As a comparison, top-quartile companies average $400,000 per store per year in foodservice, while bottom-quartile companies average $120,000, according to the NACS State of the Industry (SOI) Survey of 2012 data.
SOI data has foodservice at about 16% of in-store sales and 27% of in-store gross-profit margin. Nice N Easy’s goals are easily double that.
“We’re always trying to better serve the customer and differentiate ourselves,” says MacDougall. “This [current] concept leaves the competition in the dust. They won’t try it.”
Zest, ‘Guests,’ Harley Vest
Recounting his early days in the industry, MacDougall says understanding the customer and differentiating the offer were always underlying currents. He recalls early on how his formats took on a pantry-style model (hence “Grocery Shoppes” in the store’s name), with an extended grocery line and foodservice on a limited basis. Some stores were even as big as 4,000 square feet. But disruptive forces, including major oil’s entrance into convenience and tax-free gas and cigarette sales on Native American reservation lands, were always keeping MacDougall nimble and ready to redefine his format.
Here’s where the beer comes in.
MacDougall’s penchant for imagining what doesn’t exist is alluring. It’s a tantalizing trait, say numerous colleagues. And more often than not, these manic episodes of creativity are fueled by beer.
“He’d call me up and say, ‘Meet me at the Columbia [restaurant and bar] to have a few beers,’ and most of our good decisions were made over beers,” says Duskiewicz, who in the 1980s swapped his passion for a teaching career to work with the charismatic MacDougall. “[Sometimes] it seemed like he was yelling, venting his frustration, talking about opportunities. … [He helped me] realize I had the opportunity to try to create programs that would take … problems and fix them.”
MacDougall’s passion for Nice N Easy comes as a sharp contrast to his professed desire to be known as a nice guy.
And he is nice. He’s extremely accessible and genuine to customers (now called “guests” in the company’s increasingly sophisticated foodservice mindset), co-workers, competitors, even reporters.