With foodservice taking on an expanded role in convenience stores, retailers can utilize NACS CAFÉ to learn about best practices, new ideas and emerging solutions.
By John Lofstock, Editor.
Foodservice now accounts for nearly one in every six dollars spent inside convenience stores. Getting foodservice right is no longer just a challenge, it is absolutely vital to preserving a profitable future. As such, NACS is devoting important resources to the category beginning with NACS CAFÉ, the Center for Achieving Foodservice Excellence. It is an organization that is as timely as it is visionary.
NACS CAFÉ’s objective is to level the playing field between convenience retailers and restaurant operators. The tprogram provides a wealth of education tapping the expertise of professors from Georgia State University’s School of Hospitality on all aspects of foodservice, including a professional certification program–the Convenience Foodservice Manager (CCFM), which is recognized as one of the most comprehensive and meaningful designations in the foodservice industry. Recipients of the CCFM designation will be recognized as industry leaders in foodservice.
Greg Parker, president and CEO of The Parker Cos. in Savannah, Ga., was the driving force behind the development of NACS CAFÉ. He said the organization is necessary to help convenience stores keep pace with other foodservice providers.
“If you look at the National Restaurant Association, they have had a tremendous system in place for years for restaurants and QSR’s. If a restaurant operator wants to get foodservice training or certification, they go through NRA,” Parker said. “But here we were with 145,000 stores—every single store is involved with foodservices in some way because foodservice includes hot and cold beverages—but the c-store industry lacked a single source to help our operators elevate their game, learn best practices and get the support they need to become competent foodservice marketers. NACS CAFÉ aims to fill that role.”
Jerry Weiner, vice president of foodservice for Rutter’s Farm Stores in York, Pa., was on the NACS CAFÉ committee that helped develop the program. He believes the industry was overdue for a central learning center that is focused on helping operators improve foodservice operations.
“As an industry in general, we do not have a very good consumer perception when it comes to fresh food. The changing of consumer perception is maybe the most difficult thing to do in any business and maybe even more difficult when you are asking them to put something in their mouths,” Weiner said. “The NACS CAFÉ program addresses the key aspects of affecting that change regardless of how extensive a food program you elect to do. But it also deals with areas such as developing a menu, creating a separate P&L statement, foodservice safety and sanitation, executing at the store level and marketing. Each of these individual issues makes up the bigger foodservice picture.”
NACS CAFÉ attendees come away with more than an education. They come away with a complete support system.
“I returned to work from the NACS CAFÉ training session in early 2011 excited about the support and sophistication this program will bring the c-store foodservice category,” said Melina Patterson, senior category manager of fresh foods for Thorntons Inc. in Louisville, Ky. “I found the program to be thorough as it covered more than the just the basics. The instructors were extremely knowledgeable and full of real world experience which added a great deal of credibility to the program.”
Since returning from the training session, the instructors have continued to support Thorntons’ foodservice initiatives by providing feedback during travels that have allowed them to visit the company’s stores. “An added bonus is that I have been able to share best practices with several classmates from the February session that I remain in contact with today,” Patterson said.
For NACS CAFÉ information or to register for an upcoming class visit www.nacsonline.com/nacscafe.