact of statewide Tobacco 21 legislation when California raised the legal minimum age to buy tobacco products in June 2016. At the time, California was only the second state to implement the change, following Hawaii’s lead six months earlier.

JUNE 2009:

Tobacco Legislation:

A Snapshot in Time

30 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

President Barack Obama signs the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act into law, giving the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulatory authority over tobacco.


JUNE 2010:


The FDA bans cigarettes with flavors other than menthol or tobacco.

Tobacco companies are no longer allowed to use terms like “light,” “mild” and “low tar” when marketing cigarettes.



With the state Tobacco 21 rule in place for more than three years at the time, the age change made at the federal level did not affect Cruisers’ backbar operations, according to London, calling it "business as usual at our stores."

in the minimum legal age to buy tobacco products was new territory. Owned and operated by Tri Star Energy, Nashville, Tenn.-based Twice Daily did not operate in any municipality or state with the higher legal buying age. So, the shift did bring changes, according to Rick Staley, merchandising manager.

Instead, the bigger impact was felt from an increase in California’s cigarette excise tax in 2017. The voter approval of Proposition 56 in the November 2016 election saw the levy spike from 87 cents per pack to $2.87 per pack.

"We saw a decline of 18 percent in the vapor category and a 2-percent decline in cigarettes," Staley told Convenience Store News.

"After California passed the higher age, we continued to see sales increase over the previous year, but it was at a lower rate than it had been months prior," London explained. "The most dramatic hit to our tobacco sales was the $2 tax increase on cigarettes in 2017." While federal moves leveled the playing field, not all retailers are feeling the same impact. For Twice Daily, managing the increase

2011 APRIL 2011:

The FDA announces it will regulate electronic cigarettes as tobacco products.

Cigarettes make up the majority of the retailer's tobacco business (at 66 percent), followed by moist smokeless tobacco (15 percent), e-cigarettes (10 percent), cigars (7 percent), and modern oral products (2 percent). Looking at the effect of local vs. federal tobacco changes, Staley said regulatory and legislative moves at the federal level presented more of a challenge to Twice Daily's tobacco category. With its network spanning Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama and Georgia, he noted that Twice Daily operates in "tobacco-friendly states." Fort Worth, Texas-based Yesway, which operates roughly 400 c-stores under the Yesway and Allsup's banners, found itself in a similar situation, having not had much experience previously with the Tobacco 21


Hawaii becomes the first state to implement a statewide Tobacco 21 rule.


MAY 2016:

The FDA releases its longawaited deeming rule, extending its regulatory authority to e-cigarettes, vapor products, cigars, hookah and pipe tobacco.


20 21

Convenience Store News 31


movement. Of the nine states where the retailer operates, only Texas had enacted Tobacco 21 legislation prior to the federal rule. The other states it operates in are Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wyoming. "The federal rule definitely impacted training for our store employees, but it was hard to get a read of the impact of Tobacco 21 since the FDA banned flavored cartridge-based ENDS products shortly afterwards, and then the pandemic hit not too long after that," said Kevin Harder, category manager, tobacco and car wash for Yesway, which is operated by BW Gas & Convenience, an affiliate of Beverly, Mass.-based Brookwood Financial Partners.

2021 EXPECTATIONS FOR CIGARETTES CATEGORY Projected Average Sales & Unit Volume per Store Increase


Don’t sell


Don’t know

23% Decrease

Total Retailers

40% Stay the same Average $ Sales Expected Increase = 9% Average $ Sales Expected Decrease = 6% Average Unit Volume Expected Increase = 7% Average Unit Volume Expected Decrease = 6%


"All three of these changes occurred during what is typically the slowest portion of the tobacco selling season (winter) and there really wasn't much of an uninterrupted stretch of time to properly measure the impact," he explained. "Looking back now, it does not appear to have had much of a direct impact on sales."







(-5 pts)

(+15 pts)

(+10 pts)

Total Retailers

Up to this point, Yesway and Allsup's have primarily navigated federal legislation and not much at the local and state levels, Harder added. However, he expects that to change.

he said. "We have to make our voices heard and demand that legislators spread the pain of making up for budget shortfalls across everyone and not just tobacco users and retailers."

"Thankfully, we have primarily experienced federal regulatory changes in the states we operate. However, I expect the biggest upcoming challenges will be at the state and local levels as they look to offset budget shortfalls from COVID-19 with increased regulation and taxation,"

Along with Tobacco 21, the federal regulation around vapor and electronic cigarettes could have spelled the end of the segment, but convenience retailers do what they do best — adapt.

Masters in Adaptation

At Yesway and Allsup's stores, that’s meant switching up its vapor product lineup.

JUNE 2016:

JULY 2017:

California follows Hawaii's lead and becomes the second state to raise the minimum legal age to buy tobacco products to 21.

2016 32 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

AUGUST 2016:

The deeming rule goes into effect and starts a 24-month countdown for companies to comply with premarket tobacco product application (PMTA) requirements.

The FDA delays deadlines spelled out in the deeming rule, including when companies need to submit PMTAs for e-cigarette and vapor products; this is pushed to Aug. 8, 2022, setting off legal challenges.


Your Swisher Sweets customers always enjoy good times with friends. But with a style of their own, sometimes they go their own way. That’s a BLK moment. They see no limits. Neither should you. Please contact your Swisher Representative, call 800.874.9720 or visit swisher.com.

STOCK THE PERFECT MIX WITH THE SWISHER SWEETS FAMILY OF CIGARS. Swisher Sweets has always been more than a product. It’s a way of doing business and a name you and your adult consumers trust. Now, it stands for all the ways you can give them what they want – and all the ways we’ll never stop innovating so your cigar business can thrive.

Please contact your Swisher Representative, call 800.874.9720 or visit swisher.com.


"After the vapor flavor ban on pod-based products, we opted to bring in a line of flavored disposables to meet consumer demand," Harder said, pointing out that all of the vapor products its stores carry provided confirmation of PMTA submissions/acceptance so that Yesway and Allsup's have not had to make any changes — at least, not yet. As for assortment adjustment, the stores allocated some vapor space to alternative products to fill in the holes in the tobacco fixtures. "Flavored disposables and nicotine pouches have definitely picked up the slack, and we have continued to see overall growth in our other tobacco category," Harder reported.



36% Increase

Total Retailers


36 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m


Don't sell


Don't know



30% Stay the same Average $ Sales Expected Increase = 8% Average $ Sales Expected Decrease = 9% Average Unit Volume Expected Increase = 9% Average Unit Volume Expected Decrease = 9%

As for the PMTA submission date, Cruisers "made sure we partnered with responsible providers from the beginning and they reacted quickly with their submissions, so we did not have to make any adjustments to the category due to PMTA deadlines," London said. Even with the removal of flavors, Cruisers continues to see sales in its vapor segment grow. And at the same time, the retailer is seeing nicotine pouches — primarily, Swedish Match's Zyn line — grow exponentially, she noted.

JULY 2019:

U.S. District Judge Paul Grimm of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland sets a May 12, 2020 deadline for PMTAs.

23% (-13 pts)

2021 EXPECTATIONS FOR OTP CATEGORY Projected Average Sales & Unit Volume per Store

"We also increased our space and facings for menthol flavor," he said.

"After the removal of flavors, we continued to add more options for our guests, such as different nicotine percentages, as well as more options for the quantity of pods in a package," she explained. "We noticed many flavored vapor users transition over to nonflavored vapor items."

77% (+22 pts)

Total Retailers

Similarly, Twice Daily tweaked its other tobacco segments to deal with the vapor shakeup. According to Staley, the c-store operator increased space for new modern oral nicotine products and new vapor products, notably Vuse Alto.

At Cruisers, the removal of flavored podbased vapor products, followed closely by the PMTA deadline, did require some adjustments to its tobacco category, according to London.




President Donald Trump signs legislation raising the federal tobacco buying age to 21.

The FDA sets a Feb. 6, 2020 deadline for companies to remove unauthorized flavored pod-based vapor products from the market.


MARCH 2020:

The FDA asks the court to delay the PMTA deadline for e-cigarette and vapor products as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads across the United States.


With regulatory and legislative changes coming from all directions, London believes changes at the state level will be the greatest challenge going forward. "Some cities in California have taken more drastic measures by banning all flavored tobacco, but luckily none of our stores are in those areas," she explained. "Our governor signed a bill in 2020 banning all flavored tobacco, including menthol cigarettes and vapor, cigars, smokeless tobacco, and nicotine pouches. That bill was scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1. We had started preparing for this and got news in December that enough signatures from opponents of the bill had been filed for it to go to a statewide vote in 2022."

2021 Expectations There’s no doubt regulation and legislation remain a key concern for c-store retailers. According to the Convenience Store News 2021 Forecast Study, 19 percent of retailers rank tobacco and e-cigarette regulations among their top three concerns for the year ahead. The number is slightly higher, at one in five, for small operators (those with one to 20 stores).







(-8 pts)

(+21 pts)

(-12 pts)







(-11 pts)

(+19 pts)

(-8 pts)

Total Retailers

"When we look at tobacco, a lot of people say, 'What's the point, tobacco is dying isn't it?' No, that's incorrect." — Kraig Knudsen, Circle K

Other issues keeping retailers up at night are the lingering impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the change in administration at the White House, and labor issues.

store in the category to decrease year over year. Just 17 percent believe sales will rise, with the lion’s share, 40 percent, saying they expect sales to stay the same.

C-store operators headed into 2021 with mixed feelings toward the cigarettes category — 23 percent of those surveyed for the Forecast Study expect their average dollar sales and unit volume per

The COVID-19 pandemic had a surprising effect on cigarette sales throughout 2020. Many retailers saw a lift as adult tobacco consumers, perhaps free from workplace smoking restrictions, turned back to the segment. Pantry loading also helped drive up the numbers.

2020 APRIL 2020:

Judge Grimm extends the PMTA deadline to Sept. 9, 2020.

38 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

JUNE 2020:

Massachusetts' flavored tobacco ban goes into effect, the first of its kind among all 50 states.


The long-awaited deadline arrives for tobacco companies to file PMTAs for electronic nicotine delivery systems in order to stay on the market.

The FDA issues its first warning letters to vapor companies that did not submit PMTAs, advising them to cease the sale of their products.





9:40 AM


GAMECIGARS.COM © 2020 SMCI Holding, Inc.


This year, however, c-store operators foresee tax increases, list price increases, a return to pre-COVID consumer behaviors and innovation in OTP, all affecting the business. There is considerably more enthusiasm toward the other tobacco products (OTP) category — only 13 percent anticipate a drop in average dollar sales and unit volume per store. Thirty-six percent expect to see an increase, while 30 percent expect status quo. The number of stocked OTP SKUs is largely expected to stay the same in 2021, with 61 percent planning to hold steady, a 21-point increase from last year. More than two-thirds of retailers (67 percent) also expect no change to OTP's linear square footage, up 19 points year over year.

"We have to make our voices heard and demand that legislators spread the pain of making up for budget shortfalls across everyone and not just tobacco users and retailers." — Kevin Harder, Yesway 21_0178_CSN_FEB Mod: January 18, 2021 10:11 AM Print: 01/18/21 10:45:20 AM page 1 v7


Most retailers also expect to hold steady on both the number of cigarette SKUs they offer and the linear square footage they devote to the category. Large operators, though, are more likely than small operators to anticipate decreasing both this year.

Don't Give Up Although the challenges facing the tobacco business may seem overwhelming at times, Kraig Knudsen, tobacco category manager for Circle K's Heartland Division, said the convenience channel shouldn’t count tobacco out. "When we look at tobacco, a lot of people say, 'What's the point, tobacco is dying isn't it?' No, that's incorrect. We all know tobacco should have died years ago, but it's hanging on," Knudsen said while taking part in an education session during the recent NACS Crack the Code Experience. If the industry has learned anything over the past six months, he said, it's that the tobacco consumer is extremely resilient. "No matter what is going on in their lives, they are going to continue to consume the products that they like and, at the same time, frequent the retail establishments that they have grown accustomed to," he said.



Total tobacco still contributes, on average, 34 to 44 cents of every non-gas dollar that goes through the convenience channel's registers, Knudsen cited. SEATTLE








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C-store operators can overcome the category’s challenges by listening to the consumer and following the trends — which right now include innovation in vapor, modern oral nicotine products, and CBD products, he advised. "Don't try to be everything. I know this is the temptation," he said. "When we grab everything, we just get customer confusion; we get confusion with our cashiers." CSN



The pandemic has created a challenging, competitive labor market for c-store retailers By Renée M. Covino


many convenience store chains have gone on hiring sprees, seeking to bring on thousands of new employees at a time, to keep up with the demands of being an essential business during the coronavirus pandemic. But they have been met with a particularly challenging labor market. “The current labor market for convenience stores during the pandemic has been challenging and difficult as convenience retailers compete for the same talent as retailers such as Target, Walmart and Amazon, which have also seen a surge in business and have also sought to hire more people for their stores, as well as fulfillment centers,” said Carlos Castelán,

42 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

managing director of The Navio Group, a business management consulting firm that advises retailers on how to improve their workplace and workforce. Because c-store roles are local in nature, there is not the ability to hire remote workers and have access to the larger national pool of workers, Castelán continued. “Add in the complications of coronavirus and that some workers may choose not to work in these sorts of closecontact jobs until the pandemic is over, and you have an extremely competitive hiring market for in-store jobs.” Overall, the labor market has been on “a wild rollercoaster ride” since March 2020, according to Don Stuart, managing partner at Wilton, Conn.-based Cadent Consulting Group. Unemployment skyrocketed from a 50-year low to a double-digit peak before descending to the 6- to 7-percent range. “This is still about twice



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what it had been prior to COVID,” he told Convenience Store News. In the face of the pandemic, there are still pockets of demand driving the economy. While foodservice, travel and entertainment businesses have nearly evaporated, at-home food and technology services have seen their best years ever. “The challenge is matching supply of labor with the demand in an extremely unpredictable environment,” Stuart said. “Stimulus checks have obviously been a savior for many businesses, although we are now looking at rising state-by-state minimum wages, which will impact the c-store industry.”

minimum wages across the country are increasing, Stuart noted that c-store retailers must still provide full-time benefits to as many employees as possible “to ensure continuity, service and quality.” Furthermore, convenience store operators should benchmark their pay and benefits against competitors in their area to ensure they are on par or better to attract talent, said Castelán.

Utilize digital workplace technology. Some convenience store retailers are setting themselves up for success in 2021 by deploying digital workplace technology that connects the organization from the top down, all the way to employees’ mobile devices. The need for a wellconnected frontline workforce was accelerated in 2020, according to Will Eadie, chief revenue officer at WorkJam, which aims to provide retailers Despite the unemployment rate and with the tools they need to meet the demands of general state of the economy, the Harvard Business Review in a recent report cautioned today’s workforce and customers through greater employers against assuming that the current employee engagement. “Industry leaders like Shell, Kwik Trip and more have turned to WorkJam job market is an employer’s market. In fact, to connect, direct and upskill their frontline the COVID job market is not “really like workers,” said Eadie. anything anyone has observed since the birth of modern capitalism,” the report stated. “In classical business cycles, the number of openings decrease and the number of applicants increase, or vice versa. But this crisis is one of disequilibrium and structural change. Some industries and firms are devastated while others thrive, are unaffected, or have been able to rebound exceptionally quickly.” Given the number of anomalies between the current labor market and those of previous economic downturns, the Harvard Business Review recommends employers determine how to adjust their talent strategies to the impact of COVID based on the specific (micro) conditions in their industry and local labor market rather than following general (macro) trends. Looking at the current labor market specific to the U.S. convenience channel, experts tapped by CSNews offered up the following insights and employment best practices around the key three areas of staffing, training and retention:

Staffing Practices Conduct flexible staffing. Demand will be difficult to predict during these times. Peak times have changed or are non-existent now that so many people are working from home and kids are learning remotely or in hybrid situations. Establishing a base staff and then having flexibility with an augmented team is the best plan, according to Stuart. Provide competitive benefits. Even though 44 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

“Add in the complications of coronavirus and that some workers may choose not to work in these sorts of closecontact jobs until the pandemic is over, and you have an extremely competitive hiring market for in-store jobs.” — Carlos Castelán, The Navio Group

Training Practices Provide online learning through Zoom or Teams. “We have seen the rapid adoption of online learning everywhere in the business realm,” Stuart stated. “While it may be difficult for elementaryaged children to endure a full day at the computer, it is not a problem to develop bite-sized, sequential learning modules for adult employees.” There will continue to be a strong move toward online learning and commerce in terms of efficiency and safety, he predicts. Ensure consistency in training. Maintain a core staff to train onboarding employees, and also regularly train the trainer. “This is the continuity that binds the organization together,” Stuart emphasized. Utilize digital workplace technology here, too. This technology can unlock the benefits


of cross-location labor sharing, realtime communication, task management, and on-demand training. Eadie calls it “fundamental to managing and training a lean, productive workforce.” Provide incentives for training completion. A structured program makes for happier employees. Offer incentives for the completion of modules in a training program. The greater the reward, the more likely your staff will take the training seriously.

Retention Practices Use behavior modification. Cadent Consulting strongly believes in behavior modification with incentives to match. This includes incentives based on low absenteeism, outstanding customer service, years of service, and other quantifiable factors. Beef up the benefits. There is no getting around benefits these days; benefits can be the difference between retaining employees and losing them to your competitor. But remember that benefits come in all shapes and sizes. Compile a list of the benefits you offer employees, no matter how great or small. Remind employees of how you differ from the competition and what you’re willing to do to keep them happy. Get creative. Provide signing bonuses. Core personnel can act as recruiters if you offer them bonuses for bringing in new hires who stay on staff for a set period of time. Promote from within. Retain great employees by letting them know that the company strongly favors promoting from within. Don’t wait for them to find a better job with more pay — ask them where they see themselves in one year, five years, and how the company can help them achieve their career 46 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

Retain great employees by letting them know that the company strongly favors promoting from within. goals. “Talented candidates who might be looking to switch jobs during the pandemic are more apt to stay if they view the job as a step forward and have opportunities to grow with the company,” noted Castelán. “Highlighting those opportunities, as well as shoring up retention and promotion practices, are a way to gain a leg up in the local market.” Highlight new initiatives. New service rollouts such as buy online/pickup in-store, curbside pickup and drive-thru are making headlines and attracting the best employees in the industry, according to Castelán. Emphasize to existing employees how they can learn and grow by spearheading these new initiatives in their local stores. Plus, a store’s “cool” or “wow” factor is a perceived benefit, especially in these times of strife and stress. To sum it up, c-store retailers most importantly must accept that the labor game has changed. The word “unprecedented” has been used during the pandemic for a reason — there has been nothing like it, Eadie said. Still, he believes the industry can draw from lessons learned in past times when hiring and retaining talent was also difficult. “When employment was low, employees had a lot of choice and employers were using benefits to become the employer of choice,” he reminded. “Now, employees are looking for benefits like COVID-19 safety measures, short pay cycles, and flexible scheduling. Offering a tool that enables clear communication and an open shift marketplace is a good place to start for c-stores looking to secure top talent.” CSN



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Keeping the Innovative Spirit of 2020 Alive A look at some of the food, drink and flavordiscovery trends forecasted for the year ahead

OPERATOR: Cold Stone Creamery DATE: October 2020 PRICE: $6.50 ITEM TYPE: Returning Item

2020 WAS A YEAR for

the history books, and the year ahead will continue to usher in a wave of change shaped by COVID-19. The food and beverage ecosystem shifted in material ways, including a massive migration to delivery, food shortages, and a shift of consumer dollars away from restaurants. And this all happened in rapid succession.

DESCRIPTION: Commemorate Super Mario Bros. 35th anniversary with a special Signature Creation! Cake Batter Ice Cream with Yellow Cake, Bright Blue Frosting & Star Sprinkles.


2021 is sure to keep this innovative spirit alive to guide consumers on their journey of food, drink, and flavor discovery. Here is a look at some of the 2021 trends forecasted, according to Datassential’s FoodBytes monthly trend reports.


definitely or probably would buy

unbranded PI

Modern Comfort Foods




versus other QSR items

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Comfort foods helped consumers weather the pandemic during 2020, but people will be looking for a fresh take on these familiar dishes to offset “comfort food fatigue.” American classic comfort foods like mac and cheese, pizza and burgers are omnipresent, but younger generations are looking for more distinct experiences and flavors.


definitely or probably would buy

branded PI

There is no age limit on nostalgia, and younger generations love dessert flavors like birthday cake, which has grown 38 percent on dessert menus in the past four years. Birthday cake is now an accepted flavor that is featured in items such as Cold Stone Creamery’s recent cake batter ice-cream creation to commemorate the 35th anniversary Super Mario Bros.

Regional Cuisine Domestic tourism made a comeback in 2020 as many people were itching for new experiences and opted to hit the road. Travel works hand-in-hand with food, with consumers seeking out new flavors and dishes that are celebrated and beloved by small pockets of the country. Convenience stores can bring this to life by offering barbecue flavors in the Midwest, Chesapeake Chicken along the East Coast, and boiled peanuts in the South.

Future Fusebiquity Fusebiquity is the combination of early-stage flavors that are new for many U.S. consumers with ubiquitous dishes and flavors that are well known and loved like pizza, burgers and tacos. A classic example of fusebiquity in action is Mexican street tacos that feature bulgogi, a Korean-style grilled beef. Seeking new flavor profiles, operators have begun to explore other parts of the world. Chicago-based restaurant Evette’s, for instance, blends familiar menu staples with Mediterranean ingredients and flavors to create a new experience in dishes like its pita nachos, super garlic and feta fries, and gyro melt. CSN




versus other QSR items

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extremely or very unique





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would order the item all the time





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would visit somewhere just for this item





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excellent or good value for the dollar





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Datassential, a Chicago-based food and beverage industry research and consulting firm, brings clients real-world insights on flavor trends, foodservice and consumer packaged goods, globally. Learn more at datassential.com.


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Entering a New Era of Foodservice The COVID-19 pandemic hit the prepared food and dispensed beverage categories hard, but retailers can take the first steps toward recovery now By Angela Hanson CONVENIENCE STORE operators have spent months implementing safety measures and adjusting to the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the prepared food and dispensed beverage categories among the hardest hit. However, with multiple vaccines now approved by the Food and Drug Administration and being distributed throughout the United States, it appears that recovery from the pandemic has begun and foodservice retailers can finally ask themselves an important question: How can they rebuild this critical category?

One answer to this complicated question is to have patience; the recovery process cannot be rushed. Not only will it take months for the country to approach herd immunity against the coronavirus, but consumer mindsets will likewise be slow to change. "It's going to take some time for consumers to regain their trust and confidence in being out in the general public, though everyone is anxious to get out and about,” said Francine Shaw, president of Savvy Food Safety Inc. “C-store operators must stay in the 'prevention mindset' for the immediate future." This means existing safety measures need to remain in place, both for the practical purpose 50 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

of mitigating COVID-19 spread and because consumers now expect the additional sanitation procedures. "Consumers have raised their expectations over the past year and will not tolerate unsanitary conditions," Shaw said. If they believe that a c-store is letting its guard down on this front as infections decline, "they will find another location to spend their hard-earned money." Consistent handwashing is one of the most basic — and one of the most important — practices to reinforce a food safety culture, but c-stores must not stop at the bare minimum. "A checklist is not enough," said Frank White, owner of White Knight Marketing and former director of foodservice for convenience store chain Yesway. Regularly wiping down counters and high-touch points, ensuring employees always wear properly fitted personal protective equipment and other safety measures contribute to the well-being of both workers and customers. Consumers who are being cautious about their habits and making a point of shopping at businesses that are being careful want to see proof that these things are occurring. "Make it a big deal," White suggested. Extra steps to add visibility could include using colored soap so that

Kwik Chek uses data analysis in its foodservice operations to determine who is buying what and which offers are more desirable to certain demographics.

customers can easily see surfaces being wiped down, and placing napkins and paper towels for easy access. This helps build trust and makes it easier to acquire customers during a pandemic. "That will make them come to us over someone else," he said. Perhaps the most important thing for retailers to remember is that the recovery period will be long, but the effects of cutting corners will last even longer. "I wouldn't want to be the first retailer to stop using any of these things just to save a little money, putting guests at risk," said Kevin Smartt, CEO of Spicewood, Texas-based Kwik Chek and 2020-2021 NACS chairman. Kwik Chek was winner of Convenience Store News' 2020 Foodservice Innovator of the Year award in the Prepared Foods category. In fact, retailers building new locations should consider factoring in safety and sanitation into permanent facility adjustments. Kwik Chek's new Texas Born stores will have handwashing stations that do not require customers to step inside the restroom.

Innovation, Technology & Data For many retailers, their short-term plans are largely more of what they're already doing; however, industry experts believe that the time is ripe to make long-term plans that will benefit their foodservice programs.

"C-stores must be proactive and know their customer base. That will vary geographically, which means the menus need to differ from region to region," Shaw said. "Offer a varied menu and change items seasonally — after all, this is what many restaurants do." And in terms of promoting and marketing their offers, personalized promotions and loyalty rewards can be utilized to keep customers engaged and connected. Jessica Williams, CEO of Food Forward Thinking LLC, recommends that c-stores continue to innovate during these challenging times for one simple reason: their competitors have never stopped doing so. She pointed to Taco Bell, which tested new ideas through a drive-thru survey, as an example of a company getting creative while adhering to COVID safety measures. "They were being innovative with their innovation," she said. C-store operators can maximize their chances of foodservice success by setting both personal and team goals. Focusing on


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employee talent and understanding employees' strengths can help companies better use those strengths in the development of new items and initiatives. "When you know what your team is great at, you can use those strengths to propel them forward," Williams said. Following steps in the innovation cycle can add structure and focus to the development process: measure, define, explore, design, test, refine and launch. During this process, teams should also carefully weigh risk vs. reward, test the same way they would launch, and have a solid understanding of cause and effect as it applies to the project. Another step in the recovery process could include putting more effort into grab-and-go foodservice, which can contribute a great deal to hunger and thirst satisfaction, as well as help convenience stores cater to both new and existing customers, according to Kay Segal, founder and president of Business Accelerator Team. Grab-and-go may include refrigerated, heated, packaged (in the form of either immediate consumables or components) and bulk items. Segal advises retailers to focus their energy on the biggest opportunities and the piece of the whole that allows for the most selling opportunities. "There's a distinct difference between selling items and selling them profitably," she said, noting that grab-and-go programs provide a better break-even equation due to lower steady customercount needs, less daily waste, and broader consumer-use occasions. In addition to exploring what items they want to offer in today’s rapidly changing foodservice environment, it is now a must-do for retailers to explore what technology options make sense for them to add. Post-COVID, c-stores won't be returning to the status quo; they will be operating in a world where their customers simply expect more on this front. "This is the year technology has really become the expectation for our industry and, for me, that is perhaps the most important long-term takeaway for c-stores," said Kwik Chek’s Smartt. "We've seen consumers shift to expecting things

52 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

Kwik Chek's new Texas Born (TXB) stores will have handwashing stations that do not require customers to step inside the restroom.

“It's going to take some time for consumers to regain their trust and confidence in being out in the general public, though everyone is anxious to get out and about.” — Francine Shaw, Savvy Food Safety Inc.

like touchless pay and curbside pickup. If these technologies aren't already built into your workflow, add them in as soon as you can, and keep paying attention to the tech trends touching our industry." Data is also a valuable tool available to help c-stores recalibrate their competitive plans. But the immense changes that have occurred in the past year mean that to be useful, data must be both up to date and formatted in a way that enables retailers to use it effectively. "Technology advances are critical for the c-store industry, but not all technologies start strong, and a test-and-learn environment is critical," said Smartt. "For a relatively small c-store chain like Kwik Chek, analyzing data is still a challenge for us. We have more data than we know what to do with." To solve this problem in an efficient way, the retailer turned to data-gathering methods such as offering an array of coupons that customers could choose from on the Kwik Chek app, rather than one specific offer. This helps the retailer analyze who is buying what and which offers are more desirable to certain demographics. Kwik Chek is then better able to provide customers more value while strategizing to maximize its margins. As programs rebuild, c-stores and their employees can benefit from reminding themselves of the positive impact they have had during the pandemic and will continue to have. "This past year, the c-store industry proved how essential our businesses are, how resilient we are," Smartt said. "I don't look past that performance, and I am so proud of everyone in this space for their ability to quickly shift operations to better serve the millions of people who enter c-store doors every day." CSN


Using Data to Boost Foodservice Sales Combining internal and external data can help c-stores positively impact performance By Tammy Mastroberte IN TODAY’S COMPETITIVE retail

environment, convenience stores are utilizing technology to gain insight, stay up to date on trends, and boost their bottom line in all categories. In the high-margin foodservice category, in particular, mining data can help c-store operators decide on menu items, pricing, promotions, merchandising and more to increase overall sales and profits. During the current pandemic, the foodservice category has been “the most challenging” as c-stores have seen fewer trips in general, and customers are more concerned about hygiene, noted Greg Crow, executive vice president, product at Koupon Media, based in Addison, Texas. For example, customers may be looking to packaged beverages instead of dispensed beverages, and packaged snacks rather than handling tongs for a fresh-baked doughnut, he said. “When we talk to clients about food, we have them look at sales per store vs. a year ago and that gives a basic metric on how they are doing,” Crow said. “As an industry, we are down 15 percent vs. last year.” While point-of-sale (POS) and loyalty program data are important pieces of the puzzle when it comes to mining data to impact foodservice sales, they are not the only sources c-stores should be tapping in order to make decisions. Most savvy retailers combine internal data with customer surveys and outside sources, looking not

just at the c-store industry, but also other retail channels. “We look at a combination of what our customers are currently doing today in our stores vs. what customers are doing in competitive stores, as well as what they are doing in other channels,” said David Hall, vice president of global foodservice for Circle K Stores Inc., which operates 16,000 c-stores globally. “You always want to start with what is happening in your stores — what are customers doing and buying, what does the basket look like, what is the need state or occasion — but then you look at outside data, like Nielsen, to see how people are behaving in the industry.” Outside data sources, such as Nielsen, Information Resources Inc. (IRI), The NPD Group and the National Restaurant Association, can show retailers what is happening in their industry and in their market area, as well as in other competitive industries. This can give them the opportunity to spot things they may not be doing but should be, as well as see what customers are buying outside the channel that could be an opportunity for them, Hall pointed out. “It’s about utilizing these pieces of data to identify and optimize the assortment offering we have, and deciding what is the assortment we want to carry that delights our customers and does that in a way that is uniquely Circle K,” said Hall. “Everyone has to have Coke, Pepsi F E B RUARY

2 0 2 1 Convenience Store News



and Doritos in their stores, but those are the cost of entry, not differentiators. So, we look at what is the strategy and portfolio we can create to set us apart from other competitors.” Some retailers may be focused too much on only their own data and could be missing the opportunities that outside data can bring, cautioned Steven Johnson, grocerant guru at Foodservice Solutions, based in Tacoma, Wash. C-store operators need to look outside their own store(s) to see where else their customers are going for “share of stomach.” “If you look at only internal data, you could make a decision based on what shows to be your top-selling sandwich and then just drop the bottom-selling one, but that is not the whole picture,” he explained. “Your No. 1 selling sandwich might be the No. 10 choice for people in your community. If that is the case, maybe you need to improve your quality. Just looking at loyalty or POS data is what killed the grocery industry; so many grocery stores have gone out of business.” Quantitative data — meaning exactly what is selling in the stores, such as the number of sandwiches or slices of pizza — should be combined with qualitative data or research based on what store owners observe customers doing when they come into the store, according to Johnson. Additionally, it’s important to realize that in a survey,

consumers may say one thing but do something totally different when they actually come to the store. “In the last seven to 10 years, the Internet surveys being done remind me of 40 years ago when there were studies on dieting and people would say one thing and do another,” he said. “They would say they want healthy food, but when you look at the data, they are not buying pineapples, apples and oranges; they are buying pretzels and doughnuts.” In surveys conducted by his company where they had people sit and observe the behavior of customers compared with survey data, seven out of 10 times consumers say they want a healthy breakfast like a cup of coffee and some fruit, but eight out of 10 times they buy a cup of coffee and a doughnut, he shared. However, consumers do like seeing the healthier options available in the store, even if they are not buying them. “You can place a basket of fruit right when people walk in to reinforce you offer these healthier products and they will think that’s good, and then most will go and buy a coffee and doughnut,” he said.

Digging Into In-House Data Whether it’s from the POS and back-office suite, a loyalty program or both, c-stores have a large amount of in-house data available to them to use when making foodservice decisions for their stores. Michael Caldwell, loyalty manager for Yesway, the Des Moines, Iowa-based chain of 415 convenience stores, recommends retailers “start with the basics.” “What are your customers buying, and why are they buying it? Use the data to observe trends, and watch what metrics go up or down when you pull certain levers,” he said. “Learn as much as you can about your customers and what can change their behaviors.” Looking at the average size of a customer’s basket when purchasing foodservice items, and what they are buying alone or together with other categories, can help retailers not only know what is selling, but also what items to promote or merchandise together to boost the overall dollar amount spent by each customer. “Market basket data allows you to establish the right bundle to offer to entice customers to add another item to their basket,” Circle K’s Hall noted. “Using that market basket data, look at how you can develop locations for the items, co-locate or co-promote items to be purchased together. The same with meal solution bundles or combos that give the customer additional incentive to add another item to their basket.”

Yesway uses its in-house data to learn as much as it can about its customers and what can change their behaviors.

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It isn’t always about a promotion or offer either, he noted. In some cases, if an operator knows customers are buying a certain snack item with food, they can co-merchandise the items together so that the customer sees them and it triggers them to add it to their basket.

Despite COVID, Breakfast Still Reigns Among the Dayparts Breakfast has always been the sweet spot for convenience stores when it comes to foodservice and traffic, as many customers stop for their morning coffee, doughnut, breakfast sandwich or other items they may need during their workday. With COVID-19, breakfast was the daypart most dramatically affected, but should still be the main focus for c-stores.

Using data to find affinity items and determine what products are more likely to be purchased together is a current focus for Yesway.

At Yesway, which operates c-stores under both the Yesway and Allsup’s banners, the company is using data to back up every decision made, according to Caldwell. The retailer recently completed a $7-million technology upgrade at all of its Allsup’s locations and now has its 400-plus stores on the same PDI back-office software and using a consistent POS as well that utilizes both Verifone and Gilbarco systems. “This is going to be very exciting as the Allsup’s foodservice program is legendary,” Caldwell said. “We’re looking forward to digging into data as we introduce Allsup’s Rewards in the coming months so that we can learn what motivates our customers, especially with regards to the [Allsup’s] World Famous Burritos. With this information, we can alter our program to give them more of what they want with even more value.” Yesway partners with Paytronix to power its Yesway Rewards and Allsup’s Rewards programs, each with their own app. Right now, the company is using data to find affinity items and determine what products are more likely to be purchased together. This will drive merchandising decisions, and how to feature foodservice items in the rewards programs. “For instance, fountain drinks are by far and away our most popular reward item, so we use sales and reward redemption data to help direct us on the promos we run with dispensed beverages,” said Caldwell. “This includes when and where to offer free drinks, and when to offer discounted pricing.” Even for operators without a loyalty program, there are a number of ways to use POS data to make decisions around food-

“The most important meal period for c-stores to focus on is breakfast or the AM daypart because if consumers come in for breakfast, there is a 71.6 percent chance they will stop either for lunch or for dinner on the way home, and 48 percent will make three visits per day, twice per week,” cited Steven Johnson, grocerant guru at Foodservice Solutions. “The more times they stop for breakfast, the more likely they are to return for other dayparts and stop on the way home from work.” In fact, Johnson believes the AM daypart will tell c-stores how many other meals they will sell per week. The more a c-store can increase its frequency in the morning with foodservice, the more important the afternoon and evening dayparts become, he explained. “Have price points in the morning that are so attractive they can’t help but go to the store, like a coffee and a doughnut, or coffee and a pretzel, because if you can get them for breakfast, then you’ve got them all day,” he noted. “They won’t start with lunch or dinner; they all start with breakfast. If they like you in the morning, they will love you at night.”

service items. Not only can they see what items are selling, but they also can break those items out by daypart to see where they are having the biggest sales impact. “Take all of your locations and segment them out, so maybe there is a group for stores where traffic tends to skew toward the morning and the fast-moving items tend to be indulgent, while another group sells more in the afternoon and the items are healthier,” Koupon Media’s Crow shared. “Come up with a dozen or so profiles, and look at what you are offering and the store signage to promote it.” Whether it’s deciding what menu items to offer, strategizing where foodservice items are located in the stores, communicating the offerings to customers, or making decisions on promotions, pricing and item pairings, data can open doors for c-store operators. “The nirvana is getting down to one-to-one targeting and offers through a loyalty app, where you can look at purchasing behavior and then target customers either with questions, such as ‘Would you prefer to see only gluten-free offers,’ or letting them know there is a new snack option they might be interested in based on past purchases,” concluded Crow. CSN F E BRUARY

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Capitalizing on the Packaged Beverage Boom The category is on an upswing as dispensed drinks continue to be hard-hit by the pandemic By Renée M. Covino BECAUSE CONSUMERS ARE spending far more time at home vs. in their car, at the office, in school, or at other daily destinations, on-the-go has been replaced by stay-athome in these COVID times, and this has led to a significant rise in packaged beverages over dispensed.

Convenience store retailers report packaged beverage sales are booming as the fountain category’s bad news has become the packaged beverage category’s good news. “The rebalancing of demand between away-from-home and at-home has directly impacted dispensed beverages vs. packaged beverages,” Ben Schulman, business analyst at Wilton, Conn.-based Cadent Consulting Group, told Convenience Store News. Convenience channel beverage suppliers are reporting high demand as well. For instance,

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the Sparkling Ice brand of sparkling waters, including its Sparkling Ice +Caffeine line extension, “experienced unprecedented growth throughout 2020,” according to Sarah Gustat, vice president of marketing for Talking Rain, maker of Sparkling Ice. “As consumer demand increased, our company had to change plans that were already in motion — from marketing campaigns to product launches,” she said, noting that the company was able to keep pace with consumer demand thanks to its dedicated sales team working on the front lines, support from retailers, the resourcefulness of its supply chain, and its “incredible” distributor network that made it possible to keep shelves stocked. With health and safety still top of mind for consumers, Gustat believes the dispensed beverage areas in c-stores will continue to evolve, as packaged beverages continue to dominate. She expects to see more packaged beverage brands expand their reach by offering additional packaging options, such as multipacks and multi-serve.

The Fountain Area Reimagined The coronavirus pandemic resulted in food and drink self-serve shutdowns, including most fountain beverage sections in convenience stores. What can operators do with that space during these times? Beverage experts offer the following advice: “Consumers are making bulk purchases and leaning toward packaged options for their beverages and food services to decrease the risk of cross-contamination,” she said. Citing the current importance of “peace of mind,” Tyler Peterson, chief operating officer of Seattle-based SoRSE Technology Corp., predicts that until regulations are reduced and consumers are more comfortable being in enclosed public locations and not taking everything to go, packaged goods will continue to dominate the market. SoRSE is a water-soluble CBD, hemp and terpene emulsion provider for infused CPG brands.

Fully Realizing the Opportunity So then, the question becomes: How can convenience store operators best take advantage of these dynamics and grab more sales and profits? The way Peterson sees it, it comes down to maintaining stock levels, offering a wider variety of drinks, and demonstrating through marketing, advertising and SKU selection that the consumers’ needs in this “new normal” are understood.

“The rebalancing of demand between away-from-home and at-home has directly impacted dispensed beverages vs. packaged beverages.” — Ben Schulman, Cadent Consulting Group

“With consumers focused on health and wellness, it’s important to offer beverages that feature functional ingredients like CBD, adaptogens, vitamins and minerals, and those that are low-sugar and low-calorie as well,” he asserted. “They should also highlight products with attributes that solve current consumer problems and complement their lifestyles now. For example, there’s been a surge in demand for consumable products that offer anxiety relief or that deliver a sense of calm.” Citing that physical exercise has picked up during the pandemic as people save time on the work commute, Kantar beverage usage expert Marina Alba Jauma recommends that c-store operators stock beverages that fulfill needs around exercise. She also believes in offering drinks with more nutritional/functional benefits, and says regional considerations are another important aspect of a successful packaged beverage set mix.

Staff the area. A service-based fountain area offers some degree of confidence and safety, and may be an option for some c-store retailers during the pandemic, said Ben Schulman, business analyst at Cadent Consulting Group. For those operators that can still have functioning fountain beverage areas, Sarah Gustat, vice president of marketing at Talking Rain, recommends staffing the area and putting strong cleaning procedures in place with added signage to enforce the sanitizing process. To further instill confidence in the space, cups and straws should be kept in a cabinet or shelving unit that only staff can access, added Tyler Peterson, chief operating officer of SoRSE Technology Corp. Use it for another purpose. The space could be utilized for streamlining the checkout process, or for promotional display of best-selling new products, noted Gustat. Do away with it entirely. Operators might consider devoting the space to expanding their cooler section to offer more chilled packaged beverages, said Flavorman Lab Manager Katie Clark. “They are more sanitary than dispensed drinks and that will continue to be an important differentiator for consumers moving forward,” she stated. Get it ready for the future. Store operators should think about reducing safety concerns by encouraging the use of fountains with refillable formats brought by consumers, said Marina Alba Jauma, beverage usage expert at Kantar. Another idea is to develop technology that enables consumers to choose drinks from their phones — using QR codes, apps, etc. — so there is no touching if they are self-serving.

Cadent Consulting’s Schulman cautions that the biggest challenge right now for convenience store operators in packaged beverages is quantity/value. “Selling singles vs. selling a case is a different sale. Convenience stores traditionally make their money on cold door singles; selling packs of 24 bottles of water does not yield nearly the same profit. It will be essential to find the sweet spot for a convenience store to satisfy both immediate consumption and a degree of stock-up,” he said, suggesting that new packaging sizes — perhaps six-packs — could provide the ideal balance.


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2021 Flavor Trends This year’s drink trends are focused on flavors “that drive experience in a socially distant landscape,” according to experts at Louisville, Ky.-based beverage development company Flavorman. The three categories they identify are: Flavors that tingle — Flavors like ancho chile, habanero and Indian peppercorn are expected to make their way into everything from ready-to-drink cocktails to tea and lemonade. Meanwhile, mentholheavy pairings — like peppermint mocha cream and lemon coconut eucalyptus — will contribute a cooling element to seltzers, premium coffee, juice drinks, and more. Flavors that comfort — These will include “childhood flavors reimagined for premium applications,” such as smokey vanilla cold brew, bubble gum seltzer, or a fruit punch gin cocktail. There’s also predicted to be a renaissance of nostalgic flavors such as peanut butter, orange creamsicle and grape cotton candy popping up in drinks like hard coffee, energy drinks, and craft soda. Flavors that function — In 2020, Flavorman introduced the concept of “functional plus” — beverages that provide consumers with a multitude of health and wellness benefits. This year, expect beverages that offer immunity, cognitive and mood-boosting benefits. And expect fragrant flavors like hibiscus, elderflower and orange blossom to be combined with other berry, botanical and citrus elements to emphasize functional ingredient blends in naturally positioned teas, enhanced waters, flavored kombucha, and more.

“Consumers are making bulk purchases and leaning toward packaged options for their beverages and food services to decrease the risk of crosscontamination.” — Sarah Gustat, Talking Rain Now is the time to offer products in alternative or additional packaging, especially in light of the ongoing can shortage, according to Katie Clark, lab manager at Louisville, Ky.-based beverage development company Flavorman. “As the world continues to grapple with COVID-related supply chain disruptions, you might run into replenishing challenges and may need to get creative,” she said. E-commerce and delivery must also be considerations for convenience channel retailers that want to maintain a competitive edge in the 2021 marketplace, Gustat advised. “With e-commerce on the rise, c-store retailers

should focus on creating simple, streamlined shopping processes for consumers,” she said. Acknowledging that predicting and changing consumer behavior are “perhaps the most difficult areas to address in marketing,” Schulman said his group believes there will be a degree of recidivism with shoppers reassuming some normal patterns of working in the office, traveling and vacationing later this year. “We are anticipating a 60 percent return to normal in the second half of 2021,” he told CSNews. Flavorman’s Clark, though, foresees hygienic safety and the spread of germs and viruses being on the public’s mind for years to come because of COVID19. Behavior has already shifted as consumers now expect extra sanitation measures to be in place, as well as contactless services like curbside pickup and direct-to-consumer delivery. The same can be seen for packaged beverages, she believes. “Though consumers may not be panic-buying, packaged drinks promise safety for consumers concerned with COVID-related crosscontamination,” she said. CSN


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Workforce Management to the Rescue Getting communication, in-store operational efficiency and compliance in order is more important than ever in today’s world By Tammy Mastroberte

has had an effect on so many aspects of how convenience stores do business and operate their stores on a daily basis. In many ways, it’s forced companies to pivot and make changes quickly, and highlighted areas where retailers might be lacking or in need of improvement. One of these areas is workforce management.


Whether it’s making sure communication from corporate regarding new procedures and protocols gets into the hands of every store-level employee and manager, or allowing employees to easily swap shifts or fill in when someone gets sick, or ensuring compliance of mandates throughout a chain, the need for technology to make all of these tasks easier became a priority in the last 12 months for c-store operators. “Many c-store chains found they had no consistent way to communicate with all of their locations, and realized how digitally disconnected they were from their sites,” said Will Eadie, chief revenue officer at Workjam, with U.S. offices based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Things changed so rapidly during the first few months of the pandemic that the need to communicate and monitor those changes became essential. Those with a workforce management solution enabling things like digital task management, chat capabilities, document storage, employee scheduling and compliance capabilities managed much better than those without. “COVID is being referred to as ‘the great technology accelerator,’ and workforce management has moved from a ‘nice to have’ to a business essential,” noted Amanda Nichols, senior manager of the retail,

hospitality and foodservice practice of Ultimate Kronos Group (UKG), based in Lowell, Mass. and Weston, Fla. “In our research, almost half of workers said a workforce management [solution] would have made things smoother if they had it before the crisis, and many people are moving it from a project that’s part of their 18-month, 24-month or even three-year roadmap to a rightnow implementation.” When it comes to workforce management, scheduling or time and attendance technology comes to mind but, over the years, it has expanded to include a broader reach across an organization. Workforce management now allows companies to check compliance of policies, planograms and more; communicate changes quickly to every employee in the company; train employees on new procedures; and operate more efficiently at the store level. “It’s about digital tools in the workplace, including task execution, on-demand training, scheduling and time clock management, management-level reporting, and compliance auditing — which has become a huge need,” said Eric Swecker, director of new vertical markets at Jolt, based in Lehi, Utah. He cited a recent webinar he attended, where Cumberland Farms spoke about what they call a “Q walk,” where managers and district managers walk around the store and do a physical audit to see what has been done and they use a tablet or mobile device to do it. “Not only do they check things off the list in real time, but there are functions that can have them attach a photo or scan a QR code to prove compliance,” noted Swecker. “With COVID and enhanced sanitation procedures, it’s not enough to have a paper checklist at the store.”

Communication & Efficiency Two benefits of workforce management technology that work hand in hand are ease of communication and in-store operational efficiency. Not only does this allow companies to communicate new policies and procedures, but it also allows employees to communicate and respond back to corporate, managers and fellow employees. “Not only can corporate communicate to each store with details on what a certain endcap should look like, but it can allow store managers to do digital walkthroughs and store audits, 60 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

upload pictures back to corporate, and put more time into managers’ hands,” said Eadie. This type of technology can get managers out from behind a desk and allow them to use mobile technology and tablets to create and check off digital task lists for themselves and their employees, and they can simply log in to the system to make sure employees are completing tasks. It also makes scheduling easier for managers, so they can optimize their workforce. “Moving away from paper checklists to digital will improve task completion and can identify where management needs to focus attention if something falls short, rather than handing employees a task list they just check off with a pencil,” said Swecker. For example, Redbook, a paper notebookbased system used by quick-service restaurants (QSRs) and c-stores to manually log the temperatures of items being cooked, is often overlooked and ignored, he explained. While walking through a c-store once, a foodservice director shared with Swecker that they used Redbook, but when she showed it to him, nothing had been entered for the past three weeks.

“This was a major chain and she realized it was a big problem,” he recalled. “Operational efficiency becomes a lot more measurable with digital. You can have an item on your list that says, ‘Go check the dumpster lid to make sure it’s closed,’ and people could just check it off and say they did it with a manual sheet, but with digital, you can have them scan a QR code to prove they went out there.” Also, in terms of taking communication to the next level, Eadie offered an example of what a large-chain customer of Workjam is doing around the nightshift. This company onboards employees and gets them certified to do overnight shifts by themselves through the workforce management system, and the chain created a chat room just for nightshift employees to be able to talk with one another if they need support or help. “Communication is also about messaging people about changing policies, a new HR policy, changes to the way the stores are handling food, and more,” Eadie noted. “It’s top down and bottom up — twoway communication.”

Employee Retention In an industry where turnover is high, finding ways to keep employees engaged and happy is paramount, and when employees have the ability to change their schedules, swap shifts and pick up extra shifts easily, it’s a huge plus for them. “Companies that deploy cool technology are more

Best Practices for Workforce Management Before investing in and rolling out a new workforce management solution — or any technology for that matter — it’s essential that a convenience store retailer have a strategic plan for how to use it and get the most out of the system. “The system will do what it is you tell it to do, but you have to decide as an organization what you want to tell the system to do,” advised Amanda Nichols, senior manager of the retail, hospitality and foodservice practice at Ultimate Kronos Group. “When thinking about investing in workforce management, go in with a plan and know what will make the organization successful and what level of freedom you

want to give to managers and employees.”

ideas that might even come from outside the c-store industry, too,” Nichols pointed out.

For example, some companies will publish a blank schedule and have managers or employees pick what they want, while others will have a “fully baked” schedule that employees can go off of and swap or pick what they want, she noted. Some companies require management approval of changes and others don’t, but there needs to be a plan and set practices in place. “When designing strategies, know what is best for your company and employees, and ask for help from consultants to find out what this might be, if you need it. There are great


Additionally, utilizing the system as much as possible and keeping everything housed in one place is another best practice to employ. At Shell, a client of Workjam, the company might create a top-level project, such as new cash wrap protocols, and set up a workflow of approvals where everyone collaborates inside one digital space, according Will Eadie, chief revenue officer at Workjam. “Planning it, rolling it out, communicating, training and then executing — if you keep it to those simple steps, it applies to everything you do,” he said.

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sought after than companies that don’t, especially by millennials and [the] younger generation, and giving employees more power of their schedules and more freedom is important,” Swecker said. Providing employees with access to easy-to-use tools is a huge advantage and, in some cases, c-stores report it’s the most important aspect of workforce management, according to Kevin Tapscott, vice president of solution consulting, Americas at Reflexis Systems, which is now part of Zebra Technologies, based in Dedham, Mass. “It eliminates the frustration of having to get a text with a wall schedule, and moves it to a real-time push notification on the employee’s mobile phone that next week’s schedule is available,” Tapscott noted. “It’s gone from a nice to have to a must have in the minds of many employment candidates, and can make a company an employer of choice.” The other plus for both management and employees is the ability to share schedules across stores in a certain area so that employees have the opportunity to take extra shifts outside of their main store, and management gets to the fill the open time slots, added Nichols. “If there are five locations in a 20-mile radius and two are chronically understaffed and then the other three can’t give their employees enough hours to make them happy, this can solve that problem,” she explained.

Standardization & Compliance Any c-store company with more than one location knows the importance of standardization across the chain to provide customers a consistent experience no matter what store they visit. This starts with having standard policies and procedures at the corporate level that are communicated down to the store level, and then compliance protocols to ensure everything is followed. This is another area where workforce management technology can help c-store operators. Task management can help with standardization because it sets very clear expectations by corporate for the same policies and procedures across stores, and training works in conjunction with this as well, according to Nichols. “If David works at Store 23 and has taken training on how to do cleaning following the new COVID protocols, the system can

“COVID is being referred to as ‘the great technology accelerator,’ and workforce management has moved from a ‘nice to have’ to a business essential.” — Amanda Nichols, Ultimate Kronos Group

house that certification and skill level, and now David can pick up a shift at a different store that has that as a job requirement because it’s the same training and procedures across the board,” she noted. Also, when it’s all digital, district managers can look at a real-time dashboard and see what tasks have been completed vs. what have not, and drill down further and investigate. This type of visibility can help operators drive consistency across stores, districts and regions, said Tapscott. With the push of a button, checklists and tasks can be rolled out across a chain, and some systems allow operators to bundle them with other information, such as training videos, Swecker pointed out. This can head off employees claiming they don’t know how to do something. “There is a huge benefit to having established standards and expectations, and QSRs realize the most important thing is not to have five-star cuisine, but for consumers to have a consistent brand experience,” he said. “McDonald’s in Massachusetts is the same as one in Florida or in Kansas, and Dunkin’ Donuts is the same.” And when it comes to compliance, not only does having things digital make it easier for managers, district managers and those at the corporate level to see what is being completed, but many systems also offer functionality whereby employees can take pictures and upload them to show proof that a task was done correctly. “Operators can send a planogram design and then have employees upload a picture for visible proof, and there is functionality that can look at the standard picture and compare it to the picture sent and match it by a percentage of accuracy, such as 97 percent,” Tapscott said. With COVID, this has been especially helpful to ensure stores not only install plexiglass shields, but do so correctly, as well as follow new cleaning procedures. Much of this can be done through task management solutions as part of workforce management, according to Nichols. “Task management is getting push and traction to ensure the validation and make sure things are being done correctly, and can all be done with a mobile app,” she said. CSN


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Anne Flint, EG Group The 2020 TWIC Woman of the Year encourages aspiring female leaders to keep their expectations high By Linda Lisanti

the Convenience Store News Top Women in Convenience (TWIC) awards program has recognized more than 300 of the best and brightest women making a positive impact on not only the companies they work for, but also the entire convenience retail channel.


TWIC is the only program that recognizes exceptional female leaders, rising stars and mentors among retailer, supplier and distributor firms in the convenience store industry, from the C-suite to the store level to the independent entrepreneur. In TWIC Talk, our quarterly Q&A series, we interview a past TWIC winner about what it’s like to be a female leader in the convenience store industry today — the opportunities, the challenges — and get their words of wisdom for up-andcomers seeking to blaze their own trail. This month’s TWIC Talk subject is Anne Flint, director of category management, tobacco, for EG Group. Having spent her entire career in the c-store industry, Flint worked for Cumberland Farms for 20-plus years before EG Group acquired the chain in late 2019. At that

time, she moved into her current role and expanded her responsibility from working with eight states to 31. In 2020, Flint was one of the five women celebrated by TWIC as Women of the Year. CSNews: How would you describe the current state of affairs for gender equality in the convenience store industry? How does this compare to 10 years ago? I think the current state of gender equality in the c-store industry has greatly evolved over the past 10 years. In today’s industry, we see more females in senior leadership roles, which in turn has created greater female mentorship opportunities. Additionally, I have seen greater flexibility provided in the workplace, which can allow females to better achieve both their work and personal goals simultaneously. Although gender equality has evolved across the corporate environment, it is not perfect, and I believe there is still more work to be done to ensure female voices and capabilities are equally valued. This particularly appears to be a gap in the convenience store industry as it has historically been led by males. CSNews: What is the most positive change you have personally witnessed? Personally, the most positive change that I’ve been able to witness throughout my career has been my own ability to move into higher levels of the organization. This has especially impacted me as it was something I did not


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see as a possibility when first starting my career in the industry. To think back on where I started and see the position I’m in today is truly rewarding to me. CSNews: Along your career path, did you personally experience gender bias or inequality? If so, how did you overcome? Unfortunately, I was given career advice at times in the past that it would not benefit me to pursue higher-level roles as a female. This is certainly difficult feedback to receive and can be challenging to move forward from. For me, I felt greater motivation from this, as I would choose to ignore the negativity and challenge myself to achieve my personal goals and ultimately prove my capabilities. I do believe this type of criticism has lessened as we seem to have shifted to an industry culture where no role is meant specifically for a male or female. We also now see many men mentoring women to help them move into higher positions. I am grateful for our male advocates as they have played a large role in furthering this progress. CSNews: What barriers to advancement do you see still existing in the c-store industry? A barrier I still see in the c-store industry today is that larger expectations may exist for women at times. As much progress as there has been with females moving into

“I believe that the continued focus on female empowerment across organizations within our industry will continue to strengthen [the] sense of equality.” — Anne Flint, EG Group

higher roles, there still appears to be gaps with female credibility from their male counterparts. I believe that the continued focus on female empowerment across organizations within our industry will continue to strengthen this sense of equality. CSNews: What is your advice for other industry women looking to rise to higher ranks? My advice to our future female leaders is to set your professional goals and surround yourself with people who will help you achieve those goals. It is important to block, but also advocate against, negativity. Continue to keep your expectations high, maintain a strong work ethic and, most importantly, don’t be afraid to prioritize and voice what matters to you. CSN


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Destination: Nostalgia Wally’s is a family-friendly travel center focused on enhancing the road trip experience By Danielle Romano

At a Glance Wally’s Size: 30,000-plus square feet positioned on a 20-acre site Location: 1 Holiday Road, Pontiac, Ill. Unique features: The look and feel of an old-school road trip paired with contemporary travel center amenities; a retail section anchored by a vintage Winnebago trailer; an Instagram-worthy taxidermy display; road trip snacks including a beef jerky wall and a freshpopped popcorn station; a carving station; gourmet coffee bar; state-of-the-art restrooms

WHILE TRAVEL CENTERS have traditionally catered to the professional trucking community, Wally’s is family-focused and pushes the boundaries of what a familyfriendly travel center can be through cleanliness, convenience and food options to enhance the road trip experience.

With a mission to completely reimagine what people associate with travel centers, Wally’s opened in September 2020 with the moniker “Home of the Great American Road Trip.” The concept for the travel center was born from a team comprised of real estate, supply chain logistics, creative branding, convenience store and gas retailing professionals who saw an opportunity to put their skills to use and deliver a one-of-a-kind experience. “Wally’s is truly the ultimate travel center for everyone, but we really wanted to home in on the Midwest traveler and create the ultimate destination for them and their families,” Wally’s President and CEO Michael Rubenstein told Convenience Store News. “Whether you’re a foodie looking for the ultimate snack spot, shopping for last-minute luxury gifts or just in the market for a clean restroom and a full tank of gas (or charged battery), we have something for everyone.”

Retro Meets Modern Located in Pontiac, Ill., on Interstate 55, along Route 66, the travel center is

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situated at roughly the midway point between the two major Midwest cities of Chicago and St. Louis. The decision on where to build the inaugural Wally’s was a culmination of years of driving this corridor and looking for a good midpoint that has accessibility, visibility, and easy on and off exits. Additionally, the company needed a strong and viable workforce and community that would support the business. All of those Wally’s found in the city of Pontiac, Rubenstein said. “Pontiac is a town with a strong tie to the historic Route 66, which is part of why we chose the location. It’s also an extremely business-friendly area, and it’s been great working with the town to bring Wally’s to life,” the chief executive noted. Drawing inspiration from family road trips of the 1970s and 1980s, Wally’s features the look and feel of an old-school road trip, but paired with contemporary travel center amenities. Designed in-house, the retailer boasts a modern, retro brand that incorporates a sense of Route 66 pride, which visitors feel from the moment they step through the door. Among the unique features weaving retro branding with modern amenities are: a retail section anchored by a vintage Winnebago trailer where customers

can shop and lounge; soda fountains displaying brand labels from the 1970s and 1980s; an Instagram-worthy taxidermy display that changes with the seasons; and a T-shirt wall offering designs created by the Wally’s team — ranging from a “Midwest Vibes” tee, to a tie-dye tee, to a faux mechanic’s shirt.

Wally’s carefully curated retail selection includes a huge range of products — teething rings, BAGGU bags, jade face rollers, sleeping bags, and more.

“Our retail selection really sets Wally’s apart. Rather than go through a couple major distributors to supply our products, we carefully curated a robust shopping experience from a wide range of vendors,” Rubenstein explained. “Whether our customers need a last-minute gift or just want to browse for themselves, we made it a point to curate a selection for everyone. We have a huge range of products — teething rings, BAGGU bags, jade face rollers, Solo Stoves, candles, accent pillows, hats, sleeping bags, and more.”

All the Essentials Wally’s is also focused on delivering diverse and elevated fresh food items for on-the-go families. For starters, a carving station offers barbecue brisket and pulled pork sandwiches, which can be complemented with a sweet treat from its section of just-baked desserts. On the beverage side, Wally’s offers more than 60 sodafountain flavors and 12 slushie options, in addition to a gourmet coffee bar featuring Intelligentsia coffee, nitro cold brew, alternative milks such as oat milk, and Circle kombucha on tap. To fill the need for road-trip snacks, Wally’s features a beef jerky wall and a popcorn station offering a range of fun flavors popped fresh daily, as well as packaged chips, candy, fruit and vegetables. Wally’s is also dedicated to providing old-fashioned courtesy with all the modern technology and contemporary amenities travelers have come to expect, noted Rubenstein. This includes:

• State-of-the-art restrooms with more than 40 stalls; • A full-time facility manager onsite 24/7; • 76 fueling stations and four electric vehicle charging stations with 50k-watt chargers; • Free in-store Wi-Fi; • Self-checkout; • A walk-in cooler providing access to beer, wine and liquor; • A general store with camping supplies and road trip essentials; and • A fun collection of Wally’s merchandise spanning shirts, hats, mugs, bumper stickers and other accessories. According to Rubenstein, the company is “laserfocused” on ensuring its Pontiac location is the best it can be, down to the smallest details. In the future, the retailer has plans to bring Wally’s to additional states throughout the nation. CSN


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National Confectioners Association............................51

Cheyenne International......37 E-Alternative Solutions......15 Forte Products......................19 GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Health Care........7 Heineken USA Inc................13 Imageworks Display & Marketing Group..................17 ITG Brands.............................43 Kronos Incorporated...........20–21 Liggett Vector Brands........29 Living Essentials LLC..........9 8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave, Suite 200, Chicago, IL 60631 Phone 773-992-4450 Fax 773-992-4455 www.ensembleiq.com

Liggett Vector Brands........29

Perfetti Van Melle USA.......42–43 Premier Manufacturing.......41, 47 Reynolds American Trade Marketing Services.............. Back Cover Smokey Mountain Chew Inc................................25 Swedish Match North America LLC..............5, 23, ...............................................39, 45 Swisher International Inc...33-35 Taat..........................................27 Uline........................................40 Universal Merchants............ Outsert


CSN_Class_Feb_2021.indd 15


Convenience Store News


2/4/2021 2:05:15 PM


Seeking a Recipe for Recovery Consumer shifts due to the COVID-19 pandemic have upended convenience foodservice While the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has affected nearly every convenience store product category, the foodservice category in particular has been upended, according to an exclusive c-store shopper study conducted by Convenience Store News on changes in shopping frequency and behavior in the convenience channel during the pandemic. Along with decreased foot traffic — more than half of consumers say they’re shopping at c-stores less now than before the pandemic — many retailers in the early days of the health crisis either opted to or were forced to shut down their fresh food and dispensed beverage programs. While these programs have started to come back online, it’s proving to be a slow climb to get the foodservice category back to where it was previously. The shopper study revealed:



of consumers say are they shopping at convenience stores less frequently these days because they are not eating out as often.

Male shoppers are more likely to cite this than female shoppers:

39% vs. 26%

MILLENNIALS ARE THE MOST LIKELY TO CITE THIS AMONG THE GENERATIONS SURVEYED: 38% Millennials (aged 22-37) 34% Baby Boomers (aged 54-72)



of consumers say are they shopping at c-stores less these days because their preferred food and beverage items are no longer available at their preferred convenience store(s).

28% Generation X (aged 38-53) 6% Generation Z (aged 18-21)


9% VS. 1%


82 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m



21% 34% 45%

16% 29% 55%

Caetlyn Roberts Giant Food

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