Paul Servais leads the retailer’s efforts to drive foodservice sales.
By John Lofstock, Editor
While foodservice represents an extraordinary opportunity for convenience store retailers to grow sales, boost profits and swipe customers away from competitors, it is just another in-store category and needs to be treated as such. This means that while the category remains complex and limitless, your level of success directly correlates to the commitment you are willing to make.
For Paul Servais, food service zone leader for LaCrosse, Wis.-based Kwik Trip Inc., this means that the commitment from the highest levels of company leadership, combined with passionate store-level employees, allows the 485-store chain the best opportunity to succeed.
“Our success with foodservice began years ago when we as a company fully committed to moving in a foodservice direction,” Servais said. “This is still all we talk about, but it goes well beyond talk. This commitment includes allowing us to purchase the right equipment, hire the right personnel and provide the support that allows us to get the job done.”
Getting the job done is what Kwik Trip is all about, and that is why Convenience Store Decisions is proud to recognize Servais and the Kwik Trip chain as a Front-runner in Foodservice for 2016.
“No matter how big a foodservice program gets, what surprises me the most is at the end of the day it all comes down to the basics. People want a good breakfast sandwich, a good cheeseburger and a good slice of pizza,” Servais said. “And you can come out with the fanciest burger in the world and think you’re going to go after this niche market, but in the long run it’s not going to make you a lot of money if you are not committed from to being great at all levels of the company. That is the big secret to success. It still comes down to great food, great service and decent prices.”
Furthermore, Servais added, this strategy crosses all generations. “As an industry, we seem to spend all of this time worrying about Millennials and worrying about seniors, but at the end of the day all every generation wants is a good cheeseburger.”
GROWTH THROUGH INNOVATION
By expanding its ever-growing footprint, Kwik Trip’s 2014 sales grew to nearly $5 billion by serving an average of six million customers per week.
As the company has expanded, it has focused more on controlling the quality of products sold in its stores and the way that they arrive. That commitment served as the impetus behind the decision to implement vertical integration distribution systems for several of its foodservice lines.
Forgoing heavy dependence on outside vendors and distributors, Kwik Trip opted years ago to become a food manufacturer in addition to focusing on convenience retail. In fact, to Servais, the two are now one and the same. Today, the bakery produces 60 varieties of bread products and pastries, including Kwikery Bake Shoppe bread and Glazers doughnuts.
The company is fully vertically integrated with a 176,000-square-foot dairy and food kitchen to complement the bakery. It also operates a 360,000-square-foot distribution center, with its 200-plus employees, who produce more than 6,000 fresh food products regularly, and the transportation network that delivers them to stores daily.
Today, many hot foodservice menu options are prepared on site to further ensure their freshness. Every store stocks a variety of fresh fruit, including cut and packaged varieties. The most recent addition has been refrigerated units to hold fresh cut steaks, pork chops and chicken. Healthy fare options such as salads and bananas are also a key staples on the Kwik Trip menu.
While Servais was quick to credit the commitment from company leaders, his impact on foodservice has been duly appreciated. “Thanks to Paul Servais and our foodservice team we have had double-digit growth in our foodservices for the past 10 years, and we expect that again this year,” said Steve Loehr, Kwik Trip’s vice president of operations support.