Answering the ‘How’

By  Paul Reuter, Chairman emeritus and contributing editor

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Personally it was a treat for me last month to attend the annual NACS® State of the Industry Summit and be part of the record-breaking attendance. It does not seem like 14 years ago when a few of us at CSP sat around and invented the SOI conference. I recall asking the CEO of NACS at the time, Kerley LeBoeuf, if we could have the industry data hot off the press. We began that year with about 20 industry pioneers in a DC hotel. Our goal was to answer the question, “What does the data mean and what action should we take to grow our business?” The meeting grew each year. Eight years ago we partnered directly with NACS, and today we are the event’s exclusive media partner. I hope you will enjoy CSP’s 2010 NACS® State of the Industry Special Issue to be distributed later this month. But the question remains the same: What does the data mean and what action should we take to grow our business?

By now the major themes from the conference have been distributed:

  • Our industry is clearly recessionresistant. In-store sales are up 5%, and “flat” in other categories is the new “up.”
  • High unemployment is a mixed bag.
  • Fuel-margin volatility is our friend.
  • Tobacco is back.
  • Foodservice still offers opportunity, but how?
  • Focus on generating cash.

Both CSP and NACS will be providing much more coverage of the data presented at the NACS State of the Industry Summit in the issues and months ahead.

This past week I attended another major, record-breaking—nearly 1,400 attendees—conference, CSP’s Restaurant Leadership conference in Scottsdale, Ariz. I could not help but focus on Yum Brands COO Emil Brolick’s very descriptive view about the fight ahead by all retailers for share of stomach: Walgreens with 7,000 stores getting into fresh food and coffee; Walmart’s and Target’s new efforts; new technology being deployed by the likes of McDonald’s; and much more. It was a very clear but compelling case.

So I thought about the data presented at the NACS State of the Industry Summit. Well, yes, sales were up 5%, but when you factor out tobacco, inside sales were down slightly. So when you read the bullet point that “Foodservice still offers opportunity, but how?” and then think about Brolick’s comments, I would suggest our industry needs to really step it up, and in a hurry. One “how” would be for you to consider joining CSP June 28–30 in Chicago at our Foodservice At Retail Exchange (FARE). Now in its third year, FARE features dynamic speakers, strong networking, our trademarked Trend Translations and information exchange for the asking. Produced in tandem with Fare magazine, our Foodservice at Retail Exchange gathers retailers from across the spectrum of channels that provide food for the on-the-go consumer. There is no other industry event that comes close to offering an answer to “how.” (For more information, visit www.foodserviceatretail.com.)

CSP keeps investing in answering the “how.” Last month we purchased the magazines Restaurant Business and Food- Service Director and their accompanying Web sites and conferences.

We are committed to being the leading information, conference and publishing company in the industry.

My belief is our broad foodservice product portfolio will do all it can to answer this industry’s “how” question by not only drawing on the success of c-stores but also learning from the spectrum of so many fighting for this share of stomach.  

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