When you get to spend two days with some of the biggest names in convenience stores, you learn a thing or two. When you get to have a one on one conversations with THE GODFATHER of convenience foodservice, you learn a thing or five. Jerry Wiener, the often regarded as the Godfather of Convenience Foodservice, spent some time at the Convenience Foodservice Exchange show this past week. We had the opportunity to chat with him and catch his presentation to get real insights to the growing trends and problems the convenience store realm faces. Today we’ll give you a run down on what you need to know from the Godfather!
In case you’ve been living under a giant convenience store rock and aren’t familiar with Wiener, let’s quickly highlight why he’s considered THE guy when it comes to foodservice at cstores. The now retired, convenience foodservice giant, stared his career in the c-store industry in 1972. He’s worked for 7-Eleven, Mapco and Stop & Go Markets, run 400 delis in seven states, spent four years as director of food and beverage for Marriott, and turned the 60-store Rutter’s chain into a brand recognized right alongside the foodservice behemoths of our industry. He’s innovative and not scared to try the unthinkable, like short ribs at a convenience store, which were, by the way, a massive success!
His biggest message to convenience executives at last week’s event?
If you’re going to do foodservice, you have to present an offer to your customers that is freshly made, high quality, with price value. That is the only means for success in foodservice when you consider the negative perception most customers have of food at a cstore. Additionally, you can’t do all of that just once, you have to do it consistently and do it at all of your locations.
His opinion on getting started in foodservice?
You need to have a solid plan of attack. If you’re just testing the waters, start with breakfast first. It’s the most affordable option with the highest return and it falls right into a coffee strategy. Additionally, to get started you need three pieces of equipment: a fryer, a high speed oven and a food holding/warming station. With those three items as a minimum you can create a full-fledged menu and strategy for foodservice success.
The one foodservice thing that kept him up at night?
Food safety. Weiner discussed the fallout from Chipotle’s recent food safety nightmare of 2015. He noted that even though, of the thousands upon thousands of people served each week at Chipotle, a mere 46 people fell ill from E. coli from Chipotle. And yet, based on the news and reporting of the event, it may as well have been 46,000 people who got sick. Bottom line, is even one person getting sick can be a nail in the coffin for a convenience store’s foodservice strategy. And more importantly, with food safety, there is a real risk of sickness and in some extreme cases, death, if you don’t do it right.
It was a pleasure to listen to the Godfather speak to the success and struggle of the foodservice segment in convenience stores. His insight is unmatched and it’s always wonderful to see an expert who is willing to share the knowledge so that the entire industry can grow. Though he’s now retired, with endless knowledge, we have a strong feeling Weiner will continue to stay relevant in the convenience industry for years to come.
Would you like to learn more about convenience foodservice? We’ve got a variety of assets available for free download that will help you with your convenience foodservice strategy and making the leap into foodservice. Check out our whitepaper here or watch our convenience foodservice video here.