educating the industry

If there is one thing that can be said aboutConvenience Store Decisions' 2007 FoodserviceShow it's that a great time was had by all. The educational sessions, which featured David Bishop, ofWillard Bishop; Marsha Robbins, of HAACPlus.com;John Matthews, of Gray Cat Enterprises; and MelKleiman, of Humetrics Inc., touched on many of the keypoints retailers needed to hear to help them grow theirfoodservice business.

Our keynote presenter, Louie Sheetz, dazzledattendees with his keen wit, eloquence and industry insight (and still made it home for his daughter'sgraduation!) and a retailer panel discussion with JackCushman (Nice N Easy), Tariq Khan (National Coalitionof 7-Eleven Franchisees) and Sam Gibson (GoCo Ltd.)displayed the true depth of knowledge retailers in thiswonderful industry have whether they operate in bigmarkets or small rural towns. The panel served asconfirmation that understanding how to sell to your consumers is an art and those that are surviving in thisera of unprecedented competition, diminishing fuel andtobacco margins and ridiculous credit card fees have mastered it.

But beyond the presenters, much of the credit goesto the attendees. It was a joy to meet so many newfaces and learn about their great programs. Whetherit was the national operators like Shell, 7-Eleven and ExxonMobil or the strong regional playerslike Xtra Mart, Delta Sonic, Kent Oil andAlon USA—a list that goes more than100 chains deep—I am grateful for theopportunity I had to learn with them andfrom them. Though CSD played host andorganized the event, it was a professionalexperience, and I won't soon forget to joinattendees and quickly assume the role ofpupil to learn from these hardworking men and women thatlive in the trenches every day.

Louie Sheetz said innovation and change is constantin this industry, but it's alsoimportant to observe othermarketers to take their bestpractices and apply them to your own businesses.

In 1995, Sheetz took a critical look at its business and analyzed what other retailers were doing. Itfound that to survive long term, it would need to shiftits focus. And with that, a foodservice powerhouse was born.

"In 1988, changes in our core business—convenience and grocery items—represented 40% of ourbusiness. In 1995, that percentage dropped to 27%and today represents 18% of our total gross profit dollars," Sheetz said. "Seeing our core business shrinkwas a strong indication that we needed to replace thoserevenue dollars. We took that opportunity with food. In1995, food only represented 40% of total gross profitdollars. Today, food is 58% of our gross profit dollars."

And the winner is…
Aside from the educational sessions and tradeshow floor, CSD is also proud to have bestowed ourannual Foodservice Awards for operational excellencein a large and small chain formats to Exxon Mobil Corp.and Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes.

Accepting the award for Exxon Mobil Corp., JoeChiovera, who, as category manager of concept development, was instrumental in designing the company'sOn the Run Café brand, and foodservice category specialist Mike Kerby. Both credited employees for theirstore-level execution.

"We are confident that we have created a strongoffering, but it's our employees that deserve so muchof the credit for delivering great service to our customers every day," Kerby said. "Without their dedication, wewouldn't be here accepting this award."

"Foodservice was a savior for our company aswe lost sales of gasoline and cigarettes to NativeAmericans," said John MacDougall, president andfounder of Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes in Canastota,N.Y., who accepted the small chain foodservice awardwith Cushman, executive vice president of foodservice."Ten years ago, we knew we faced a tough decision:come up with something new to replace those sales orbecome irrelevant. That's when we made the decisionto get into foodservice."

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