7-Eleven FOAC Trade Show Features NACS Chairman

Budhwani shares his early lessons, advice during opening session keynote speech.

The 7-Eleven Franchise Owner’s Association of Chicagoland (FOAC) Trade Show kicked off on Thursday, July 13 at the Odeum Expo Center in Villa Park, Ill.

Rahim Budhwani, 2016-2017 chairman of NACS (the National Association of Convenience Stores) and the founder and CEO of Alabama-based 6040 LLC, gave the keynote address during the opening session.

Budhwani explained how he came to work in the convenience store industry after moving to the U.S. even though he had planned to spend his career as a computer programmer.

His friends, who were in the convenience store business urged him to invest in convenience stores on the side, assuring him it would be “easy.” Budhwani took them up on their advice and planned to act as an investor in a c-store, but have someone else run the store. But two days before he closed on the store, the person who was set to run the day-to-day operations moved to Dallas for a better offer. With a 10-year contract on his plate, Budhwani rolled up his sleeves and learned the c-store business with help from his employees, while also working as a computer programmer and going to grad school.

He shared some lessons that he learned with attendees, including the difference between working hard in the store and working smart for the store.

“The smarter way is working for the store,” he said. He advised attendees to attend trade shows and see what other retailers are doing in their convenience stores and find a way to incorporate some of those things into their own businesses. “You don’t have to reinvent the wheel all the time,” he said.

Budhwani also shared his lessons in foodservice. After a pizza program failed at his company, he asked his Hispanic customer base what kind of food program they wanted. The answers inspired Budhwani to launch a Tex-Mex program with tacos, tamalas, tortas.

“Our sales quadrupled in the first month, and we saw double-digit increases year after year using only 300 square feet. You have to listen to your customers. What they want is what we need to give,” he said.

But he also didn’t stop there. Budhwani took the Hispanic offering and included some of popular Indian flavors. The result was a “fusion food” called Maharaja tacos, and sales skyrocketed. “It was a unique concept no one had tried before,” he said.

He explained the founding principles of business to him are love, hope and hard work. “Love the industry you are in. If you don’t, you’re not going to make it better. Hope is the constant of everything. Once you lose hope you have lost everything. I’m a very optimistic guy. Our industry is going to continue getting better.”

Following the opening session, attendees had the chance to meet with vendors at tabletops on the trade show floor.

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