By Erin Rigik Del Conte, Senior Editor
In December 2016, Jennifer Vespole, director of food service, celebrated her 29th anniversary with Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based QuickChek (QC), which operates 148 c-stores in New Jersey and New York.
“I have been involved in some capacity in all food and drink initiatives at QC since the early 90s,” she explained.
During her tenure at QC, Vespole gained a front seat as the company developed its foodservice program, and later, the expertise to head the foodservice department, spearheading initiatives such as the launch of Q Café hand crafted drinks in 2013.
Now, CSD recognizes Vespole as a 2017 Front-runner in Foodservice for her contributions to convenience store foodservice.
GROWING WITH THE TIMES
In her current role as director of food service, Vespole leads a team of five employees responsible for creating the food-and-drink offering at QC, as well as managing the sales and profits for all fresh food and dispensed beverages.
Her team is responsible for sourcing all ingredients and packaging, as well as developing the processes and job aides necessary to execute the programs. They are also involved in training the operations team on these programs and taking photo shoots for menu and advertising materials.
“We also maintain the content for the computer touchscreens and kitchen monitors, as well as the host files with all of the product information that produces the data that help us manage the business,” she said.
In her almost 30 years at the company, Vespole has been involved in a number of foodservice initiatives from experimenting with branded quick-service restaurants in the late 1980s and early 1990s—“we learned a lot and decided branded foodservice was our best option”—to introducing mobile ordering for the full food and drink menu in 2016.
“We know how important all digital and mobile engagement is to the growth of our business,” Vespole said of mobile ordering. QC did extensive internal testing and first offered a limited menu on the app before rolling out the rest of the program.
QC’s entire made-to-order menu is now available via the mobile app. The average basket is slightly higher on mobile orders than on QC’s in-store touchscreens. “Our IT department and our digital manager were on point and really made this program launch a success,” she said.
Today, QC is renowned for its fresh foodservice program, which features custom-made oven-toasted subs, wraps and salads and fresh baked goods from an in-store bakery and award-winning, fresh-brewed coffee.
Vespole was involved in the initial launch of QC’s Toasted Subs using impinger ovens in 1996. The chain later incorporated the Turbo Chef oven. “This has been tremendous in further developing our menu and giving us the ability to incorporate great limited time offers,” she said.
Over the years, QC worked tirelessly to expand and improve its food offering. “In 2006, we introduced our customer touchscreens, which helped build sales by double digits a couple of years in a row,” Vespole said.
Vespole worked for QC part-time doing data processing while in college. After graduation she planned to go into advertising in New York City, but as she was interviewing for positions a job opened in marketing at QC. “I interviewed and found the opportunity intriguing,” Vespole said.
In 2011, she was promoted to director of food service, a newly-created job function in the organization.
Out of all of her responsibilities as director of foodservice, Vespole enjoys menu development the most. “I love the creativity involved in the process. We approach this very collaboratively amongst the team, as well as involving our key vendor partners,” she said.
However, it is her connections with colleagues that Vespole finds most valuable.
“I am most proud of the team of individuals that work with me,” Vespole said. “Choosing the right people is essential to the success of any business and, I believe, I have the best of the best.”