The Young Executives Organization (YEO)’s sixth annual conference took place May 1-2 in Springfield, Mo.
John Lofstock, executive director of YEO and the National Advisory Group (NAG) welcomed more than 55 young convenience store and petroleum industry executives to the conference Wednesday morning, following a volunteer team-building project Tuesday in partnership with Habitat for Humanity.
McLane hosted the educational sessions, and provided tours of the McLane Ozark Distribution Center in Republic, Mo. The 370,000-square-foot warehouse features a geo-thermal cooling system — the largest in the U.S., is completely automated and offers end-to-end distribution that integrates robotics. It distributes more than 17,000 SKUs to 1,750 retail stores in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, and makes more than 141,000 annual deliveries.
“We held the first five conferences at convenience store chains,” said Lofstock. “This is the first time we’ve gone off-site, and I think the McLane Ozark Distribution Center is the ideal place to do that.”
The educational sessions began Wednesday morning, and included presentations on artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and data mining. Thursday began with two additional sessions — foodservice safety and leadership — and ended with tours of top convenience stores in the Springfield, Mo. market.
YEO Day Two
The first of the two Thursday sessions was presented by Dr. Nancy Caldarola, president of The Food Training Group. She spoke about foodservice safety for convenience stores, noting that one in six Americans becomes sick from foodborne illness every year.
She said that hand-washing is one of the most important steps in food safety, citing the ABC Model.
In the ABC Model, a c-store manager explains the importance of handwashing and demonstrates the proper technique. The manager should praise employees and coach or reinforce when hand washing is needed.
Caldarola also emphasized the importance of having “a crisis plan” for when things go wrong, such as when a product is recalled.
“Have the latest food [safety] code — not just the one required in your state,” she said. “Then you are always in compliance with everything.”
Linda McKenna, principal of Employee Performance Strategies Inc., conducted a workshop on what it means to be a leader in the c-store industry and beyond.
She instructed the young executives to write down three actionable steps to improve upon their own leadership skills going forward.
“Leadership is about how you behave,” said McKenna. “We can all be good leaders.”
After the educational sessions, the YEO group toured top convenience stores in the area: Kum & Go, Signal Food Stores, Casey’s, Macadoodles and Farm2Counter.
At the Kum & Go store, which opened only a week ago, the group was greeted by leadership including the store manager and the area supervisor. Barry Green, who supervises 15 Kum & Go locations, said the company plans to convert all its stores to the new model, which features a beer cave, pizza by the slice and fresh-brewed coffee.
The coffee, he said, is especially popular, noting that the house blend is the best seller.
“People drive across town for this coffee,” he said.
Next up, The Signal Food Stores, whose location also featured modern design and a wide variety of foodservice options, including Hank’s Chicken, Fish and More and a Quiznos in-house.
The third c-store on the tour, Casey’s, is known for its pizza — and this location had several by-the-slice varieties, including classics like cheese or sausage, as well as Philly cheesesteak.
At Macadoodles, the tour’s fourth stop, wine tasting is offered daily.
Kim Lorenzen, who owns the shop with her husband, said both the alcohol and the alcohol accessories like novelty wine glasses, coasters and stoppers, make great gifts. And because they offer wine by the glass at retail prices as well as ample seating, customers often make Macadoodles their first (or only) stop on a night out.
Lastly, the group visited Farm2Counter. Owners Paul and Ashley Allen connect farmers to customers with their selection of local, fresh food. Weekly meal-kits compiled in-store feature fresh produce, goods and recipes. About 80% of the ingredients are locally sourced.
Farm2Counter is also home to the only organic soda fountain and the only organic slushes in the state, and its beer cooler exclusively holds craft beer from small Missouri breweries, with 120 local options.
Until Next Year
YEO’s mission is to cultivate young talent in the convenience store and petroleum industry through education and networking.
Membership in YEO provides young executives with an opportunity to network with other NAG members and influential industry leaders. It also gives them a platform to express their ideas, leadership abilities and vision for the future of convenience retailing.
At the end of this year’s conference, Lofstock encouraged all attendees to submit feedback to ensure next year’s YEO conference will be the best one yet.
In the meantime, the 2019 NAG conference will take place September 8-11 in Minneapolis. Those interested in attending should visit nagconvenience.com.