dynamic duo

It's a true testimony to a company that prides itself on being"family run and family friendly" when two of its top earning category managers continually sing its praises after more than a decade working together.

Jennifer Vespole, senior category manager for foodservice, andBill Tencza, senior category manager for packaged goods, haveworked side by side for more than 15 years for Quick Chek's everexpanding c-store empire. With plans to expand into New York in2007, the company is depending on its category managers tocome up with innovative ideas and ensure current programs remainpopular.

Vespole started as a marketing project specialist at WhiteHouse Station, N.J.-based Quick Chek. When the fresh food areacaught her eye, she realized the potential within the foodservice category and its importance to Quick Chek's future. Over the past 17years, she's built the chain's perishable foodservice programs,including sandwich, hot breakfast, coffee, bakery and produce.

Tencza also found his way to Quick Chek after graduating with afood marketing degree from St. Joseph's University.

"It's a family-run business that allows employees to succeed ina great atmosphere," said Tencza. "Look at Jen and me. We startedhere right out of college and have never left. It's a real testament tothe people within this company to have that type of retention."

Quick Chek's "Made Fresh For You" hot breakfast sandwiches,soups, salads and freshly prepared subs and sandwiches allow thecompany to compete with fast food restaurants in speed and varietyof foods offered. In conjunction with the coffee department,"Ournew fresh hot breakfast program took breakfast to an even higherlevel," said Vespole. "Customers like having the freedom to choosehow their food is prepared."

Employees are carefully trained on the production of each recipe and how to prepare items to customers' requests. "Customerswant fresh foods prepared to their specifications. Our recipe-drivenmenus, in addition to our ‘build your own' subs and sandwiches,are driving our business forward," Vespole added.

Growing the Business
Tencza has worked with Vespole to keep their respective categories innovative. While she handles food, he's firmly in charge ofall beverage, candy, milk and beer sales for the company.

"I want to create an experience and give customers a large variety of beverages and candy to choose from," said Tencza. "Theycould go anywhere to get these items—but they come to QuickChek for the experience."

An experience that will expand gasoline and introduce beer, as Quick Chek prepares to launch all new c-stores in the New York market. The new store layout will feature bigger parking lots, moreemployees and the same product quality and consistency for whichQuick Chek is known. The experience inside the store will drivehome the fresh food message with all new décor, kitchen layout andfresh food merchandising.

"This industry is all about staying ahead of the curve," saidTencza. "The new Quick Chek sites are designed to keep peoplecoming back through our doors and buying our products."

Quick Chek provides its category managers with in-store trainingto ensure everyone is working from the same page. All managersstart working in c-stores, gathering the knowledge that will eventually help them lead their own categories. The category manager training program also allows the company to promote from within, keeping in spirit with the team atmosphere at Quick Chek.

"Our store leaders realize that I know how hard they work. I'vebeen there," said Tencza. "It creates communication, not oppositionwithin the company. We're all working towards the same goal todrive more customers to our stores and create more sales."

Togetherness would describe the work atmosphere at QuickChek. There are six category managers who work side by side toensure the company's continued success.

"We're in growth mode right now," said Vespole. "Quick Chekembraces ‘outside the box' thinking, which is imperative in stayingahead in the c-store industry. Our vendors, our employees and ourcustomers look forward to being a part of the Quick Chekexperience."

Have an industry "thought leader" at your company that qualifiesas a "Rising Star?" E-mail kquackenbush@penton.com.

Sponsored by McLane Grocery Distribution

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