A focus on quality helps Casey’s foodservice program stand out.
By Erin Rigik, Senior Editor
With more than 30 years of c-store foodservice experience under his belt, Darryl Bacon, vice president of foodservice for Casey’s General Stores, has been leading the company to foodservice success since he stepped into the role of foodservice director back in 2000.
Under Bacon’s watch, Ankeny, Iowa-based Casey’s saw same-store foodservice sales grow 12.4% in fiscal 2015. Casey’s ranked among the top 10 fastest-growing foodservice chains, and No. 57 in the U.S. for foodservice sales, on Nation’s Restaurant News’ 2015 Top 100 report. “That’s a pretty big accomplishment from where we started. We weren’t even in the top 200, 10 years ago,” Bacon said.
Bacon began his career at Casey’s in 1982 when he was hired as a dock foreman and buyer. “I started buying foodservice products right away in my career,” Bacon said. In the mid-80s, Bacon covered foodservice and tobacco for Casey’s newly-developed marketing department. After becoming director of foodservice in 2000, Darryl was promoted in 2002 to vice president of foodservice.
Today, Casey’s offers its renowned, proprietary, made-from-scratch pizza program at 1,800 of its nearly 1,900 stores. The chain first began offering made-from-scratch pizza more than 30 years ago—in 1985.
In April 2011 in a Grimes, Iowa c-store, Casey’s debuted pizza delivery. In the years following, the company has tweaked the offering to better align with customer demand, including focusing its efforts in highly-populated markets. Today, 400 stores offer pizza delivery. Casey’s sees a 30-40% bump in whole pie sales and a 20-30% increase in fountain and foodservice sales when delivery is added to a location.
“With the addition of delivery, our pizza program has just exploded. We’ve continued double-digit growth for the last five years, and where a lot of pizza companies are struggling, we just continue to prosper,” Bacon said.
HIGH QUALITY OFFERING
What truly sets Casey’s pizza and auxiliary food offerings apart from the competition are their quality. “It’s almost unheard of to make a pizza from scratch in every convenience store, but we do it, and we use top notch ingredients, including 100% whole-milk mozzarella cheese. We just continued to prioritize the quality of our pizza and I think that’s why we continue to prosper,” Bacon said.
As gas consumption dips and cigarette margins dwindle, the importance of foodservice to convenience stores has soared. “Across the chain, 10% of our sales revenue and 32% of our gross profit comes from foodservice,” Bacon said.
Casey’s offers numerous complementary products from chicken wings to sandwiches to cheeseburgers to biscuits and gravy. Since he took over foodservice for the chain, Bacon has implemented a breakfast pizza program, a three-piece chicken tender meal, and in 2003 he introduced to-go cups containing items such as popcorn chicken, potato cheese bites, pizza bites and even mini chocolate chip cookies.
In 2005, Bacon added subs to the coolers, and in 2008 rolled out a made-to-order sub sandwich program that is now in about half of Casey’s locations. In 2007 he upgraded Casey’s beverage program to include 10-20 head fountain machines and added bigger cappuccino machines, ice cream machines and iced coffee.
In the last two years, Casey’s has debuted Buffalo wings and flat bread pizza. Its bakery includes an array of fresh-made doughnuts and pastries made in store.
In 2015, Casey’s introduced online ordering and in 2016 the retailer will roll out a new mobile app through which customers can order custom pizza and sandwiches, which is expected to widen its prepared-foods customer base considerably. This year, Casey’s will not only add southern-inspired dishes as it expands in the South, but healthier food options across all regions.
“The thing I’m most proud of is our quality,” Bacon said. “Our quality is a step above the rest. I only have three people that work for me, and I’m proud of the foodservice growth that such a small group of us have been able to achieve in the last 10 years.”