How smart store design can help solve for labor
Honor employees’ time
THE TOP 100
These are the largest U.S. c-store chains
convenience.org Advancing Convenience & Fuel Retailing MARCH 2023
• • • ©2023 Altria Group Distribution Company | For Trade Purposes Only
Store Design With Labor (or Lack of It) in Mind
As labor shortages increase, every detail is being scrutinized when building new stores to eke out ways to add greater efficiency.
Lifting Up a Community
Sioux Valley Coop offers a modern destination that meets a community’s growing needs.
The Digital Advantage
More retailers are embracing in-store kiosk and mobile ordering for menu items— and seeing a corresponding lift in sales.
Shifting to Flexibility
Today’s workers want something money can’t buy: their time.
NACS MARCH 2023 1 Subscribe to NACS Daily—an indispensable “quick read” of industry headlines and legislative and regulatory news, along with knowledge and resources from NACS, delivered to your inbox every weekday. Subscribe at www.convenience.org/NACSdaily STAY CONNECTED WITH NACS @nacsonline facebook.com/nacsonline instragram.com/nacs_online linkedin.com/company/nacs On the cover: Mega Pixel/Shutterstock The Top 100 These are the leading convenience retail chains in the U.S., ranked by number of locations.
ONTENTS NACS / MARCH 2023 35
ONTENTS NACS /
06 From the Editor
08 The Big Question
10 NACS News
16 Convenience Cares
20 Inside Washington NACS Grassroots efforts helped move the needle on industry priorities.
24 Ideas 2 Go
Curby’s Express Market combines drive-thru, foodservice and convenience into a next-generation retail experience.
58 Cool New Products
62 Gas Station Gourmet
A restaurant in a c-store in Little Rock, Arkansas, offers unexpected cuisine.
64 Category Close-Up
Enhanced hot beverage programs offer variety, customization and convenience; the liquor category offers high margins and entices addon purchases.
76 By the Numbers
CATEGORY CLOSE-UP PAGE 64
2 MARCH 2023 convenience.org
presence of an article in our magazine
constitute an expression of the association’s view. PLEASE RECYCLE THIS MAGAZINE BrianAJackson/Getty Images
average monthly sales per store for hot dispensed beverages in 2021.
should not be permitted to
Kim Stewart Editor-in-Chief (703) 518-4279 email@example.com
Ben Nussbaum Senior Editor (703) 518-4248 firstname.lastname@example.org
Lisa King Managing Editor (703) 518-4281 email@example.com
Sara Counihan Contributing Editor (703) 518-4278 firstname.lastname@example.org
Terri Allan, Sarah Hamaker, Al Hebert, Pat Pape, Renee Pas DESIGN Imagination www.imaginepub.com
Stacey Dodge Advertising Director/ Southeast (703) 518-4211 email@example.com
Jennifer Nichols Leidich National Advertising Manager/Northeast (703) 518-4276 firstname.lastname@example.org
Ted Asprooth National Sales Manager/ Midwest, West (703) 518-4277 email@example.com
Stephanie Sikorski Vice President, Marketing (703) 518-4231 firstname.lastname@example.org
Nancy Pappas Marketing Director (703) 518-4290 email@example.com
NACS BOARD OF DIRECTORS
CHAIR: Don Rhoads, The Convenience Group LLC
OFFICERS: Lisa Dell’Alba Square One Markets Inc.; Annie Gauthier, St. Romain Oil Company LLC; Varish Goyal, Loop Neighborhood Markets; Brian Hannasch, Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc.; Chuck Maggelet, Maverik Inc.; Ken Parent, Pilot Flying J LLC; Victor Paterno, Philippine Seven Corp. dba 7-Eleven Convenience Store
PAST CHAIRS: Jared Scheeler, The Hub Convenience Stores Inc.; Kevin Smartt, TXB Stores
MEMBERS: Chris Bambury, Bambury Inc.; Frederic Chaveyriat, MAPCO Express Inc.; Andrew Clyde, Murphy USA; George Fournier, EG America LLC
Terry Gallagher, Gasamat Oil/ Smoker Friendly; Douglas S. Haugh, Parkland USA; Raymond M. Huff, HJB Convenience Corp. dba Russell’s Convenience; John Jackson, Jackson Food Stores Inc.; Ina (Missy) Matthews, Childers Oil Co.; Brian McCarthy, Blarney Castle Oil Co.; Charles McIlvaine, Coen Markets Inc.; Lonnie McQuirter, 36 Lyn Refuel Station; Tony Miller, Delek US; Jigar Patel, FASTIME; Elizabeth Pierce, Applegreen LTD; Robert Razowsky, Rmarts LLC; Richard Wood III, Wawa Inc.
REPRESENTATIVES: David Charles, Cash Depot; Kevin Farley, GSP
STAFF LIAISON: Henry Armour, NACS
GENERAL COUNSEL: Doug Kantor, NACS
NACS SUPPLIER BOARD
CHAIR: Kevin Farley, GSP
CHAIR-ELECT: David Charles, Cash Depot
VICE CHAIRS: Josh Halpern, JRS Hospitality; Vito Maurici, McLane Company; Bryan Morrow, PepsiCo Inc.
PAST CHAIRS: Brent Cotten, The Hershey Company; Rick Brindle, Mondelez International; Drew Mize, PDI Technologies
MEMBERS: Tony Battaglia, Juul Labs; Alicia Cleary, AnheauserBush/In Bev; Jerry Cutler InComm Payments; Jack Dickinson, Dover Corporation; Matt Domingo, Reynolds; Mark Falconi, Oberto Snacks Inc.; Mike Gilroy, Mars Wrigley;
Danielle Holloway,Altria Group Distribution Company; Jim Hughes, Molson Coors Beverage Company; David Jeffco, Dirty Dough LLC; Kevin Kraft, Q Mixers; Kevin M. LeMoyne, Coca-Cola Company; Lesley D. Saitta, Impact 21; Sarah Vilim, Keurig Dr Pepper
REPRESENTATIVES: Scott E. Hartman, Rutter’s; Steve Loehr, Kwik Trip Inc.; Chuck Maggelet, Maverik Inc.
STAFF LIAISON: Bob Hughes NACS
NOMINATING CHAIR: Kevin Martello, Keurig Dr Pepper
NACS Magazine (ISSN 1939-4780) is published monthly by the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), Alexandria, Virginia, USA.
Subscriptions are included in the dues paid by NACS member companies. Subscriptions are also available to qualified recipients. The publisher reserves the right to limit the number of free subscriptions and to set related qualifications criteria.
Subscription requests: firstname.lastname@example.org
POSTMASTER: Send address changes to NACS Magazine, 1600 Duke Street, Alexandria, VA, 22314-2792 USA.
Contents © 2022 by the National Association of Convenience Stores. Periodicals postage paid at Alexandria VA and additional mailing offices. 1600 Duke Street, Alexandria, VA 22314-2792
COME TOGETHER. DO MORE. Join us at conveniencecares.org /
THE BOLD CHOICE
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UP FRONT FROM THE EDITOR
Sitting in a Marriott hotel lounge during a February out-of-town trip, I looked up with amusement to see a robot shuttling a tray of food to the bartender from the hotel’s kitchen. Naturally I snapped a photo. It was the first time I’d seen a robot server in a foodservice setting. Judging by how far the kitchen was located from the hotel’s lounge, its use surely saves many human steps each shift. Likewise, I encountered a more humanistic model at a Virginia hospital, where its role consisted of shuttling supplies from one part of the building to another.
Our cover story this month is all about ways convenience retailers like TXB Stores and Yesway are designing new builds and retrofitting legacy c-stores to make efficient use of labor. Although neither retailer is putting robots to work inside their stores just yet, they are focused on driving efficiencies that save employees’ time while encouraging customer wayfinding.
“It’s about making the employee’s life a little easier,” Kevin Smartt, TXB CEO, says.
How managers set scheduling for their employees is another way to maximize labor efficiencies while also honoring their employees’ lives away from the job. Jared Scheeler, CEO of The Hub Convenience Stores, shares how his stores use flexible scheduling and nontraditional labor pools in “Shifting to Flexibility” to attract and retain team members.
Digital ordering is another way to streamline operations by freeing up both staff and customers’ time when it comes to foodservice orders, as we explore in “Digital Advantage.” Says Andrew Robbins, CEO of Paytronix,
“Digital ordering is clearly a must-have for anyone doing food ordering, and it’s emerging quickly for center-store items.”
What would March be without our now-annual ranking of the top 100 U.S. convenience retail chains based on store count? 7-Eleven remains the leader by sheer size at more than 12,800 stores. Other chains are fast-growing. See who’s in the running by NACS region in “The Top 100.”
Spring is nearly here, my friends!
Kim Stewart , Editor-In-Chief
6 MARCH 2023 convenience.org
It’s about making the employee’s life a little easier.”
Robots log the steps at hospitals and hotels.
Photography by Kim Stewart
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UP FRONT THE BIG QUESTION
Why start with inclusion?
People are at the center of everything we do at Sheetz. Our company’s values—our Sheetz DNA—compel our actions to be people-centric. Demonstrating respect, a core component of our values, means honoring and recognizing diverse experiences, individual identities and unique perspectives.
In the wake of the #MeToo movement and the murder of George Floyd, we acknowledged we were way behind in our diversity and inclusion efforts . We pride ourselves in having an employee-centric culture. But we were missing intentionality. An authentically inclusive workplace and having diverse representation at all levels doesn’t just happen. It requires intentionality and effort.
This realization meant we quickly needed to learn, listen, be vulnerable and humbly approach this cultureshifting work.
Getting this right is critical to the future of our company. The business reasons for embracing inclusion and diversity are well documented. Changes in demographics and a shrinking labor pool are trends we can’t ignore. And just as important, getting this right matters to our people and culture.
We named this work our IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility) Initiative, an integral part of our corporate strategy. Placing the “I” at the beginning was intentional.
Why start with inclusion? We learned that a culture with strong underpinnings of inclusion is foundational to embracing diverse perspectives. A company made up of diverse individuals isn’t automatically inclusive.
Education is paramount . Our executive team committed to reading books, listening to podcasts and hiring outside experts. If we are going to get this right, we must learn about our biases and humbly acknowledge when we have been wrong, where our words and actions could have been better. Then change. Education
has been shared with all employees. Our goal is to raise awareness and change behavior, resulting in a great workplace for all.
We launched employee resource groups, providing underrepresented employees an amplified voice and network of support . ERGs are safe, inclusive spaces for those who may otherwise feel excluded. ELEVATE, a group dedicated to supporting Black employees, launched first, with other groups forming to support women, LGBTQIA+ and Latinx employees.
This is a journey. Opening our hearts and minds not only creates a better work environment, but it’s a chance to embrace humanity, making a better world. Personally and professionally, individually and together. Our collective future will be brighter if we get this right.
8 MARCH 2023 convenience.org
Stephanie Doliveira is Executive Vice President, People & Culture, Sheetz Inc.
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Meet the 2023 NACS Masters of Convenience
NACS congratulates the eight 2023 NACS Master of Convenience award recipients who were honored at the invitation-only NACS Leadership Forum in February, where they received a certificate and pin.
“The NACS Executive Education programs I participated in not only enhanced my professional skills but also had a huge impact on my personal development,” said awardee Staci Donahue, director, capital project controls, 7-Eleven Inc. “The coursework and networking opportunities helped
me gain valuable experience, skills and resources that are moving my career and organization forward in meaningful ways.”
The NACS Master of Convenience designation acknowledges the leaders from around the globe who have invested in their personal leadership development and attended three or more NACS Executive Education programs. These leaders have also invested in the growth of their organizations—and the industry as a whole—by harnessing and infusing their strengths with a world-class curriculum and a network of like-minded leaders.
“I gained insights and confidence that enable me to lead my teams more effectively as we tackle complex challenges,” said Donahue.
Here are the latest elite leaders who are shaping the future, proactively and powerfully:
• Rodolfo Castillo, AMPM Centro America
• Edwin de Graaff, Shell International Petroleum Company Ltd.
• Staci Donahue, 7-Eleven Inc.
• Nichole Evans, Par Mar Oil Co.
• Sharan Kalva, C-Store Master
• Teoman Ozben, Shell International Petroleum Company Limited
• Donald R. Rhoads, The Convenience Group LLC, 2022-23 NACS chairman
• Rashid Samiev, Mega Saver
Learn more about the NACS Executive Education programs at www.convenience.org/ Education/NACS-Executive-Education , and contact Brandi Mauro, NACS education program manager, with questions at bmauro@ convenience.org or (703) 518-4223.
Fuels Institute Report Spotlights Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicles
In the quest to reduce emissions from the transportation sector, policymakers are beginning to explore options that will directly affect medium- and heavy-duty commercial vehicles, which account for
about 10% of vehicle miles traveled in the United States, distribute nearly three-quarters of the nation’s freight and contribute 24% of the nation’s transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions.
10 MARCH 2023 convenience.org UP FRONT NACS NEWS
L to R: Rashid Samiev, Teoman Ozben, Henry Armour, Nichole Evans, Edwin de Graaff, Rodolfo Castillo and Don Rhoads. Not pictured: Staci Donahue and Sharan Kalva.
NACS Welcomes New Staff
NACS started 2023 with six new team members working in departments across our organization.
Kaitlin Bivens joins NACS as education production manager. She will oversee education components for the NACS State of the Industry Summit, Convenience Summit Europe, webinars and be part of the team that develops content for the NACS Show. Bivens has spent the past four years planning and implementing events and conferences, most recently serving in event production at AFCEA International, a nonprofit committed to bringing together government, academic, military and corporate members to further defense, security and intelligence disciplines.
Jennifer Johnson joins NACS as director of business development. In this role, she leads business development for the new NACS localized marketing platform THRIVR. Prior to joining NACS, Johnson had a 20-plus year career at NCR Corporation, with roles across telecom and technology, hospitality and global sales and operations. Most recently, she was channel account manager responsible for growing the convenience and fuels channel.
CeCe Lee is the new NACS email and marketing manager and will oversee all aspects of email and SMS marketing campaigns for NACS. Prior to joining NACS, Lee was the digital product manager at the American Cancer Society. Previously, CeCe was an online account manager for the full-service agency Mal Warwick Donordigital, focused on strategy, fundraising and campaign management for nonprofits. She also served as a social media strategist at Chapman, Cubine & Hussey.
Ethan Medrano has joined NACS as data services coordinator. Medrano most recently held information technology positions with Razor Talent and Armedia. He earned a B.S. in information systems and operations management from George Mason University. During college, he was lead enrichment instructor for STEM Excel, teaching robotics to elementary school-age students in Fairfax County, Virginia.
Ben Nussbaum will oversee operations, strategy and content creation for NACS Magazine, NACS Daily and Fuels Market News, among others, as our new senior editor. Nussbaum comes to NACS with more than 20 years in the publishing industry. His most recent endeavor was as editor-in-chief and publisher of Spirituality & Health magazine, a bimonthly wellness magazine, and spiritualityhealth.com. He also launched and grew USA Today’s magazine program in the mid-2000s, created single-topic newsstand magazines at I-5 Publishing and served as an editor for a children’s book company.
Emma Tainter has joined NACS as a research analyst/ writer and will support the research department’s activities, with a focus on writing and editing.
Tainter most recently was a community reporter and editor for the Central Virginian, based in Richmond, Virginia. She has experience in organizing events and managing social media accounts for former employers that include the Louisa County Historical Society, Environmental Defense Fund and World Science Foundation.
To help policymakers and affected stakeholders better understand the specific effects such initiatives might have on the MHDV market, the Fuels Institute in a new report has outlined
considerations that are critical to address when crafting and implementing such policies.
“As policymakers throughout the nation consider policies to address MHDV emissions, it is critical to understand the unique characteristics of the vehicles in
operation and the important role they play in moving the economy of the country forward,” the Fuels Institute states.
Download “Policy Considerations: Emissions Reduction Proposals Affecting Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicles” at www.fuelsinstitute.org
NACS MARCH 2023 11
ARKO Corp. announced that Chief Financial Officer Don Bassell intends to retire by the end of 2023 after 42 years in the industry. Bassell is expected to remain as chief financial officer until April 2024.
Sheetz announced the promotion of Stephanie Doliveira to executive vice president of people and culture. Doliveira, who has been with Sheetz for nearly 22 years, was previously Sheetz vice president of human resources. Doliveira will lead strategic planning and execution of all employee-related initiatives for over 24,000 employees at Sheetz.
Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. appointed Alex Miller to the newly created position of chief operating officer. He will oversee North America, Europe and Asia operations, including its food program, merchandise procurement and supply chain activities.
Hunt Brothers Pizza announced the passing of the last living co-founders, brothers Charlie Hunt, 78, on December 22, and Don Hunt, 88, on December 27. They are preceded in death by their two brothers and co-founders, Lonnie Hunt and Jim Hunt. The four brothers formed a cohesive team that led to an extended family of more than 9,000 store partnerships, over 550 team members and countless communities and charities supported over the years. Since 2009, the company has been led by the second generation of leaders from the Hunt family.
GSP in January announced the passing of Craig Neuhoff, vice president of new business development, who died as a result of a surfing accident while on vacation in Costa Rica. Neuhoff, who moderated a 2022 NACS Show education session, was passionate about store design—and surfing with his family.
Brett Padgett has joined Blanc Display Group as sales manager. Padgett comes to Blanc with over 35 years in the supermarket and retail industry.
For the past 21 years Padgett has worked on the wholesale side of the business.
Impact 21 welcomed Greg Tornberg as a principal consultant. Tornberg has expertise in driving multimilliondollar growth in foodservice sales, acquisition transitioning and integration, as well as developing and executing new foodservice offerings.
Charles Conti has joined Impact 21 as a senior principal consultant. Conti has over 24 years experience in the convenience industry. He most recently served as director of hardware product management at PDI.
Impact 21 announced that Paula Conti has joined the company as a senior principal consultant. With more than 28 years of experience in the convenience store, wholesale fuel and logistics industry, Conti has a passion for helping companies succeed.
12 MARCH 2023 convenience.org DNY59/Getty Images UP FRONT NACS NEWS
Charlie Hunt and Don Hunt
Willis Smith now serves as director of educational sales at LTI, manufacturer and designer of modular and custom food serving counters, fabrication and serving technologies. Smith joined LTI in 2007 as a VisionDesign project manager.
TXB (Texas Born), which has nearly 50 locations in Texas and Oklahoma, was awarded Store Brands’ 2022 Impact Award for Philanthropic/Corporate Giving. For more than 12 years, TXB has been a supporter of CASA (Court
Appointed Special Advocate), which supports and promotes volunteer advocacy for children in the foster-care system who have experienced abuse or neglect. TXB has raised more than $682,000 for CASA.
TravelCenters of America was named to Forbes’ list of America’s Best Small Companies 2023. Rankings are based on earnings growth, sales growth, return on equity and total stock return for the latest 12 months available and over the past five years. TA ranks No. 86 on the list.
Casey’s has been certified as a Great Place To Work US, highlighting its investment in 43,000 team
members who take great care of guests and the communities Casey’s serves every day.
Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. has been awarded the Bronze-level Parity Certification™ by Women in Governance for its progress toward gender parity in the workplace. Women in Governance’s Parity Certification helps organizations increase the representation of women in sectors where they have historically been underrepresented and in senior management positions.
Kwik Trip, MAPCO and Delta Sonic Car Wash all made the 2023 Top Workplaces USA list. The retailers ranked No. 24, No. 90 and No. 98, respectively.
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NACS welcomes the following companies that joined the association in December 2022. NACS membership is company-wide, so we encourage employees of member companies to create a username by visiting www.convenience.org/Create-Login. All members receive access to the NACS Online Membership directory, latest industry news, information and resources. For more information about NACS membership, visit convenience.org/membership.
NEW RETAIL MEMBERS
Kelley Williamson Company Rockford, IL www.kelleysmarket.com
Lucky’s Market Vancouver, WA
STORELIFT Paris, France www.getboxy.co
NEW SUPPLIER MEMBERS
ADC Enterprises Inc. Northbrook, IL www.adc-enterprises.com
Beverage USA LLC Freehold, NJ www.Nerdfocus.com
BIXOLON America Inc. Torrance, CA www.bixolonusa.com
CCA and B LLC Atlanta, GA
Crown Bakeries LLC Brentwood, TN www.crownbakeries.com
Culinevo Kitchen San Diego, CA www.culinevo.com
Calendar of Events
NACS Day on the Hill
March 07–08 | Washington, D.C.
NACS Human Resources Forum
March 20-22 | The DeSoto | Savannah, Georgia
NACS State of the Industry Summit
April 18-20 | Hyatt Regency DFW International Airport | Dallas, Texas
NACS Leadership for Success
April 30-May 05 | Virginia Crossings
Hotel & Conference Center | Glen Allen (Richmond), Virginia
NACS Convenience Summit Europe
May 30-June 01 | Intercontinental Dublin | Dublin, Ireland
NACS Financial Leadership Program at Wharton
July 16-21 | The Wharton School University of Pennsylvania | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
NACS Marketing Leadership Program at Kellogg
July 23-28 | Kellogg School of Management | Northwestern University | Evanston, Illinois
Nationwide Processing Saint Louis, MO www.atmcreditcard.com
Premium Swedish Boca Raton, FL www.premiumswedish.com
Refrigeration Technologies LLC Pottstown, PA www.RefrigerationTechnologiesLLC.com
Sunmed Palmetto, FL www.getsunmed.com
Telaid Peachtree Corners, GA www.telaid.com
NACS Executive Leadership Program at Cornell
July 30-August 03 | Dyson School, Cornell University | Ithaca, New York
October 03-06 | Georgia World Congress Center | Atlanta, Georgia
NACS Innovation Leadership Program at MIT
November 05-10 | MIT Sloan School of Management | Cambridge, Massachusetts
For a full listing of events and information, visit www.convenience.org/events.
14 MARCH 2023 convenience.org UP FRONT NACS NEWS
Convenience Cares for Kids’ Health
The convenience retailing industry collects or contributes $1 billion to charities and community groups each year, NACS research indicates. For more than 35 years, convenience stores have been engaging employees and customers in campaigns to support local children’s hospitals throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Convenience retailer OnCue, based in Stillwater, Oklahoma, donated $1 million to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Stillwater Medical Center in Stillwater, Oklahoma, the largest single gift ever received at Stillwater Medical. Stillwater Medical Foundation has been raising funds to bring a Level II NICU to the hospital, where the new 10-bed unit will serve all central and north central Oklahoma.
The OnCue Neonatal ICU is scheduled to open in spring 2024.
“We knew our gift would make the NICU a reality, and our commitment would have an impact on children and families in Oklahoma for decades to come,” said OnCue President Laura Aufleger. “Our stores have been serving the Stillwater area for 55 years, and I am beyond grateful that we can make this investment to save lives in our community.”
Often, premature babies must be sent out of state because there are not enough NICU beds to keep Oklahoma families together. OnCue’s donation will help families with premature babies who have to face unimaginable decisions such as being separated from their baby minutes after delivery or
16 MARCH 2023 convenience.org CONVENIENCE CARES
We knew our gift would make the NICU a reality.”
having to choose whether to stay with their postpartum spouse or travel with their newborn. The creation of a Level II NICU in Stillwater allows families to stay closer to home.
“The Foundation is grateful for OnCue’s vision and generous investment in Stillwater and all of north central Oklahoma, and we are excited to celebrate the naming of the OnCue Neonatal Intensive Care Unit,” said Michal Shaw, Stillwater Medical Foundation executive director.
Supply chain services leader McLane Company has helped raise more than $101 million for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals since 1987 through local fundraising efforts, hospital donations, underwriting of CMN Hospitals operations and supplier campaign support.
“Our longstanding partnership with Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals allows us and our supplier and customer partners to join forces in making a difference in the lives of children with critical needs across the country,” said Tony Frankenberger, CEO of McLane. “We’re proud to have reached this milestone and will continue our steadfast support for years to come.”
A large part of McLane’s support for CMN Hospitals comes from grassroots fundraising at more than 75 distribution centers across the country. Distribution centers engage their local communities in supporting local hospitals through a variety of events.
McLane Phoenix, for example, recently supported the 21st Annual Duel in the Desert Golf Tournament raising more than $30,000 to benefit Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Charles Pray, McLane Phoenix division general manager, serves as a Phoenix Children’s Hospital Foundation corporate executive board member.
In The Community
Every year, the convenience and fuel retailing industry dedicates billions of dollars to advancing the futures of individuals and families in our communities. The NACS Foundation unifies and builds on NACS members’ charitable efforts to amplify their work in communities across America, and to share these powerful stories. Learn more at www.conveniencecares.org
partners for their continued support over the last 50 years,” said Stewart Spinks, founder and chairman of The Spinx Company. “Without these organizations, the Upstate would not be the place it is today. We celebrated a big anniversary this past year, and it just made sense to share the celebration with our neighbors and partners.”
MURPHY USA DONATES $25 MILLION
SPINX COMPANY PROVIDES FREE MEALS
1 The Spinx Company commemorated its 50 th anniversary by donating over 2,000 meals to multiple nonprofits in the Upstate region of South Carolina. Spinx celebrated 50 years in business on December 1, 2022, and harnessed the power of The Cluk Truk—an initiative launched in 2020 to serve Spinx’s popular fried chicken in surrounding communities. As part of its yearlong celebration, Spinx selected one organization per month to receive free meals from the Cluk Truk. “We are sincerely grateful to our community
2 Murphy USA donated $25 million to the Murphy USA Charitable Foundation, which will continue to support positive changes in local communities. The foundation funds the company’s matching gifts, including the annual United Way campaign and other charities. “Murphy USA and its board of directors are firmly committed to the communities where we live and work, especially in South Arkansas and our headquarters town of El Dorado. By making this donation to our foundation, we will continue to look for ways to make a positive impact with all of our key stakeholders,” said Murphy USA President and CEO Andrew Clyde.
NACS MARCH 2023 17
In The Community
TIGER FUEL GIFTS $25,000 TO UVA STRONG FUND
3 Tiger Fuel Company, based in Charlottesville, Virginia, made a $25,000 holiday donation to the UVA Strong Fund, an effort administered by the University of Virginia Alumni Association to honor the victims and support the survivors, families and broader student community in the wake of the events of November 13, 2022. The Tiger Fuel Company charitable giving program includes a meaningful donation every holiday season in honor of employees and customers. “We all unanimously agreed that we wanted to do something to honor the victims and support the survivors, families and broader UVA student community in the wake
of the events of November 13,” said Gordon Sutton, president of Tiger Fuel Company. “Tiger Fuel’s generosity will help us provide support to those most affected by the tragedy and honor the lives of our three slain fellow Wahoos, Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr. and D’Sean Perry,” said Lily West, president and CEO of the UVA Alumni Association, which administers the fund.
EG GROUP RAISES $647,000 FOR DAV
4 EG Group raised $647,000 in its 2022 campaign to support Disabled American Veterans (DAV), surpassing previous years’ totals. Customers were encouraged to donate when they visited any of EG Group’s 1,700+ convenience stores, including Cumberland Farms, Certified Oil, Fastrac, Kwik Shop, Loaf N’ Jug, Minit Mart, Quik Shop, Sprint Food Stores, Tom Thumb and Turkey Hill. In December, EG America leadership presented a check to Third Junior Vice Commander and Marine Veteran Coleman Yee of
DAV, the national nonprofit dedicated to empowering veterans to lead high-quality lives with respect and dignity.
MAVERIK DONATES OVER $470,000 TO FEEDING AMERICA
5 Maverik—Adventure’s First Stop donated $471,397 to Feeding America, thanks to funds raised by customers and employees who rounded up their cash and credit transactions to the nearest dollar or more at Maverik stores across 12 states. Maverik also made a direct donation of $50,000 to kick off the campaign. Maverik’s donation will be distributed to Feeding America member food banks across 12 western states where Maverik operates. The remaining donation will support national strategies to help Feeding America address hunger in America. “We are overwhelmed by the kindness of our customers and team members this year!” said Chuck Maggelet, president and chief adventure guide of Maverik.
“With record-high food prices and many turning to food banks this season, it’s an amazing feeling to help make an impact through this contribution and donations through our food waste reduction program.”
Maverik’s food waste reduction program has so far donated over 492,000 pounds of surplus food, helping to provide over 410,000 meals. The program is running in more than 90 stores in five states, and Maverik plans to expand it throughout its operating states.
3 4 5
Conexxus 2023 Annual Conference
Loews Coronado Bay | Coronado, CA April 30 - May 4, 2023
RETAILERS & VENDORS TOGETHER: COLLABORATING ON INNOVATION & CHANGE
2023 Diamond Sponsors
>> The Next Great Transformation | Anat Baron, Futurist
>> Keynote with Vish Ganapathy, Customer Engineer Retail, Google
>> How AI is Shaping the Future of Convenience Retailing | Frodi Hammer, A2i Systems
>> Computer Vision Technology | Sridhar Sudarson, Spark Cognition
| Susan Sly, RadiusAI | Jordan Fisher, Standard AI
... and much more! see conexxus.org/ac2023 for full agenda
2. Discuss & Learn how innovating technology ﬁts into your organization and impacts your strategy.
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2022: A Year for Wins
BY JON TAETS
6,200 NACS Grassroots messages sent to Capitol Hill in 2022
243 Meetings held with members of Congress during 2022’s NACS Day on the Hill
The year 2022 was another busy and eventful one for the NACS government relations team. The convenience and fuel retailing industry saw some important wins in the payments and electric vehicle spaces, helped prevent onerous regulations and was invited to testify in front of various congressional committees.
Helping drive the policy wins were highly successful NACS Grassroots efforts throughout the year. In addition to policy successes, NACSPAC had a strong year in fundraising and in seeing candidates supported by the PAC win their elections. Here is a look at some of our legislative activities for 2022.
Our advocacy efforts seeking competition and fairness on swipe fees gained significant traction in 2022. Bipartisan legislation was introduced in both the House and the Senate that would inject competition into the credit card market by requiring that a second competitive network be enabled on credit cards, prohibiting Visa and Mastercard from dominating those payments. The introduction of the Credit Card Competition
Act by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Roger Marshall (R-KS), as well as Representatives Peter Welch (D-VT) and Lance Gooden (R-TX), marked the first bipartisan effort in over a decade to reform the swipe fee marketplace. While the bill did not pass last year, NACS is already building upon the momentum and pushing for its passage in 2023.
In addition to the introduction of that legislation, our industry was integral in getting a bipartisan group of members of Congress to send a letter to Visa and Mastercard urging those companies not to move forward with planned fee increases. Unfortunately, the credit card firms raised fees.
20 MARCH 2023 convenience.org Party people studio/Shutterstock INSIDE WASHINGTON
NACS Grassroots efforts helped move the needle on industry priorities.
From a regulatory standpoint, our industry saw wins in the payment space. We were successful in getting a favorable rulemaking from the Federal Reserve clarifying that two network routing options must be enabled on all card-not-present, mobile and in-app debit transactions. Additionally, NACS successfully urged the Federal Trade Commission to bring enforcement action against Mastercard for blocking debit-routing competitors.
The industry saw some significant wins in the fuels arena. While the effort continues, NACS helped successfully
halt the expedited process and proposal which would have created onerous fire code requirements for EV chargers at gas stations. That fight is not over, but efforts to fast track the regulations were stopped. We were successful in achieving a short-term Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) one-pound waiver to allow for the sale of E15 in the summer months of 2022 and worked with a broad group of stakeholders from ethanol and oil and gas producers and retailers to get legislation introduced to allow for yearround sales of E15 fuels.
NACS also saw success in amending a price-gouging bill in the House which would have marked the first time that
replacement cost increases would be considered when evaluating price-gouging claims. While the overall legislation passed the House, it was not taken up by the Senate. NACS also helped keep parts of the supply chain moving by achieving multiple extensions of the hours-of-service waivers for truck drivers hauling goods to c-stores and ensured that the waivers applied to fuel truck drivers as well.
OMNIBUS APPROPRIATIONS BILL
As Congress moved closer to the holidays and the end of the year to pass a massive omnibus appropriations package to fund the government for 2023, NACS remained hard at work advocating for the industry’s interests. In the end, we were able to stop an effort to remove labeling requirements for renewable diesel, which would have prevented businesses in the industry from knowing when they were buying renewable diesel and would have prevented the tax advantages of the product from being part of the purchases. NACS also prevented multiple onerous privacy bills from being included and worked with a coalition to add language to advance implementation of the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Program and truck size and weight research to encourage raising the limits on gross vehicle weight.
Much of these policy wins can be credited to the strength of the NACS Grassroots program, which relies on our members and industry colleagues to engage directly with their members of Congress. In 2022, our signature advocacy event, NACS Day on the Hill, was held virtually, with 131 attendees
NACS MARCH 2023 21
completing 243 congressional meetings covering 45 states. Throughout the year, NACS also helped organize several fly-ins focused on the swipe fee issue, bringing nearly 200 retailers and merchants to Washington, D.C. Our grassroots Calls to Action generated over 6,200 messages to Capitol Hill, and NACS also hosted 11 NACS In Store Events with members of Congress in their home districts or states.
NACSPAC had a successful year as well. The PAC raised $755,650 from 517 individual contributors in 2022, compared with $701,546 from 474 individuals in 2021. NACSPAC helped ensure that the voice of the convenience and fuel retailing industry was heard on Capitol Hill. NACSPAC contributed $788,000, supporting 163 candidates and 52 leadership PACs throughout the year. For the entire two-year election cycle, $1.46 million was raised and $1.44 million was contributed to members of Congress and candidates who support our industry.
Last year was a successful one in Washington for our industry, but much work remains. The government relations team has hit the ground running in 2023, getting to know the newly elected congressional members and ensuring that your priorities are top of mind in Congress. In order to get our policy objectives across the finish line, we need your continued help. Please keep an eye on your inboxes for “Calls to Action” from NACS, and be sure to add your own voice to those being heard by your elected representatives. You can reach out to our team to get involved and take action today!
Jon Taets is NACS director of government relations. He can be reached at jtaets@ convenience.org
What does NACS political engagement mean to you, and what benefits have you experienced from being politically engaged?
Engagement is knowledge as opposed to getting the information secondhand. Knowledge is our greatest asset in life and has benefited me personally and professionally. Professionally, it gives me the opportunity to understand what our customers’ pain points are and solve their issues with my products and services accordingly. Personally, I feel I make a difference by engaging on Capitol Hill and locally to drive change.
What federal legislative or regulatory issues keep you up at night?
The biggest for me is minimum wage and the public’s understanding of how our currency system works. People need to understand that we can raise wages all day long, but then prices go up as well. The employee’s disposable income remains the same, as items just cost more.
When prices go up as we’ve seen with this inflationary environment, the only ones who benefit are the largest networks and banks because they make more in credit card swipe fees, since they are a percentage of the total transaction cost.
What c-store product could you not live without?
Gas is the obvious item I could not live without. But as far as a personal consumption item, it would be fresh brewed coffee any time of day. The new bean-to-cup is my favorite, as I drink coffee all day long!
22 MARCH 2023 convenience.org INSIDE WASHINGTON
This month, NACS talks to Tony Gaines, CEO, Stewart’s Enterprise Holdings Inc.
Our advocacy efforts seeking competition and fairness on swipe fees gained significant traction in 2022.
NACSPAC was created in 1979 by NACS as the entity through which the association can legally contribute funds to political candidates supportive of our industry’s issues. For more information about NACSPAC and how political action committees (PACs) work, go to www.convenience.org/nacspac NACSPAC donors who made contributions January 1-31, 2023, are:
Paige Anderson NACS
Beaver Aplin Buc-ee’s Ltd.
Henry Armour NACS
Laura Beck NACS
Lyle Beckwith NACS
George Bennett Imperial Trading Company - S. Abraham & Sons Inc.
Chrissy Blasinsky NACS
Anna Ready Blom NACS
Katie Bohny NACS
Britt Brewer NACS
Jenna Collard NACS
Michael Davis NACS
Allison Dean NACS
Kirk Dickerson Dickerson Petroleum Inc.
Stacey Dodge NACS
John Eichberger Fuels Institute
Robert Gallo Impact 21
Linnea Geiss PDI Technologies
Suzanne George NACS
Jayme Gough NACS
Margaret Hardin NACS
Keith Harlow NACS Scott Hartman Rutter’s
Jeff Hassman PDI Technologies
Jessica Hayman NACS
Jessica Hendrickson Altria Group Distribution Company
Danielle Holloway Altria Group Distribution Company
Bob Hughes NACS
Sam Johnson J&M Distributors Inc.
Doug Kantor NACS
Leroy Kelsey NACS
Brian Kimmel NACS
Alicia Landrum NACS
Greg Levitan NACS
Brandi Mauro NACS
Jeff McQuilkin NACS
Jay Nelson Excel Tire Gauge LLC
Nancy Pappas NACS
Chris Rapanick NACS
Jay Ricker Ricker Holdings
Ron Rutherford Apter Industries Inc.
T. A. Saleh Enterprises Inc.
Jared Scheeler The Hub Convenience Stores Inc.
Anna Serfass NACS
Krispy Krunchy Foods LLC
Stephanie Sikorski NACS
Doug Spencer NACS
Nick Stanley Johnson Junction Inc.
Lori Buss Stillman NACS
Jon Taets NACS
Tom Taunton Gurley’s Foods
David Tucker NCR Corporation
TJ Velasco NACS
Nicole Walbe NACS
Leigh Walls NACS
Elizabeth Waring Johnson & Johnson Inc.
Don Wasek Buc-ee’s Ltd.
William Weigel Weigel’s Stores Inc.
David Woodley Sheetz Inc.
NACS MARCH 2023 23
Name of company:
Curby’s Express Market
Year founded: 2022
# of stores: 1
BY SARAH HAMAKER
Customers sometimes don’t know quite what to call Curby’s Express Market. Is it a quick-service restaurant? A mini-mart? Or a convenience store without gas pumps? “All of the above,” says Tony Sparks, head of customer wow! for the budding chain in Lubbock, Texas. “We call it a next-generation convenience store because we’re focusing on our own made-to-order food on one side and traditional consumer packaged goods on the other side, plus a double-lane drive-thru.”
Sparks led a team of consultants and experts to devise the new concept, which took a few years to come to fruition. “The owners tasked me with crafting this new kind of convenience store along the lines of Green Zebra, Amazon Go, Choice Market and Foxtrot,” he said. “None of those have fuel, and all are food-forward stores.”
24 MARCH 2023 convenience.org IDEAS 2 GO
Curby’s Express Market combines drive-thru, foodservice and convenience in a new retail experience.
For Sparks, the concept started with fresh food, which occupies the left side of the 4,000-square-foot store. “We knew we wanted our own made-to-order food and beverages,” he said. “We figured anything Panera or Dutch Bros. could do, we could do better.”
Research figured heavily into all decisions, especially what to put on the menu. “Our research showed what the area could support in terms of demographics and competition, so we settled on flatbread pizzas and melts,” Sparks said. He also added a local favorite—kolaches, a sausage wrapped in a croissant. Sausages also take prominence on the menu, with Chicago-style, all-American and prosciutto-cheese-and-bacon versions.
“We wanted to do something a little bit different but still provide that quick and fast service with our foodservice program,” he said. He tapped a foodservice consulting group to start with, then also hired a former Starbucks employee to bring the hand-crafted beverages to life and a food-forward designer to create the menu.
On the beverage side, Curby’s “is crushing it” when it comes to its line of made-to-order energy drinks and fresh iced teas. “We have seven different SKUs of our proprietary energy blend, Zoomies, which has the most stimulant per ounce you can buy anywhere in the area, and a separate line of five SKUS of made-to-order Red Bull energy drinks,” he said.
Along with a 20-head fountain, Curby’s serves 40 Crathco bubblers of iced tea with all flavors having sweet and unsweet variations. “We buy tea leaves in bulk, and we’re brewing all day
long,” he said. “We have 20 linear feet of stainless steel, self-serve dispensers of fresh-brewed iced teas.” Last summer, Curby’s sold on average 600 cups of iced tea per day.
On the store’s right side are the packaged goods, such as candy, snacks, bottled drinks, beer, wine and other c-store staples. Curby’s utilizes four-sided pod merchandisers instead of linear gondola shelving to keep the area open and inviting. “This allows for the layout to have a different look and lets us configure the floor differently,” he said. “I also plan to bring in more regional and local products and have a pod dedicated to those items as well.”
At the back of the store is the horseshoe-shaped sales counter, with tobacco products facing the convenience side. Curby’s also has two self-checkout stations, in addition to two manned checkouts. “We’re going to add more self-checkout stations in the future because right now, 65% of our checkout is already done through self-checkout stations, and we want to bring more of our Pack Members out from behind the counter and onto the floor,” Sparks said.
BRINGING THEM IN
While Curby’s has embraced technology in the form of self-checkout, the retailer also sees value in the drive-thru. “We based our drive-thru on Chick-fil-A, with a double lane for cars and line busters out taking orders, rather than ordering through an order box,” Sparks said.
For Curby’s, the biggest challenge is getting customers through the door or drive-thru. “Because we don’t have fuel, people aren’t sure what Curby’s is,” he explained. “We do a lot of promotion on social media to help spread the word, but customer awareness, trial and repeat business is an ongoing challenge.”
While working on increasing awareness, the company has plans to open 10 stores within 36 months. “For us, it
For Tony Sparks, head of customer wow! for Curby’s Express Market in Lubbock, Texas, creating the right customer experience starts with the company culture. “We’re a faith-based company with a God-focused mission statement, and the people development part is so important to the founders of the company,” he said. To that end, each employee has a one-on-one each month with a supervisor that has nothing to do with store performance and everything to do with the worker as a person. “We want to know what’s going on in their life, what are they doing and how can we help them achieve those plans,” Sparks said. “From the store associates to the shift leaders to the kitchen manager and assistant store director—we want to hear from all of them on a monthly basis so we can support them as both Curby’s employees and as people.”
starts with the customer experience,” Sparks said. “What we’re trying to do is provide an underserved market with a different and better shopping experience than what is traditionally out there. We hope they see us as a progressive store with great food and service.”
NACS MARCH 2023 25
Ideas 2 Go showcases how retailers today are operating the convenience store of tomorrow. To see videos of the c-stores we profiled in 2022 and earlier, go to www.convenience.org/Ideas2Go Sarah Hamaker is a freelance
NACS Magazine contributor, and romantic suspense author based
Fairfax, Virginia. Visit her online at sarahhamakerfiction.com.
Mega Pixel/Shutterstock; Delmaine Donson/Getty Images; design56/Getty Images
Store Design With Labor (or Lack of It) in Mind
BY RENEE PAS
Consistent labor concerns play a role in how convenience store retailers approach many areas of their businesses, from operational considerations to recruitment and retention and more. In the “more” category, new store builds offer the chance to rethink, reflow and restructure ways to drive labor efficiencies. The labor consideration can apply to nearly every area of a store, from the checkout counter to flooring materials.
When building new TXB stores, CEO Kevin Smartt noted, “We always start first with the customer experience. Once we understand that journey, it’s almost like reengineering how we can gain efficiencies; we try not to let efficiencies cloud the customer experience.”
When it comes to new builds at Yesway, Derek Gaskins, chief marketing officer, said the chain works to trickle down any rethink that happens with a new build to benefit existing stores. “All brands have an affinity for new stores,” he said. “There’s a constant tug of ‘What’s different; What’s better?’ There is a natural balance to that to avoid a lot of one-offs.”
With more than 40 new stores opening last year from the ground up, Yesway took a hard look at how to minimize the footsteps an employee must take, said Gaskins. “We are always working to drive efficiency in store layout and design.”
NACS MARCH 2023 27
As labor shortages increase, every detail is being scrutinized when building new stores to eke out ways to add greater efficiency.
360-degree circular area in the center of the store—is a very deliberate approach to labor efficiency, enabling employees to be within arm’s reach of everything. Staff can reach for tobacco items and cook food all from one space. In new builds, the cashier’s space is actually double the size of what exists at Yesway’s legacy stores.
The philosophy builds around the idea of everyone being a team player. The integrated components at Yesway’s checkout support the principal of shared responsibilities for all categories. “There is no segmentation or separation of tasks,” Gaskins said. “We have designed operations to maximize labor efficiencies and do not have silos.”
Gaskins understands the foodservicenext-to-everything component reverses common c-store design trends, where the typical approach separates foodservice, with its dedicated labor and square footage, away from the main checkout. “Other chains certainly have a more complex model and likely higher labor costs. We are geared for speed,” he said. “Every brand has its own tenets.”
With each new store comes a fresh opportunity to contemplate improvements. “The operations team is always learning, and we are building stores fast, so we do modify in real time. We absolutely evolve and adapt,” said Gaskins.
28 MARCH 2023 convenience.org
When we look at how we lay out new stores, we always look to make it even more efficient.”
In addition to expanding the checkout area, Gaskins said adaptions have included everything from changes to specific offerings to determining the best location for the ice machine. Considering the best flooring, for example, when working on a new build, offered the chance to find a product that will endure while being easier for staff to clean. The goal, Gaskins noted, is to avoid any special mops or equipment necessary for the floor to look its part—again placing the emphasis on efficiency improvements.
In bathrooms, new-build considerations include air machines to dry hands and anything that can make it easier and faster for employees to clean that space, Gaskins said.
On the beverage program side, Yesway moved coffee brewers closer to the main cashier area. That eases the requirements of maintaining an all-day brewed coffee program, Gaskins said, allowing employees to better keep up with demand during peak periods. The chain relies on its bean-to-cup machines as its primary coffee offering during nonpeak periods.
Efficiency drivers can be small things, but they add up. That is often the case with the tweaks that happen at TXB’s new-build stores. “It’s about making the employee’s life a little easier,” Smartt said.
One example is TXB’s cold vault: Longer, deeper shelves in higher volume areas mean
Four c-store suppliers share insights on ways labor efficiencies have become part of the purchasing consideration for fixtures, equipment, signage and more.
• Craig Neuhoff, vice president of business development at GSP Retail, believes people will continue to think smarter—and with labor in mind—when building new stores. It’s about the precision of systems and task management.
“How can we make it as easy as possible to do so many tasks?” he said. Smart approaches he has seen include adding drains in the floor near the fountain area and even in counters themselves for easy spill cleanup. He advises retailers to think about everything from self-cleaning ovens to durability/ease of cleaning when considering floor surfaces. (Editor’s note: Neuhoff passed away shortly after this interview with NACS Magazine. We extend our deepest condolences to his family and many friends.)
• Kent Rollins , division manager for retail display manufacturer Nashville Display, suggests retailers consider functionality first when making purchasing decisions on fixtures. “When the planogram changes, will the fixture need to be modified? Minimal or no hardware changes minimizes labor,” he said.
Common mistakes he sees retailers making include not considering the life cycle of the fixture (instead basing the buying decision on looks and cost); forgetting to consider maintenance issues (how easy is it to get a replacement part?); not thinking about shipping and installation particulars (who will assemble it? Will it ship via distribution center?); and not considering cleaning factors (is the fixture easy to keep clean and clean around?).
• Rick Sales , president and founder of digital engagement company Abierto Networks, said that all of the company’s major clients either built new stores or redid stores in a major way last year and have plans for growth this year. “Labor is a big part of the conversation across the board,” he said, adding that it is not the biggest reason c-store operators invest in digital signage programs.
The part of the solution he focuses on is driving value through customer engagement. “We work to improve the quality of the stream of communication being fed to customers,” he said. “It’s more value and less work; the information can change frequently.” Instead of putting up traditional window signs, which tend to refresh weekly at best, digital signage programs enable the message to change daily or even multiple times throughout the day (by daypart, for example).
• Craig Weiskerger, director of sales and marketing for Trion Industries Inc., which provides merchandising solutions, said that current limitations on staffing reduce the amount of time available for store personnel to stock and organize shelves. “Store managers need systems that help keep merchandise displays looking fuller and consistently more presentable,” he said, which enables store personnel to spend more time interacting with customers.
“It’s an issue every business is facing,” he added. “You don’t want to have your limited staff using labor hours to restock the traditional way when there is a more efficient way to do it.” Increasing the number of facings translates to less restocking, he noted, adding that a system that pushes product forward maximizes presentation and keeps everything looking fully stocked and attractive.
NACS MARCH 2023 29
We have designed operations to maximize labor efficiencies and do not have silos.”
employees don’t have to restock as often, Smartt noted. Additionally, gravity-fed shelving with microbeads in place keep product front-facing and pushed forward. “Product often got stuck with the old glides we used,” he said. “Keeping shelf facings front now is not an issue.”
That also means the cold vault maintains its desired appearance with minimal employee requirements. Another merchandising/presentation-oriented change at newer stores, which saves time on restocking tasks, is to have more sleeves of cups throughout stores. Cups for both cold and
hot beverages are now “everywhere,” said Smartt. “It’s technically more than we need, but it works because customers always have a cup available, and employees don’t have to worry about restocking during a rush.”
The chain also tweaked the equipment used in its bean-to-cup coffee program ever so slightly. The brewed-on-demand system produces a coffee “puck” after customers brew an individual cup, which falls into a container that employees take out and empty after a certain number of cups are brewed. To eliminate the need for employees to empty the tray as often, the coffee pucks now drop through a tube that runs from the machine, under the counter and into a trash can. “We can produce coffee all through the rush now without having to empty the puck tray,” Smartt said.
30 MARCH 2023 convenience.org
A change at newer TXB stores is to have more sleeves of cups available throughout stores.
Iuliia Pilipeichenko/Getty Images; akiyoko/Getty Images
Trion Industries, Inc. TrionOnline.com email@example.com 800-444-4665 Gain Facings and Cut Labor with WONDERBAR® Tray Merchandising n Increased facings from 99 to 121, a 22% increase*. n Automatically billboards and faces product. n Reduces losses from bag hook tearout. n Cuts over 1 hour/day labor for restocking. n Allows rear restocking and proper date rotation. n Dramatically increases sales in the same space. n Adjusts to accommodate various package widths. * Based upon average 8’ run by 5’ high salty snack gondola installations. Your results may vary. ©2020 Trion Industries, Inc. MODERNIZE YOUR MERCHANDISING
WonderBar® Tray Merchandising VS BEFORE WONDERBAR® 99 FACINGS AFTER WONDERBAR® 121 FACINGS SELL MORE IN THE SAME SPACETM
Sell More Salty Snacks
Optimizing floor stock offers yet another way to drive efficiencies. “One key from a labor perspective is getting the right fixture configuration to optimize the set without overstocking,” said Geoff Wigner, director of sales for retail display manufacturer Nashville Display. The fixture design should marry in with the case pack, he explained, so it holds the correct amount of product for the sales cycle.
“It’s about space utilization in relation to sales,” Wigner said. Whatever the cycle from delivery to delivery is, that should factor into the fixture, he said.
AI LABOR CUES
Smartt believes AI will continue to expand within convenience retailing. TXB uses AI in several stores now and plans to add it to new stores going forward, he said, in addition to adding it to high-volume stores when remodeling. The AI system uses TXB’s existing security camera setup and analyzes specific use cases, which enables a store manager to react in real time.
It is less about data and more about action items, something Smartt said store managers report is more valuable to them. “The feedback we get from managers is, ‘We don’t need more data.’ What they told us they prefer is actionable information,” he said. “That’s what we are constantly working toward now.”
The older approach meant looking at data and telling team members to clean the restrooms twice an hour. Now, Smartt said, with this more advanced approach, the system can count how many people are going in and out of the restrooms every hour and adjust the cleaning needs when fewer people are using the restrooms.
Messages are sent to store managers in the form of “action reports,” which come through on a manager’s smartphone. The approach works in many scenarios, Smartt said, citing the cash register area as another example. Customers are counted when they first enter the store, he explained, and “the system knows to cue the store manager in advance when extra employees will be needed to check customers out because we know that’s going to happen about three minutes after they enter the store.” TXB continues to tweak the system. Smartt already sees the advantage it can bring in labor efficiencies and delivering real-time data to managers.
Renee Pas ’ writing draws from both her c-store background and her more than 20 years writing about various retail channels. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
32 MARCH 2023 convenience.org
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These are the leading convenience retail chains in the U.S., ranked by number of locations.
NACS MARCH 2023 35
NortheastTotalStores Southeast MidwestSouthCentral Central West
It’s no surprise that 7-Eleven Inc. remains the largest convenience retail chain with 12,821 stores as of December 31, 2022, according to the 2023 NACS/ NielsenIQ list of the Top 100 Convenience Retailers. That’s nearly 100 stores more than 7-Eleven had in the 2022 ranking.
The Irving, Texas, convenience retailer has locations across the U.S., with the largest presence in the Northeast, where it has 3,542 stores, and the smallest footprint in the Central region, where it has 693 stores.
Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc., which owns the Circle K and Couche-Tard brands, is the second-largest chain by store count, with 5,702 stores in the U.S. The parent company is based in Laval, Quebec, with U.S. headquarters in Arizona. Couche-Tard operates convenience stores in 26 countries and territories, with more than 14,200 stores, of which roughly 10,800 offer road transportation fuel. Circle K’s largest U.S. footprint is in the Southeast, where it has 2,003 locations, up from 1,911 stores at the end of 2021.
36 MARCH 2023 convenience.org
Independent 90,950 19,193 24,033 13,239 15,139 5623 13,723 7 Eleven Inc. 12,821 3,542 1,759 2,060 1,670 693 3,097 Alimentation Couche-Tard/U.S. HQ 5,702 240 2,003 928 1,027 580 924 Casey’s General Stores Inc. 2,470 0 50 740 187 1493 0 EG America 1,696 836 205 195 2 359 99 GPM Investments LLC 1,391 274 337 421 307 28 24 Murphy USA Inc. 1,089 179 422 68 345 66 9 Wawa Inc. 991 741 250 0 0 0 0 QuikTrip Corp. 972 0 265 5 324 244 134 Kwik Trip Inc. 823 0 0 498 0 325 0 Sheetz Inc. 674 491 114 69 0 0 0 Pilot Company 655 61 151 148 117 80 98 Love’s Country Stores Inc. 607 30 114 105 199 100 59 RaceTrac Petroleum Inc. 567 0 395 2 170 0 0 Military 532 90 135 30 77 41 159 Yesway 429 0 0 0 364 65 0 Maverik Inc. 399 0 0 0 13 67 319 Kum & Go LLC 394 0 0 0 94 300 0 Global Partners/ Alliance Energy 359 356 1 0 1 0 1 Stewart’s Shops Corp. 358 358 0 0 0 0 0 United Pacific 330 0 0 0 0 51 279 Copec Inc. 305 0 301 3 1 0 0 Jacksons Food Stores Inc. 303 0 1 0 0 0 302 ExtraMile Convenience Stores LLC 303 0 0 0 0 0 303 Two Farms Inc. 268 268 0 0 0 0 0 CAPL Retail LLC 258 185 47 26 0 0 0 Delek US Holdings Inc. 256 0 2 0 254 0 0 TravelCenters of America Inc. 252 35 49 51 47 31 39 Anabi Oil Co. 233 14 67 36 0 0 116 United Refining Company of Pennsylvania 229 220 0 9 0 0 0 Giant Eagle Inc. 228 87 0 141 0 0 0 Cals Convenience Inc. 211 2 0 0 209 0 0 Refuel Co. 207 0 164 0 43 0 0 Croton Holding Co. 202 149 0 53 0 0 0 Meijer Inc. 186 0 0 186 0 0 0 Shell Oil/Motiva Enterprises LLC 175 0 2 1 170 0 2 Fikes Wholesale Inc. 175 0 33 0 142 0 0 United Dairy Farmers 175 0 0 175 0 0 0 G & M Oil Company Inc. 174 0 0 0 0 0 174 Terrible Herbst Inc. 174 0 0 0 0 0 174 True North Energy LLC 167 0 0 167 0 0 0 Hy-Vee Food Stores Inc. 165 0 0 18 0 147 0 Bolla Management Corp. 164 164 0 0 0 0 0 Tri Star Energy LLC 160 0 155 5 0 0 0 CF Altitude LLC 153 0 0 1 5 147 0 H & S Energy Products LLC 153 0 0 0 0 0 153 Nouria Energy 145 145 0 0 0 0 0 Blarney Castle Oil Co. 143 0 0 143 0 0 0 Flash Oil Co. 142 0 81 0 59 2 0 Break Time Corner Market LLC 140 0 6 0 91 43 0 Parkland USA 135 0 20 0 0 68 47 Majors Management Inc. 125 17 56 4 48 0 0
Casey’s, EG America and GPM Investments LLC round out the top five by size, with 2,470, 1,696 and 1,391 stores, respectively. Casey’s, based in Ankeny, Iowa, dominates the Central region, where it has 1,493 stores. Casey’s has a presence in 16 Midwestern states, and about half of its c-stores are located in areas with populations of 5,000 or less. In fiscal 2023, Casey’s plans to add about 80 stores.
The NACS State of the Industry enterprise breaks down the size of convenience retail chains as A (1-10 stores), B (11-50), C (51-200), D (201-500) and E (500+). In the 2023 Top 100 Convenience Retailers list, there are 14 E-size firms atop the list, followed by 19 D-size firms and 67 C-size chains. (Note: The top 100 includes several ties in the rankings when chains had the same number of stores.)
Industrywide, 150,174 convenience stores operate in the United States—a 1.5% increase in the number of stores from a year earlier, according to the 2023 NACS/NielsenIQ Convenience Industry Store Count. Of these, 118,678 convenience stores sell motor fuels (79.0% of all convenience stores). Store count increases were recorded in 39 states and Washington, D.C.
38 MARCH 2023 convenience.org NortheastTotalStores Southeast MidwestSouthCentral Central West Martin & Bayley Inc. 125 0 6 107 0 12 0 Go Mart Inc. 123 112 0 11 0 0 0 Englefield Oil Co. 119 1 0 118 0 0 0 Enmarket Inc. 118 0 118 0 0 0 0 Gas Express HQ 113 0 77 0 36 0 0 Mountain Express Oil Inc. 111 0 37 0 73 1 0 Little General Stores Inc. 110 109 0 1 0 0 0 Mirabito Energy Products 109 109 0 0 0 0 0 Sampson Bladen Oil Company Inc. 109 0 109 0 0 0 0 Plaid Pantries Inc. 107 0 0 0 0 0 107 Petrogas Group SC LLC 106 12 69 17 0 8 0 Victory Marketing LLC 106 0 104 0 2 0 0 Town Pump Inc. 106 0 0 0 0 106 0 M M Fowler Inc. 103 3 100 0 0 0 0 Stinker Station 102 0 0 0 0 39 63 Panjwani Energy LLC 99 0 0 0 99 0 0 Vintners Distributors/ AU Energy 98 0 0 0 0 0 98 Carroll Independent Fuel LLC 94 94 0 0 0 0 0 Toot’n Totum Food Stores Inc. 88 0 0 0 85 3 0 Newcomb Oil Co. 88 1 1 86 0 0 0 Reid Stores Inc. 86 86 0 0 0 0 0 The Spinx Company Inc. 85 0 85 0 0 0 0 CHR Corp. 84 84 0 0 0 0 0 Family Express Corp. 81 0 0 81 0 0 0 FKG Oil Company 81 0 0 63 0 18 0 Johnson Oil Co. 79 0 0 61 0 18 0 Sunoco Inc. 77 19 6 0 0 0 52 Southwest Georgia Oil Co. 77 0 77 0 0 0 0 Krist Oil Co. 77 0 0 76 0 1 0 Quick Track Inc. 76 0 0 0 76 0 0 CN Brown Co. 75 75 0 0 0 0 0 Campbell Oil Company 75 0 0 75 0 0 0 Midjit Market Inc. 75 0 0 0 0 0 75 The Kent Companies 74 0 17 0 57 0 0 MFA Petroleum 74 0 0 0 0 74 0 CPD Energy Corp. 74 74 0 0 0 0 0 Fuel Maxx Inc. 74 0 0 0 74 0 0 First Coast Energy LLP 73 0 73 0 0 0 0 Good 2 Go Stores LLC 73 0 0 0 16 25 32 Petroleum Marketing Group Inc. 73 53 19 1 0 0 0 Sam’s Food Stores 72 72 0 0 0 0 0 Atlantis Management Group 72 70 1 0 1 0 0 Convenient Food Mart Inc. 72 46 0 23 0 3 0 GATE Petroleum Co. 72 0 72 0 0 0 0 Weigel’s Stores Inc. 72 0 72 0 0 0 0 The Parker Companies 72 0 72 0 0 0 0 Stop & Go 71 0 0 71 0 0 0 Holiday Oil Co. 71 0 0 0 0 0 71 BFS Foods Inc. 70 68 0 2 0 0 0
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TOP 5 CONVENIENCE RETAILERS BY REGION
“The value of convenience continues to grow, and that’s a driving factor why every retailer, regardless of channel, seeks to provide it. And it’s also clear that the convenience offer at convenience stores resonates with consumers, given the record in-store sales at convenience stores and increase in store count,” said NACS Managing Director of Research Chris Rapanick.
The main trend line in the 2023 NACS/ NielsenIQ store-count data is growth in the number of single-store operators after several years of shrinking numbers amid industry consolidation and a tough business climate. There are 90,423 single-store operators in the U.S., accounting for 60.2% of all convenience stores.
Consolidation continues in the convenience retail industry. ARKO Corp.’s GPM Investments, for example, acquired more than 200 retail stores in 2022, including Pride Convenience Holdings, Transit Energy Group
and Uncle’s Convenience Stores, among others. “With our liquidity and deal-making ability, we believe we have a long runway to continue our long-term growth strategy, making disciplined, accretive acquisitions at attractive multiples to continue growing our convenience store footprint,” Arie Kotler, ARKO’s chairman, president and CEO, said in announcing the Pride Convenience Holdings deal in October. ARKO, based in Richmond, Virginia, has grown its c-store holdings from about 200 stores in seven states in 2013 to more than 1,390 c-stores in 33 states and Washington, D.C., via 22 acquisitions.
It’s not just the E-size firms that are growing. Among the smaller chains, Lawrenceville, Georgia-based Majors Management, which ranks 56 on this year’s list, recently announced deals to acquire 21 convenience stores from Davis Oil Co. and 13 Maritime Farms c-stores from Maritime Energy.
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Region 1: Northeast Company Store Count 7 Eleven Inc. 3,542 EG America HQ 836 Wawa Inc. 741 Sheetz Inc. 491 Stewart’s Shops Corp. 358 Region 2: Southeast Company Store Count Alimentation Couche-Tard/US HQ 2,003 7 Eleven Inc. 1,759 Murphy USA Inc. 422 RaceTrac Petroleum HQ 395 GPM Investments LLC 337 Region 3: Midwest Company Store Count 7 Eleven Inc. 2,060 Alimentation Couche-Tard/US HQ 928 Casey’s General Stores Inc. 740 Kwik Trip Inc. 498 GPM Investments LLC 421 Region 5: Central Company Store Count Casey’s General Stores Inc. 1,493 7 Eleven Inc. 693 Alimentation Couche-Tard/US HQ 580 EG America HQ 359 Kwik Trip Inc. 325 Region 6: West Company Store Count 7 Eleven Inc. 3,097 Alimentation Couche-Tard/US HQ 924 Maverik Inc. 319 ExtraMile Convenience Stores LLC 303 Jacksons Food Stores Inc. 302 Region 4: South Central Company Store Count 7 Eleven Inc. 1,670 Alimentation Couche-Tard/US HQ 1,027 Yesway 364 Murphy USA Inc. 345 QuikTrip Corp. 324
LIFTING UP A COMMUNITY
Sioux Valley Coop offers a modern destination that meets a community’s growing needs.
BY SARA COUNIHAN
Harrisburg, South Dakota, is a picturesque small town that is quickly expanding. Located just outside of Sioux Falls, it’s a magnet for young families and those who want to be close to a bigger city but still experience that small town feel.
But sometimes a growing small town can lack certain amenities. That’s where Sioux Valley Coop comes in.
“We learned through research that Harrisburg was growing rapidly. It was full of young families that were building in a smaller town, but they didn’t really have a lot of options,” said Renae Greenfield, director of retail and operations for Sioux Valley Coop. “We thought that it would be a great place for us to grow and build and become part of the community.”
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All Cenex locations will receive the Halo image upgrades that include a lighted canopy with a 360-degree LED light band and a three-dimensional Cenex logo and backlit blue arch.
Sioux Valley Cooperative has five convenience store locations in South Dakota, including its newest one in Harrisburg. All locations are Cenex branded. When the company was considering the Harrisburg location, building the store in partnership with Cenex was a no-brainer.
“Cenex is premium-quality fuel and premium-quality products,” said Greenfield.
Partnering with Cenex, the energy brand of CHS, allowed Sioux Valley Coop to take advantage of Cenex’s LIFT Initiative, which provided Sioux Valley Coop with lighting, image and facility amenities, as well as a low-interest loan financing option.
“We think by partnering with our local stores and offering them this capital, that we are not only solidifying our commitment to the community, we’re developing trust on that business level with our business partners, understanding that we want to be successful with them into the future,” said Akhtar Hussain, director of refined fuels marketing for CHS, on a recent episode of the NACS Convenience Matters podcast.
Greenfield said that when the store was being designed, the company wanted a more modern, upscale design to compete with the other new builds in town.
“Because we had access to the LIFT initiative, we were able to think outside the box and add all of those extra upgrades that we wanted when building this store, as opposed to just building a basic store,” said Greenfield. “[Instead of] having to fix it up or add in later, we could do it all the way we wanted to right away at the beginning.”
BUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME
The forecourt at the Harrisburg location features a lighted canopy with a 360-degree LED light band and a three-dimensional Cenex logo and backlit blue arch. This is what Cenex calls the Halo portion of the LIFT initiative, and it elevates the appearance of Cenex® branded locations, according to the company.
“We feel that it’s very inviting for people. They can see it from far away, and they’re able to notice that it’s a Cenex-branded store,” said Greenfield. “We hope that will make them stop in and want to come check us out.”
The forecourt features 16 fuel pumps, including six Cenex premium diesel pumps, so “there’s never a line,” she said.
Cenex requires that its branded retailers comply with the Halo image standards on the forecourt, but when it comes to the interior, it’s free game. According to Hussain, Cenex works with many different types of convenience stores—small and large stores in suburban and rural locations—so the company doesn’t take a one-size-fits-all approach.
“By allowing this flexibility, both in architecture style and amenities, we are allowing our local business partner to be the expert in understanding what their local consumers want and need,” he said. “We think that flexibility is what is really key here and committing to being that long-term business partner and being that partner to the communities that we serve.”
The interior of the Harrisburg store features a modern design with natural elements. Customers walk in and see a high, vaulted ceiling with wood paneling and LED lighting throughout the entire store, which has been cost-efficient for the location. There are also large windows, giving the store a “bright and airy” feel, according to Trevor Lickteig, the location’s general manager.
“We get a lot of people who come in and just enjoy the modernness of the c-store. They enjoy that it’s something new and updated,” said Lickteig.
“At Sioux Valley Coop, we pride ourselves on being the best, and we wanted to have the best store in the best location and the best community, and we feel that Cenex has helped us do that by making all of these upgrades available to us,” said Greenfield.
NACS MARCH 2023 43
This article is brought to you by Cenex®, a NACS Hunter Club member.
Because we had access to the LIFT initiative, we were able to think outside the box and add all of those extra upgrades that we wanted when building this store, as opposed to just building a basic store.”
The newly built Harrisburg Cenex interior includes LED lighting and modern wood paneling.
FEEDING THE COMMUNITY
Harrisburg, like many growing small towns, does not have a plethora of choices for food and dining out. Sioux Valley Coop wanted to offer a destination to meet this need.
“We wanted to give everybody one more great, delicious option for them to try,” said Greenfield.
The company did its research and decided to bring in a Godfather’s Pizza program. “Godfather’s is a big thing for us. We sell a lot of mini pizzas and large pizzas, and we also just introduced burgers and cheese curds, chicken tenders—you name your c-store food, we’ve got it,” said Lickteig. “With us having Godfather’s and our other food options … it gives people an opportunity to give back to the community by staying local and supporting local industries.”
The store also offers Flyboy Donuts, which is a chain in Sioux Falls, as well as a Fresh Blends smoothie machine and Caribou Coffee. Interior seating invites customers to sit and stay awhile.
“It’s given [people in the community] a place to come in to have a cup of coffee with their friends and chat,” said Lickteig.
For more information about the LIFT initiative, visit www.cenex.com/LIFT
Part of being that food destination is listening to customers and their wants. Sioux Valley Coop prides itself on offering a wide variety of products, and many customers have specifically asked for Cenex-branded products.
“We always take requests. If there’s something that they’re looking for that we don’t have, we will definitely look into getting it for them,” said Greenfield.
AT THE CENTER
For Sioux Valley Coop, community is at the heart of its business.
“We are a very community-oriented company. We try to volunteer and do as many things as we can to help our communities grow and prosper,” said Greenfield.
For Lickteig, being part of the community means the ability to create jobs for the city of Harrisburg.
“For me to have a big employment impact on the community, it makes me feel like I’m doing something that’s going to help the community,” he said.
Lickteig, a Harrisburg resident, was hired before the construction of the store was complete. He was able to oversee a lot of the hiring, which included some of his former employees, as well as others from the community.
“Having Godfather’s Pizza in the store, I was actually able to create a lot of jobs for the younger kids in the area who wanted a first job. It was good for them to have another option where they don’t have to leave Harrisburg to go work,” said Lickteig.
According to Hussain, the needs of the community and its members are what shape the local retail landscape and the businesses that those consumers patronize.
“We want to be that store in the community that is a source of pride both for our business partners as well as the consumers in those markets,” said Hussain.
“The statement we were trying to make in Harrisburg when we built this store is that we’re here to stay. We’re not going anywhere. We want to be a part of this community for the long haul,” said Greenfield. “Whatever we can do to become more a part of this community, we are all in.”
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Sara Counihan is contributing editor of NACS Magazine and NACS Daily. She can be reached at scounihan@ convenience.org.
We get a lot of people who come in and just enjoy the modernness of the c-store.”
A local community member and frequent visitor stops by to meet with neighbors.
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We know that the true power behind the Cenex® brand comes from our locally-owned retailers – valued partners who are invested in their customers and community. That’s why we’re committed to your success and helping you build your business from the moment you become a Cenex® retailer. From ﬂexible brand conversion and marketing, to convenient payment processing and training programs, we can provide your business with the support it needs to help you grow.
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46 MARCH 2023 convenience.org Zyabich/Shutterstock
BY SARAH HAMAKER
alk into a growing number of quick-service restaurants and convenience stores and you’ll have several options to place your food order—at a kiosk, at a counter or via a mobile app.
“Convenience stores are going through a transition period,” said Brandon Barton, CEO of Bite, which provides the technology for in-store kiosk ordering. “Some of these retailers understand that consumers have gone through a mass adoption of online ordering, and that spills over into mobile and kiosk foodservice ordering from a convenience store.”
While c-store chains with fresh foodservice like Sheetz, Casey’s, Kum & Go and Wawa have jumped on mobile app and in-store kiosk ordering, implementation by the industry as a whole has a ways to go. “The next phase of digital adoption is happening in c-stores right now,” Barton said. “As more people travel and stop at gas stations and convenience stores, these retailers will need digital strategies to meet the growing need for fast, fresh food, especially as labor continues to be a challenge.”
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More retailers are embracing in-store kiosk and mobile ordering for menu items— and seeing a corresponding lift in sales.
Digital orders have jumped to a third of total convenience store and restaurant food orders, according to a May 2022 Paytronix Systems Inc. survey. While in-store sales remain down by nearly half, digital orders have stayed elevated at 113% of pre-pandemic levels.
“It’s great for a customer to order a sandwich online once, but keeping that customer coming back and extending their lifetime value is where the benefit of a customer engagement platform truly lies,” said Andrew Robbins, CEO of Paytronix. “The pandemic forever shifted the landscape, and today brands need to focus themselves on how to manage the full digital customer engagement ecosystem. Digital ordering is clearly a must-have for anyone doing food ordering, and it’s emerging quickly for center-store items. But taking things one step further, each
interaction creates data that teaches a brand more about its customers. This means digital ordering cannot stand alone, but needs to work perfectly with loyalty, CRM, messaging and other technologies.”
This underscores the need for food-forward convenience retailers to utilize digital ordering to serve more customers while freeing up staff to make the food and provide other services. While delivery was king before and during the height of the pandemic, data indicate takeout orders now dominate digital orders, with numbers soaring above pre-pandemic levels. For example, carryout food orders skyrocketed from around 35% in January 2020 to 55% in March 2022, according to the Paytronix study.
Not every retailer sees digital ordering as good for their business. For example, Curby’s Express Market in Lubbock, Texas, decided not to install ordering kiosks for its fresh foodservice, even though it does have two self-checkout stations. “We wanted our customers to have more interaction with the staff, to engage with our staff and vice versa,” said Tony Sparks, head of customer wow! for the burgeoning chain. His reasoning was simple—the importance of the personal encounter with a staff member in turning a casual shopper into a frequent one. “Whether at our drive-thru or inside the store, customers have to place their foodservice order with a live person. By providing them an order barcode ticket for self-checkout, they’re free to conduct the rest of their in-store trip without engaging with anyone else,” he said.
For Barton, the concept of digital ordering has become more familiar with more consumers. “Because of how much online and mobile app ordering we did during the pandemic lockdowns, the average consumer is well aware of how to key in their orders,” he said. “Thus, when retailers create an environment without lines with self-serve ordering kiosks, consumers are more eager and able to place their food orders there.”
THE DIGITAL SOLUTION
Convenience stores with fresh foodservice know one of their major advantages is serving customers quickly and efficiently. Mobile apps and kiosks help by providing several ways for customers to place orders. But before diving into digital ordering, retailers should consider how the technology will impact their current operations.
“Sometimes as retailers, we don’t think about how we can use the technology to improve operations, improve the store, improve the flow of products or improve the supply
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We view digital ordering as both our present and future as we serve our customer.”
Curby’s Express Market
chain,” said Amir Hassan, director of retail and operations for H&S Energy during the “From Corner Store to Digital Store” education session at the 2022 NACS Show.
Hassan recommended thinking about how your customers will interact with digital ordering before investing in it. “Do you think they will adopt this technology? Often, it depends on where you are [geographically],” he said. “Also, make sure your employees will be able to meet the demand [of more food orders] … at all times of the day.”
For Kum & Go, getting into digital ordering two years ago made sense because it would “make the days of our customers and employees better,” said Levon Hooks, chief information officer for the 400-plus-unit chain based in Des Moines, Iowa. “We view digital ordering as both our present and future as we serve our customer.”
Kum & Go tapped Bite as its partner for in-store kiosks. The retailer based the kiosk order experience on its mobile app ordering process. “We wanted to integrate ordering food across all systems and also provide an easy way for our customers to place in-store orders,” Hooks said.
The company conducted market research with Kum & Go’s customer base prior to launching into digital ordering to confirm most guests were ready and willing to place digital orders. “It’s been a tremendous success, with our customers adapting to kiosk and mobile app ordering, as well as self-checkout,” Hooks said. “We’ve had great feedback from customers about the process.”
Adding ordering kiosks to a foodservice program can be fairly simple, especially when partnering with a third-party provider like Bite. “While some of the larger national brands have developed their own proprietary technology for mobile apps and kiosks, companies like Bite offer retailers the option of utilizing what we’ve built and integrating that into their operations without having to start from scratch,” Barton said. “This means a single operator to a thousand-store chain can have access to the same technology.”
Barton pointed out that “independent operators and chains with foodservice will lose customers who don’t want to wait in a line to place an order. Having multiple kiosks for ordering gives the perception of fast service, and thus
the retailer is less likely to lose business.”
Just having an ordering kiosk doesn’t guarantee sales. Bite works with retailers on adding mounted wall screens and marketing signage to let guests know the kiosks are ready to take their order. “We also help them decide how many kiosks they should have based on sales volumes,” Barton said. Kum & Go started with two kiosks per store but built in flexibility to add more as
NACS MARCH 2023 49
Having multiple kiosks for ordering gives the perception of fast service, and thus the retailer is less likely to lose business.”
In the Mid-Atlantic, kiosks to select MTO food have long been a feature at Sheetz (top). Customers at this QuickTrip in Texas can easily order freshly prepared food via kiosk or mobile app (bottom).
sales increased. “We only use the kiosks for our made-to-order menu and have been pleased with the speed and efficiency of the ordering process for our customers,” Hooks said. By offloading the ordering to technology, Kum & Go has been able to focus more on providing excellent service and food. The operations team maps out how many employees are needed for each store to handle the influx of orders both from kiosks and its mobile app.
For retailers considering working with a tech partner for digital ordering, Hooks suggested making sure the third-party company offers flexibility and collaboration. “We knew going into our partnership with Bite we would have changes, and we wanted to be sure we had room to expand and grow,” he said. For example, during the first quarter of 2023, all Kum & Go kiosks added a Spanish-language option for ordering.
Having digital ordering options also tees up a retailer to add delivery more easily. “People are more interested in delivery these days, so retailers who are already familiar with digital orders, whether through kiosks or mobile apps, can pivot more quickly to delivery,” Barton said.
Hooks indicated Kum & Go is considering third-party delivery as a natural next step. “Now that we’ve seen how well the kiosks and mobile ordering has gone, delivery is on our radar and we hope to have something for our customer base soon,” he said. “For example, with pizza continuing to be a strong item from our mobile app ordering perspective, we’re in a good position to offer delivery, too.”
Bite’s Barton emphasized how digital ordering can expand beyond the kiosk to include a mobile app as well as ordering at the pump. “Convenience stores have opened what are essentially restaurants inside their stores, and kiosks help draw the attention of customers to that fact,” he said. “Our research shows kiosks reduce labor costs and increase check sizes, thus helping to ease labor issues and boosting a retailer’s bottom line at the same time.”
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Sarah Hamaker is a freelance writer, NACS Magazine contributor, and romantic suspense author based in Fairfax, Virginia. Visit her online at sarahhamakerfiction.com.
Customers craving Laredo Taco food at some 7-Eleven Evolution Stores can order via a kiosk in the foodservice area and then use self-checkout.
Make sure your employees will be able to meet the demand [of more food orders] … at all times of the day.”
Kum & Go rolled out its new made-fresh-for-you menu in 2022 and added new mobile ordering capabilities.
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HOW WE’RE STAYING CONNECTED IN 2023 advantagesales.net NACS Industry Update Luncheons – 8 Cities Throughout 2023 NACS Leadership Forum – Miami February 8-10 Convenience Retailing University – Orlando February 28-March 2 NACS Day on the Hill – Washington, DC March 7-8 NACS State of the Industry Summit – Dallas April 18-20 Outlook Leadership – Rancho Palos Verdes August 1-3 NACS Show 2023 – Atlanta October 3-6 Retail Leader of the Year – Atlanta October TBD C-Store Women’s Event (CSW) – Napa November 8-10
FLEXI SHIFTING TO
Today’s workers want something
52 MARCH 2023 convenience.org
Andrii Yalanskyi/etty Images
money can’t buy: their time.
BY SARA COUNIHAN
The tight labor market has cast a shadow over the U.S. economy. With unemployment rates at historical lows and more jobs open than available workers, the convenience retail industry has not been immune to its impacts.
The demand and competition for workers is fierce. Convenience stores have found creative solutions for attracting and retaining employees beyond higher wages. People now want more—they want autonomy over their time and the flexibility to decide when they work.
NACS MARCH 2023 53
“Many people get into retail to begin with because they need flexibility to attend classes or take care of kids,” said Melissa Wong, co-founder and CEO, Zipline, which offers scheduling and shift-swapping as part of its operational platform. “As a result, brands looking to attract and retain employees are focusing on giving them more of what they want, and that’s flexibility.”
According to Sanish Mondkar, CEO and founder of Legion, a workforce management platform company, employees want three things when it comes to scheduling. The first is flexibility, and the second is self-service tools—giving employees the ability to manage schedule changes without needing a manager’s assistance to swap, drop or add shifts.
Thirdly, Employees want a modern, digital scheduling experience. For example, allowing them to use their mobile device to access and manage their schedule, along with chat and messaging capabilities.
“Employees’ need for flexibility has increased and continues to do so year over year,” said Mondkar. “This reflects many things—doing more than one job to make a living is quite common now, but this can result in schedule conflicts. Also, gig jobs offer flexibility, which has increased employees’ expectations in general.”
THE FLEXIBLE SCHEDULE
The Hub Convenience Stores, based in Dickinson, North Dakota, uses a flexible scheduling tactic and pulls from a nonconventional labor pool to perform tasks that have been impacted by labor constraints.
During the summer months, “We’re pushing 1,200 individual beverages per day in some stores. That’s a lot to restock, and it’s hard to absorb that with the existing labor that we schedule on a typical basis,” said Jared Scheeler, CEO of The Hub Convenience Stores and former NACS chairman.
“In past years, we were able to just hire more people, but [in 2022] it was harder than we’ve ever had it,” said Scheeler.
The Hub’s solution? Hire local high school students to restock the cooler and help with the company’s donut-making process. The students are scheduled each week, but The Hub gives them full autonomy over when they can come in to fulfill their tasks. They can also swap shifts.
job gets done,” said Scheeler. “And if they need somebody to work for them, and they want to get it covered on their own, they’re welcome to do that.”
For the three-hour cooler shifts, the students don’t have to work three consecutive hours. It can be an hour and a half in the morning and the remainder in the afternoon, Scheeler said. The donut shifts have a smaller window of when the job can be completed, but there is still flexibility.
“[The students] like the freedom,” said Scheeler. “They like having the ability to work but still fulfill their [school and athletics] obligations.
“It’s been incredibly successful for us,” he continued. “[It] takes a big weight off of our shoulders in a way we probably never imagined for an experimental method of scheduling.”
Knoxville, Tennessee-based Pilot Company allows its employees to trade shifts, even after the schedule has been posted.
“With the increasing need for flexibility, especially through the pandemic, and a tightening labor market, we identified this as one of the next steps to improve our team
54 MARCH 2023 convenience.org Andrii
Yalanskyi/Getty Images; Makhbubakhon Ismatova/Getty Images
Brands looking to attract and retain employees are focusing on giving them more of what they want, and that’s flexibility.”
What Applicants Are Seeking
Job applicants agree that wages and benefits are important. But what else do they care about?
NACS surveyed potential job applicants asking them to rank a series of 20 job attributes using maximum differential (MaxDiff) scaling. MaxDiff provides a better understanding of how the attributes rank and their strength.
With MaxDiff ranking, the average for all responses is 100 points. Anything more than 100 is considered important to applicants, and anything above 150 points is very important.
NACS found that the focus on pay and benefits attracts applicants, which is not surprising:
1. Good starting salary (234 points)
2. Stable pay with regular raises (233 points)
3. Benefits like health insurance or retirement plans (202 points)
4. Paid time off for vacation and holidays (164 points)
5. Makes me happy (150 points)
However, salary alone doesn’t tell the entire story. Applicants also want to grow their career, and yes, they also want flexibility:
6. Has a clear, achievable path for advancement (97 points)
7. Flexible hours (93 points)
8. Relates to my interests (91 points)
9. Convenient hours (87 points)
10. Consistent schedule (83 points)
11. Positive interactions with coworkers/colleagues (76 points)
Convenience store jobs that provide flexibility, such as multiple shifts and different types of work, also scored well:
12. Chance to help others (66 points)
13. Short commute time (65 points)
14. Positive interaction with customers/clients (60 points)
15. Offers on-the-job training or technical skills (59 points)
16. Employer helps pay to further education/develop specialized skills (55 points)
17. Comfortable workspace (54 points)
18. On-the-job-perks or employee discounts (54 points)
More insights that can help your employment offers tie into what applicants care about most are available in the free online NACS resource, How to Attract Employees , available at www.convenience.org/Topics/HumanResources
members’ experience,” said Paul Shore, chief people officer for Pilot Company. “We know things come up, and this kind of flexibility allows our team members to work together to cover shifts.”
Shore said the process creates a better employee and customer experience by incorporating flexibility based on each store’s specific needs.
“We believe that as a hospitality company, we must focus first on providing an exceptional team member experience in order for them to provide a great guest experience,” he said.
THE SHORTENED WORKWEEK
A recent survey by Ernest & Young found that 40% of companies surveyed have either started using a four-day workweek or are in the process of implementing one.
“A prolonged, tight labor market and changing work patterns have employers doing all they can to attract and retain their workforce,” noted Ernest & Young.
One convenience retailer embracing this flexible option is Powell, Tennessee-based Weigel’s, which operates 72 stores in East Tennessee. Full-time, hourly employees have the option to work four-, eight- or 10-hour shifts, and they can choose the days they work as business allows.
Kurt Weigel, recruiting manager for Weigel’s, “really recommends the four-day workweek. The employees love it, he said. “They report better quality of life, work-life balance and being more refreshed when it is their day to work.”
The main driver for Weigel’s decision to implement this policy was employee retention. After testing the shortened workweek in one district, the company saw turnover reduce by 45%, as well an increase in the dependability of workers and improved store morale. The company rolled out the benefit to all stores in August 2022.
Quick-service restaurants pull from the same labor pool as convenience retailers, especially those that have prepared food programs.
One Miami, Florida, Chick-fil-A location, owned and operated by Justin Lindsey, offers its full-time workers an even shorter workweek—just three days. Workers also have seven consecutive days off a month and
NACS MARCH 2023 55
only have to work two Saturdays a month. (Chick-fil-A locations close on Sundays.)
The three-day workweek works by separating employees into two “pods,” according to Lindsey. One pod works Monday through Wednesday, and the second works Thursday through Saturday. They stay on the same schedule for two consecutive weeks. On the third week they rotate.
“[The three-day workweek] takes out a lot of guessing. It gives them flexibility to plan their life and not be so tied down with work,” said Lindsey.
Employees don’t move from pod to pod, so they are always working with the same co-workers, which Lindsey says has led to increased leader development, employee morale and retention, a cleaner location and more consistent foodservice.
The pod system also eliminates staff transition periods, where the morning leaders would leave the store and the evening leaders would begin work. Lindsey admits that during those periods “things were a mess” until the threeday workweek was implemented.
“Where traditionally we would see drops in sales during transitions, we’ve seen massive increases in sales,” said Lindsey.
The three-day workweek has also enabled the restaurant to retain non-managerial, fulltime employees, which were a sect of workers Lindsey struggled to keep.
“I could never figure out a way to retain those team members because eventually the pay didn’t matter. It would just kind of wear off over time,” he said.
THE BUILD-YOUR-OWN SCHEDULE
Southern convenience-store chain Sprint Mart, with stores in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, is piloting a scheduling tactic at two of its 103 locations that allows its hourly employees to build their own schedule. The company posts available shifts for the week on its online scheduling platform, where staff can request the shifts they want. The manager at the location either approves or denies the request. Denials rarely happen, and schedules are posted 10 days in advance.
“It’s an effort to try and bridge the gap between full gig work and the more industrial-era idea of ‘we schedule you when you should work and you show up,’” said Chris McKinney, chief human resources officer for Sprint Mart.
Managers have the ability to set parameters within the scheduling platform that allow workers to pick up shifts within certain constraints. For example, there can be restrictions in place that prohibit a staff member from working above a certain number of hours, avoiding overtime pay.
McKinney said one concern was that both locations had a few longtime employees who did not want to alter their schedules. In response, Sprint Mart created a system that provides the managers with a prepopulated schedule each week, giving the seasoned employees their desired shifts. The remaining open shifts are posted on the platform for staff to pick up.
If a shift is posted but doesn’t get picked up by an employee, it’s the manager’s call to decide if that shift is actually needed based on labor budgets and how busy the location will be during the shift.
“Three to four weeks after it started, we received pretty positive feedback from those stores, and there has been no desire to revert back at those locations,” said McKinney. “Once the flexibility is offered, they tend to really grab onto it.”
McKinney encourages convenience retailers to embrace the notion of flexible scheduling because competitors are already offering this benefit.
He also notes that this is a free benefit retailers can offer their employees. There is the indirect cost of a scheduling platform, but many companies already have one.
“You can offer what is viewed as the new way to work, a tremendous benefit to employees for really little to no cost. It just requires a different leadership mindset,” said McKinney.
56 MARCH 2023 convenience.org Andrii Yalanskyi/Getty Images Sara Counihan is contributing editor of NACS Magazine and NACS Daily. She can be reached at scounihan@ convenience.org
[The three-day workweek] takes out a lot of guessing. It gives them flexibility to plan their life and not be so tied down with work.”
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Cool New Products Guide
This advertorial-style guide of services and packaging appears monthly and is an information-packed tour of ideas and approaches that can change how consumers view your store or choose your brand. It spotlights the newest thinking in convenience and fuel retailing and gives you an advance look at ways of staying in front of industry trends. Products are categorized the same way we organize the Cool New Products Preview Room at the NACS Show each year in October— New Design, New to the Industry, New Flavors, Health & Wellness, Green (EcoFriendly), New Services and New Technology Products are considered “new” this year if they’ve been introduced since October 2021. The products featured here also can be seen in the Cool New Products Discovery Center at www.convenience.org/coolnewproducts
For details, contact: Peter Olbrys at 630.432.3329 or email at: email@example.com
58 MARCH 2023 convenience.org
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60 MARCH 2023 convenience.org INDEX NEW FLAVORS E&J Gallo Winery 60 Monster Energy 59 NEW TO THE INDUSTRY Bidi Vapor, LLC 60 Ty 58 BIC Lighters 59
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Made With Passion
A restaurant in a c-store in Little Rock, Arkansas, offers unexpected cuisine.
BY AL HEBERT
Great food is born of great passion. Chef Robert Scott, co-owner of America’s Street Foods, offers customers culinary experiences far beyond their expectation of gas station food. “I can talk food all day. When people see how passionate I am, they want to see more,” he said.
The classically trained chef has gone from an upscale restaurant to a food cart and now to a unique eatery tucked inside the Highway 10 Gas and Market in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Scott left his restaurant job to follow his dream. “I wanted to do my own thing. The food-truck scene is very popular here,” he said.
Then came the restaurant. The c-store goes back to the 1970s and was once known for its barbecue. However, the restaurant space was sitting empty in 2021 when Scott and his business partner, Adam Shuffield, checked out the location. They opened in May of that year.
FLEXIBLE AND UPSCALE FOOD
Scott had a vision for the direction of America’s Street Foods. Flexibility was important. “We wanted to be known for great burgers and pulled pork. We wanted to be able to be more modern or more traditional,” he said.
“We started with cheesesteaks, pulled pork, our signature hotdogs and Reubens. The Reuben goes back to the food cart. We didn’t have a lot of refrigeration. We made it as a sub. When we got here, we made it a traditional Reuben,” Scott said.
The restaurant makes its own corned beef and Thousand Island dressing for the Reuben. The burger is fresh-ground ribeye, and the pulled pork is smoked for 14 hours.
Customers can tell the difference. “I had a guy come in from North Carolina. Someone told him to come check us out. He said it was the best Reuben he’s ever had.”
Scott didn’t want to create what people might think of as gas station food. “I wanted to make it more upscale. I didn’t want to sell myself short as a chef,” he said.
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America’s Street Foods occupies space once used by a barbecue restaurant.
Scott’s Reubens feature house-made Thousand Island dressing.
The team gradually upgraded the menu, adding chicken parmesan, then chicken Alfredo and even a mushroom bordelaise. Tomatoes used in the sauces come from San Marzano, Italy, or California.
An attention getter is the baconwrapped pork loin stuffed with cornbread stuffing, feta cheese, sundried tomato and buffalo mozzarella.
Made with buffalo milk, the cheese helps America’s Street Foods differentiate its menu. “We want to be different and stand out and create a new flavor,” Scott said, adding that his team also uses buffalo mozzarella on pizza and in salads. The cheese was a little hard to source in Little Rock at the outset, he says, “but now with the consistent orders it gets here pretty quick.”
Of course, a great meal is not complete without dessert. “From banana pudding to crème brûlée, we’re trying to get more consistent with desserts,” Scott said.
The regular customers are fans of the plate lunch specials like meatloaf, which is made from ribeye ground into beef.
“People call every day and want to know what the special is. It’s like Christmas to them,” Scott said.
BRINGING IN CUSTOMERS
Scott sees benefits with the c-store location. The convenience store is the draw—and then customers discover the restaurant.
“People come in for a drink or gas. When they discover us, they leave with a burger,” Scott said. “It turns into repeat business. They bring their friends. We’re the conversation topic. ‘Man, I got this burger in a gas station.’ ‘Really? Is it good?’ They get curious. They come back and try it,” he said. “We get new people each day.”
The location is a win for the store, too. “We piggyback off each other. They sell the drinks.”
If you’re creating great food in a c-store, catering can be a stream of
revenue and a way to introduce your food to potential customers. “We’ve done some amazing catering,” Scott said. “I’ve always done catering, but it picked up more after moving into the building. We catered for an exclusive golf course. We catered the Miss High School America pageant for five days,” he said.
“With the catering, I offer pans of this or that. Everything is for just that event. I ask about likes, what they want. We create a menu with that.”
Social media plays a big role in a successful food program. The photos of the food on the Facebook page of America’s Street Foods are beautiful.
“You eat with your eyes. It looks good, and then you come in and try it. We have a set menu that we do, and we post our specials on Facebook. If there’s something we need to push, we try to feature it,” he said.
Scott uses Instagram and Snapchat as well. “More older people use Facebook. Younger people use Instagram. A young guy suggested when we post to Facebook, we post to Instagram with a reel. You can just take pictures and it makes a collage, and it hits a lot more people.”
When it comes to the future, Scott said, “The sky’s the limit. We’re looking to branch out to downtown. In the long run this could be a franchise. I’d like to keep the menu, expand with a wrappedup package deal.”
NACS MARCH 2023 63
Al Hebert is the Gas Station Gourmet, showcasing America’s hidden culinary treasures. Find him at www.GasStationGourmet.com.
The Highway 10 Gas and Market in Little Rock, Arkansas, benefits from having a popular eatery.
Co-owners Adam Shuffield and Robert Scott (second and third from left) opened the restaurant in 2021. They are flanked here by team members Ebony Young (left) and Frenchy Branscomb (right).
CATEGORY CLOSE-UP HOT DISPENSED BEVERAGES
was the average gross margin for hot dispensed beverages in 2021.
Source: NACS State of the Industry Report of 2021 Data
Hot Coffee for On the Go
Enhanced hot beverage programs offer variety, customization and convenience.
BY PAT PAPE
After two years of working from home, Marty Ruiz returned to her office on a part-time basis. On the three days she commutes, she stops at a convenience store for a rich, hot latte. Other mornings she brews java in her kitchen, adding oat milk and sweetener.
“Coffee in the morning is non-negotiable,” she said. “When I drive to the office, stopping for a cup that I can customize myself is part of my ritual. But when I work at home, I never go out that early. So, I make it myself. It’s cheaper.”
For decades, most convenience store hot dispensed beverage sales occurred between 6 and 8 a.m. on weekdays. But during the pandemic, one-third of morning commuters were working at home, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Although more employees are back in the workplace, morning hot dispensed beverage sales have not returned to pre-pandemic levels (2019) but were slightly higher in 2021 compared to 2020.
“According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2021, about 68% of workers drove alone to work, compared to roughly 76% in 2019,” said Jayme Gough, research manager at NACS. “That corresponds to nearly 15 million fewer people commuting.”
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You don’t make money buying cheap coffee; you make money selling great coffee.”
Convenience store coffee sales rebounded in 2021, but relative to other dispensed beverage subcategories, coffee did not recover to the same degree. The NACS State of the Industry Report® of 2021 Data indicates that although coffee sales improved by 6.9% year over year to $3,976 per store, per month, this modest increase did not prevent coffee from declining from 82.6% of hot dispensed beverage sales in 2020 to 79.1% in 2021.
Coffee gross profit also rose slightly, improving by 5.2% to $2,672 per store, per month. Coffee gross margin was impacted by rising costs, however, resulting in a decline of 1.10 percentage points to 67.20%.
Sweet sales came from hot chocolate, which rose from 6.9% of hot dispensed beverage sales to 9.0% in 2021. Hot chocolate gross profit also expanded, rising to $289 per store, per month in 2021, an improvement of 35.7%, according to the NACS State of the Industry Report.
Among consumers purchasing hot dispensed beverages, nearly 90% chose coffee and specialty coffee. “From 2020 to 2021, specialty coffee’s share of the category increased from 6.5% to 9.7%,” said Gough.
“Equipment innovation, such as bean-to-cup machines, permits
Alter_photo/Getty Imag es
2.58% % of In-Store Sales
REACHING GEN Z
When it comes to the beverage bar, millennials and Gen Z love variety and embrace new flavors and innovations.
“For 2023, expect to see more operators introducing global-inspired flavors to their menu, particularly Southeast Asian flavors,” said Chairil
a reprieve from stressful times.”
McClain, senior director of market insights and portfolio strategy at BUNN. McClain said that one flavor gaining a lot of attention is Salted Egg Yolk, a rich custardy flavor that consists of umami (savory) notes.
“And don’t be surprised to find chunks of fruit in your cold coffee. Cold fruit lattes are popping up at some U.S. coffee shops. Banana, avocado and mango are typical ingredients added to an iced espresso that is mixed with thick fruit puree and milk. As with bubble tea, a thick straw is the best way to consume it,” McClain said.
According to Mintel’s Foodservice Coffee & Tea-U.S. report for 2022, 65% of Gen Z consumers have ordered a cold coffee drink away from home in the past three months, compared with 33% who have ordered a hot coffee drink.
NACS MARCH 2023 65
State of the
% of Stores Selling of 2021 Data
greater consumer customization and lets retailers better meet the needs of shoppers looking for something like a cappuccino or latte. Generation Z loves to customize their beverages as much as possible,” she said.
Position beverages as affordable treats that offer consumers
Per Store, Per Month Sales
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Today, cold drinks make up 75% of Starbucks’ beverage sales. In 2022, Howard Schultz, then-CEO of Starbucks, told analysts that Gen Z customers choose cold drinks and customize their beverages with sweeteners, toppings, flavored sugars and syrups to create concoctions that they share on social media.
“[Gen Z] also over-index on using plant-based milks and creamers,” said Donna Hood Crecca, principal at Technomic. “Courting younger consumers will require retailers to invest in a robust condiment offering on the hot beverage station.”
Crecca noted that half of consumers overall would like to see more customization options for hot beverages at convenience stores.
“Because cold coffee drinks can cannibalize hot coffee offerings, retailers should strategically market cold offer-
ings to satisfy specific need states, like refreshment, and hot coffee to satisfy the energizing/pick-me-up need state. This positions the store as able to satisfy all their coffee needs,” she said.
BRING IN BEVERAGE FANS
The first step to building a successful hot beverage program is focusing on the basics.
“Beyond price, consumers prioritize speed of service, flavor, freshness and quality,” said Crecca. “C-stores overall tend to win on speed but fall short of other segments. Once the basics are nailed down, retailers should present relevant and differentiating limited-time offers to keep the program fresh and interesting and invest in condiment and creamer options.”
Don’t shy away from trends, said Brittany Tresemer, marketing director at Franke Coffee Systems.
According to the Tea Association of the USA, approximately 75% to 80% of tea consumed in America is iced. Arthur Lopez, senior director of marketing for Finlays, sees much untapped opportunity for tea in convenience stores.
“Look at tea globally. You have traditional chai tea beverages, matcha lattes and London Fog, which is traditional Earl Grey with other ingredients added,” he said.
“There’s a strong emphasis on lattes in the U.S, and there are good latte tea products available that Americans don’t even know about. There’s an opportunity to make these products available to consumers so they can educate themselves about tea. But it will take some time.”
CATEGORY CLOSE-UP CANDY
JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC Source: CSX LLC; csxllc.com 6,000 5,000 4,000 3,000 $4,756
n 2019 n 2020 n 2021 n 2022
July 16-21, 2023
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July 23-28, 2023
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July 30-August 3, 2023
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November 5-10, 2023
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CATEGORY CLOSE-UP HOT DISPENSED BEVERAGES
Source: NACS State of the Industry Report of 2021 Data
“Operators must continue to develop unique innovative beverages that consumers can’t make for themselves,” she said. Research shows that “57% of consumers believe purchasing coffee from a foodservice location is only a value when they get drinks they can’t make in their own homes. C-store chains must also rely on valuable discounts, promotions and sampling programs to draw in value-conscious consumers. Position beverages as affordable treats that offer consumers a reprieve from stressful times,” Tresemer said.
“There is an old saying in the coffee industry,” said Frank McAdam, sales vice president at BUNN. “You don’t make money buying cheap coffee; you make money selling great coffee.
Since the pandemic, the convenience retail industry has sought ways
to improve the customer experience “by providing more selections, adding automation to help with simple tasks and consistency and focusing on value,” said McAdam.
Jack Kimberly, national account executive for Royal Cup Coffee, advises that consistency is key. Retailers who focus on a selection of hot and cold coffee beverages, limited-time offers that appeal to their location’s demographics and a variety of customization options “will be competitive for a share of the cup.”
Pat Pape worked in the convenience store industry for more than 20 years before becoming a full-time writer. See more of her articles at patpape.wordpress.com.
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Hot Dispensed Beverages Percent of Sales Avg. Sales/Store Avg. GP$/Store Gross Margin % 2020 2021 2020 2021 2020 2021 2020 2021 Coffee 82.6% 79.1% $3,719 $3,976 $2,540 $2,672 68.30% 67.20% Cappuccino/ Specialty Coffee 6.5% 9.7% $293 $489 $206 $323 70.38% 66.02% Hot Chocolate 6.9% 9.0% $312 $452 $213 $289 68.25% 63.95% Refills 3.7% 1.9% $165 $96 $106 $61 64.04% 63.19% Hot Tea 0.2% 0.1% $10 $6 $6 $4 61.05% 64.92% Coffee Club Mugs 0.1% 0.1% $5 $6 $4 $6 73.58% 97.36% Total 100.0% 100.0% $4,504 $5,025 $3,074 $3,354 68.26% 66.75%
For 2023, expect to see more operators introducing global-inspired flavors to their menu, particularly Southeast Asian flavors.”
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best-guesses just don’t cut it.
CATEGORY CLOSE-UP LIQUOR
While a small sales contributor, the liquor category offers high margins and entices add-on purchases.
BY TERRI ALLAN
If anything is for sure at Mt. Top Convenience store in Thomas, West Virginia, it’s that liquor category sales rise every year.
“We’ve been selling liquor since 2010, and sales have increased every single year,” said co-owner Doug Smith. Indeed, his partner Mike Wood added that with the start of the pandemic three years ago, “sales really started to soar,” even though the store lost out on liquor sales to restaurants—which the state permits—during lockdown. “We made up for those lost sales with sales to consumers,” he explained.
Mt. Top Convenience isn’t alone. Many c-store operators in markets where they can offer distilled spirits have enjoyed category sales gains in recent years, driven not only by the pandemic but also by overall increased consumer demand for liquor and product innovation. According to the NACS State of the Industry Report of 2021 Data, average liquor sales per store jumped 9.8% from 2020 to 2021 to $2,914 per month, and average gross profit increased 16.4% to $906 per store per month.
While liquor remains a small piece of total sales for a c-store (less than 1%), and fewer than half of all c-stores offer the product, “the category really peaked during the lockdown phase of the pandemic,” noted Jayme Gough, NACS research manager. By 2022, however, cat-
egory sales spikes had moderated, Gough added, citing CSX data, and more closely modeled pre-pandemic levels.
Tara Epps, vice president-national accounts, off-premise, at Beam Suntory Inc., said the pandemic helped raise awareness among consumers that some c-stores stock liquor, and they have continued to shop the outlets. C-stores’ increased focus on quality foodservice programs, an expanding millennial customer base and emerging grab-and-go packages have also contributed to the category’s growth in the channel, “helping to shatter its previous image as a destination for only low-budget and fortified offerings,” Epps said.
RTDS MAKE INROADS
The explosion of spirits-based ready-todrink cocktails in the past few years has been a big contributor to the category’s inroads in c-stores. According to Gough, through the first three quarters of 2022, “prepared cocktail monthly sales soared” in c-stores. Epps added that sales of RTDs in c-stores are outpacing those in big box stores. “Convenience stores shouldn’t miss the opportunity to gain fair share and should consider investing more into prepared cocktails as consumer demand will continue to increase for years to come,” said the executive from
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$906 was the average per store, per month gross profit on liquor sales in c-stores in 2021.
Source: NACS State of the Industry Report of 2021 Data
Beam Suntory, which markets the On The Rocks ready-to-serve brand.
The 10-unit Depot Express chain in Iowa has added up to six SKUs of On The Rocks at its stores, Matthew Scheetz, COO, said. And at Wayne’s Food Mart in Montague, Michigan, “we’re carrying more canned cocktails than ever,” Jessie Hamilton, manager, remarked, with the products merchandised both in the cold box and on shelves.
The popularity of canned cocktails has led some states to revise restrictions on their sale in c-stores. According to Danny Suich, global brand director for the Fireball cinnamon whiskey brand at Sazerac Co., Florida, Michigan and Virginia are among the states that now allow c-stores and groceries with beer and wine licenses to sell spirits-based prepared cocktails under a specific ABV level, essentially growing the ranks of convenience outlets that now sell liquor products.
Texas is among the other states lobbying for such a change. In fact, the Texas Food & Fuel Association has called the ability for c-stores and groceries in the state to sell spirits-based RTDs its No. 1 priority in the current legislative session. (Listen to Convenience Matters Episode No. 365 at www.conveniencematters.com .)
Retailers and suppliers report that spirits of all types are gaining in c-stores. “Vodka has always been a workhorse,” noted Scheetz, often bringing in add-on sales of products like Bloody Mary mix, juices and energy and sports drinks. Tequila also shows promise. “We’re starting to add more brands of tequila,” including celebrity-backed labels, the Depot Express executive revealed. “We feel we’ll see an increase in this category in the near future.”
Indeed, according to Epps, through late 2022, the growth of tequila in c-stores was outpacing that of total distilled spirits. The Bean Suntory executive also pointed to the growing
0.66% % of In-Store Sales
$2,653 Avg. Sales/Store
30.2% % of Stores Selling
Source: NACS State of the Industry Report of 2021 Data
opportunity for whiskey in c-stores, including premium and above brands. That’s already the case at Mt. Top. “We’ve become known for having rare bourbons,” remarked Wood. “People are always calling and asking about them.” Price doesn’t seem to be an object, the retailer continued. “Whether it’s $100 or $179 a bottle, people don’t mind spending the money on them.”
NACS MARCH 2023 71
CATEGORY CLOSE-UP LIQUOR
Per Store, Per Month Sales
Perhaps not surprisingly, convenient liquor packages beyond RTDs are also thriving. According to Suich, 50-ml. and 100-ml. packages are the top growth drivers in the convenience channel, and Fireball has been a key contributor. Whether marketed at the register for 99 cents a 50-ml. container, or in seasonally themed multipacks, the mini packages entice impulse purchases and help build bigger baskets, he remarked. Among Fireball’s innovative LTO offerings are 10-packs of 50-ml. bottles in candy cane packaging or heart-shaped boxes, 15-packs in “adult trick-or-treat bags,” and 20-pack buckets. Epps agrees that stocking small liquor packages can make for smart merchandising. “Studies show that making smaller size bottles visible and available for consumers to shop increased impulse sales and overall basket ring versus having them out of sight behind the counter,” she remarked.
At Depot Express, meanwhile, the sale of large liquor bottles has been strong of late. While Scheetz reported a 3% increase in the sale of spirits items at the chain in 2022, he said, “we’ve seen a 21% increase” in the sale of 1.75-ml. bottles. And the gain isn’t due to the addition of new products, he noted, but
Source: CSX LLC; csxllc.com
rather, “we’re just seeing growth from consistent repeat consumer purchasing.” Regardless of the package size, liquor marketers say c-stores need to promote the products to grow consumer awareness of their availability. “Shoppable merchandising, small size offerings near checkout, small size multipack destinations, key spirits items sold cold, occasion-based messaging, digital integration and offering innovation are all ways to effectively grow category awareness,” remarked Suich. In addition to frequent Facebook posts about new product arrivals, Mt. Top offers the weekly “Wine & Whiskey Wednesday” promotion, by which customers can earn 15% off a purchase of four or more bottles of wine and liquor.
While liquor sales have been healthy in c-stores in recent years, the category also comes with concerns. “Shelf space is a challenge for most convenience stores, as well as knowing which brands to sell,” said Tracy Frisbie, vice president of marketing at Buzz Ballz LLC/ Southern Champion. “C-stores need to look at the sales data to make the best decisions for their outlets and sell the brands that will bring in the most revenue.” Executives at Mt. Top and Depot Express also noted that theft can be a problem with liquor products.
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JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC 12,000 10,000 8,000 6,000
n 2019 n 2020 n 2021 n 2022
We’re carrying more canned cocktails than ever.”
Just the Facts
Was the average gross margin for liquor in 2021. Source: NACS State of the Industry Report of 2021 Data
Sanin, Getty Images
©2022 BuzzBallz LLC Carrollton T X
© 2022 Southern Champion, Carrollton TX “Enjoy
CATEGORY CLOSE-UP LIQUOR
Still, there’s a long runway for continued growth for the category in c-stores, and along with it, basket-building opportunity. Epps from Beam Suntory points out that unlike other alcoholic beverages, liquor
purchases are often accompanied with mixers, such as soft drinks and juices. With the right assortment, effective merchandising and advertising, the liquor section in c-stores can emerge as a big destination for shoppers.
Terri Allan is a New Jersey-based freelance writer, specializing in the beverage industry. She can be reached at email@example.com , and on Twitter at @terriallan.
74 MARCH 2023 convenience.org
Source: NACS State of the Industry Report of 2021 Data
Liquor Percent of Sales Avg. Sales/Store Avg. GP$/Store Gross Margin % 2020 2021 2020 2021 2020 2021 2020 2021 Distilled Spirits 77.5% 69.1% $2,057 $2,012 $504 $543 24.52% 26.98% Cordials/Brandy/ Cognac 15.7% 17.7% $416 $514 $227 $261 54.53% 50.73% Other Liquor 5.9% 10.4% $157 $302 $41 $76 26.13% 25.12% Prepared Cocktails 0.5% 2.8% $13 $81 $4 $25 33.17% 30.83% Cocktail Mixes 0.4% 0.1% $11 $4 $3 $1 23.90% 26.28% Total 100.0% 100.0% $2,653 $2,914 $779 $906 29.36% 31.10%
Contact Information Page Contact Information Page Contact Information Page ADD Systems 13 https://www.addsys.com/ Altria Group Distribution Company Inside Front Cover AGDCTradeRelations@Altria.com www.altria.com www.tobaccoissues.com BIC USA Inc 59 https://us.bic.com/en_us Bidi Vapor 60 https://bidivapor.com/ Bluegrass Ingredients 7 Bluegrassingredients.com +1-270-297-7850 Buzzballz, LLC 73 (972) 242-3777 www.buzzballz.com Cash Depot 3 (800) 776-8834 firstname.lastname@example.org www.cdlatm.com Cenex 42-45 Conexxus 19 https://www.conexxus.org/ 703-518-7690 Convenience Cares 16-18 https://www.conveniencecares.org/ Cool New Products Guide 58-60 www.convenience.org/Media/NACS-Magazine/Cool-New-Products Diageo Beer Company USA 75 www.diageo.com E&J Gallo 60 https://www.gallo.com/ Liggett Vector Brands Inc. (Montego) Inside Back Cover (877) 415-4100 www.liggettvectorbrands.com Monster 59 Mars Wrigley 15 https://www.mars.com/made-by-mars/mars-wrigley NACS Convenience Matters 4 www.conveniencematters.com NACS Compensation Report 34 NACS 2023 Events: CSE 60 www.convenience.org/events NACS State of the Industry Summit 69 www.convenience.org/events/SOI Mars Wrigley 15 https://www.mars.com/made-by-mars/mars-wrigley McLane Company Back Cover www.mclaneco.com (254) 771-7500 Premier Manufacturing 5 (636) 537-6800 www.gopremier.com Ready Training Online 39 (800) 247-8514 www.readytrainingonline.com Swedish Match North America LLC, ZYN 9 (800) 367-3677 www.smna.com Swedish Match North America LLC, General Snus 33 (800) 367-3677 www.smna.com Thrivr 61 https://www.thrivr.io/ Travel Centers of America 37 https://www.ta-petro.com/ Trion Industries 31 (800) 444-4665 www.triononline.com TY INC. 41, 58 https://shop.ty.com/
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Ghost Kitchens Heat Up
The appeal of ghost kitchens grew early in the COVID-19 pandemic when food delivery services became a necessity. Nearly three years later, do convenience retailers still view ghost kitchens as a viable option for enhancing foodservice? NACS survey results and convenience retailer investment in ghost kitchens suggest the answer is yes. A ghost kitchen is roughly defined as a physical space for foodservice providers to create prepared food for off-premise consumption, usually via delivery.
The October 2022 NACS Foodservice Growth Drivers survey indicates that the number of retailers planning to partner with a ghost kitchen in the next two years (25.4%) is nearly double the number that have worked with a ghost
kitchen in the past (13.6%). Circle K parent Alimentation Couche-Tard, for example, in July 2022 invested in Kitchen United, a growing ghost kitchen servicer and restaurant hub technology company.
Although nearly one-third of participating retailers are unsure whether their company will collaborate with a ghost kitchen in the near future, nearly one-quarter of respondents show interest in a ghost kitchen partnership. Only 22.0% of respondents consider ghost kitchens to be too complex for their business to implement and manage, while 55.9% believe ghost kitchens have the potential to increase their business’ profitability. Convenience retailers continue to see potential from ghost kitchen partnerships, and future interest does not appear to be waning.
PREVIOUS AND FUTURE GHOST KITCHEN PARTNERSHIPS
76 MARCH 2023 convenience.org BY
Partnered with a ghost kitchen in the past Plan to partner with a ghost kitchen in the next 2 years YES NO UNSURE 13.5% 79.7% 6.8% 42.4% 32.2% 25.4%
NACS Convenience Voices is packed with valuable, proprietary insights you can only get from NACS. Leveraging the ubiquity of mobile technology enables more precise targeting, expanded geographic reporting, powerful multimedia feedback and more. Visit www.convenience.org/voices to learn how to participate.
From the Store on Main, to the Nationwide Chain, McLane Has You Covered
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To learn more about McLane’s solutions for businesses of all sizes, visit mclanegrocery.com
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