A NACS-supported foodservice training curriculum will continue to be available for convenience store retailers on the Web through Ready Training Online.
By John Lofstock, Editor
While NACS remains committed to the growing foodservice category and helping retailers gain the training they need to be effective foodservice marketers, the association found that the distinct needs of individual retailers was difficult to address in a classroom setting. As such, the NACS CAFE classroom model and staff was eliminated and the training components will continue online through Ready Training Online (readytrainingonline.com).
Michael Davis, the vice president of member services for NACS, said this move will allow convenience store retailers to select modules and courses that fit their foodservice training needs.
“Foodservice is still very important to our members and we will continue to support their needs in numerous areas, at NACS events, and providing training and assistance adhering with new FDA menu labeling regulations,” Davis said.
FILLING A NEED
NACS CAFE, which was led by Education Director Dr. Nancy Caldarola, helped to fill a need for convenience store retailers as they looked to expand foodservice operations to compete with quick-service restaurants (QSRs) and fast-casual restaurants. The program offered an intense four-day program that included a comprehensive overview of the foodservice segment including everything from training and food handling to analyzing profit and loss statements.
In the end, it might have been too comprehensive. Some retailers are still finding their way in foodservice with roller grills, while others are much more advanced with full-service made-to-order options. The middle ground simply wasn’t enough to meet everyone’s individual needs.
NACS will continue to focus its attention on helping to protect retailers interests at the federal level, especially when it comes to the onerous FDA menu regulations. In November, NACS expressed disapproval of the sweeping new menu labeling regulations imposed on convenience stores.
NACS has long advocated to the FDA that any menu labeling regulations must account for differences between the convenience store business model and a chain restaurant business model.
As CSD previously reported, under the FDA mandate, the full test for whether the rule applies to a business is whether that business:
• Is part of a chain with 20 or more locations doing business under the same name, regardless of the type ownership—including individual franchises.
• The different locations in a chain sell “substantially the same menu items,” if a significant proportion of its menu items use the same general recipe.
This classification extends not just to cafés and chain restaurants that operate 20 or more locations, but also to entertainment venues, such as movie theaters. It also includes some pre-packaged, prepared foods sold at grocery and convenience stores intended for takeout dining by individuals.
Proponents cite that the labeling rules will offer improved transparency in the foodservice industry, providing consumers caloric information on a wider scale while eliminating the myriad of state and local regulations that have been confusing to the public. The labeling law is part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed in late 2010. Since then, regulators have gone back and forth on how the rules should be administered and what kind of businesses would be affected.
Lyle Beckwith, NACS’ senior vice president of government relations, told CSD there’s much ambiguity where c-stores and the caloric label rules are concerned.
“These regulations were originally intended for fast food restaurants and only when it went to the FDA did they expand it into convenience stores, grocers, etc.,” Beckwith said. “What they’re finding is a regulation would be very simple if it was for fast-food restaurants because they all basically have the same menu. A Big Mac is the same in Los Angeles as it is in Bangor, Maine. It’s a limited menu. They send it out once, get it tested and shoot it around the country and they’re done.”
Such static menus don’t cover the wide variety of c-store offerings, opponents insist.
“Now, what the FDA is finding in the convenience store industry, even within one chain, is that stores are very different,” Beckwith said. “They have different product mixes that appeal to the customer base that they are serving, and so there is no standard menu for a convenience store. That brings up a myriad of questions about what products qualify. If you have less than 20 stores selling pizza, do you have to do the pizza? It’s very confusing.”