“More than ever, I truly believe that food is our future,” said NACS 2015-16 Chairman Jack Kofdarali during his speech in Wednesday’s NACS Show general session.
But, he cautioned that while all signs are pointing toward food as the industry’s future, it won’t happen without work.
“We’re going to have to fight for customers in an already crowded marketplace,” said Kofdarali, who also serves as president of Corona, Calif.-based J&T Management Inc., which operates stores in Southern California. “We’re also going to have to tell our story and correct misperceptions about our offer. And we’re going to have to address an increasingly long list of regulations that stand in our way—whether related to food or our other products.”
He said that it is eye-opening to travel from California to the East Coast—and Europe—and see so many retailers executing at a very high level with food. “Their focus is not just on food made fast, but on food that is really good—both in taste and in quality,” said Kofdarali. “And here’s the most important thing: It’s making them money.”
Kofdarali shared regional breakout data from the NACS State of the Industry Report of 2015 Data that showed how high prepared food sales also push the sales of other items higher. “Prepared foods is bringing in more customers, and retailers are selling more food and other items,” he said.
“Over the past few years, especially during my time as NACS chairman, I have seen the future of retail,” said Kofdarali, citing excellence in merchandising and branding, new concepts and fresh ideas. “But that future also isn’t guaranteed—even if we have the smartest business plans and the best execution—because there is one other element that affects our business—and that is regulation.”
Kofdarali shared a few examples of regulations in his home state of California, from potential tobacco bans to warning labels on bottled water or fuel dispensers, to a litany of fuel-related regulations.
But, he warned, what’s happening in California is not happening in isolation. He said that just as weather patterns move west to east, so do regulations—especially those emitting from California.
There is no way any one company can ride out these legislative and regulatory storms moving east, but there is good news, he noted. “NACS really serves as your umbrella to protect you, whether it’s bringing together our industry to speak as one voice on Capitol Hill, or telling our positive story through our reFresh initiative—especially around food and nutrition.”
And NACS is also working to address these regulatory and legislative storms before they get too big—but taking them on at the local level. “Our NACS In-Store events bring elected leaders to stores in their community so that we can show them the positive impact that we have in their districts—and the negative impact bad legislation has on our businesses,” he said.
And NACS is continuing that outreach by working even more with the state associations that address local issues. “After all, we can’t take on all the issues we face by ourselves,” he stressed.
Kofdarali said that he is very optimistic about the industry’s future and the role that NACS plays in shaping that future. “If there is anything I have learned this past year, it is that we have a great story to tell—about how we make a difference in communities and about how we are great places to start a career—or start a business,” he concluded.
The NACS Show is the premier event of the year for the convenience and fuel retailing industry. More than 20,000 attendees from 60-plus countries are at the 2016 NACS Show in Atlanta, which features four days of general sessions, more than 60 education sessions and more than 1,200 exhibiting companies in a nearly 410,000 net-square-foot expo.