“Success is incremental,” he says. “When we’re building a store, the first thing you do is ask: What can we do better? What are people looking for? And not just what’s in our box, but … how can we save people time and money for their families?”
It’s not a simple recipe. Every ingredient and every new sandwich costs out into a complicated series of automated line items and reports, Cushman says. Often a simple change can affect an entire cost projection.
That’s what makes the act of creativity daring. In 2011, MacDougall hired executive chefs from different backgrounds to provide input and initiate a made-at-the-store home-meal replacement program [CSP—Nov. ’11, p. 58]. He gave it parameters, the biggest being a $6.99 price and the basic composition of an entrée and two sides. Sales have been promising, but one of the more interesting lessons is that variety is key. Customers look for changes in the menu and respond accordingly.
It’s the kind of detail that challenges a major foodservice veteran such as Cushman, but in turn will surprise and delight the customer.
Distribution is another hurdle, with MacDougall calling it a complicated question of how many times a truck delivers and the number of stops it makes. But ultimately, Nice N Easy is not in that business, he concedes. It’s a logistics issue that falls back again to nurturing partnerships.
“There are people out there who have commissaries that can do things for us,” he says. “They can make products exclusive to Nice N Easy, and that’s another avenue we can explore [further].”
For now, ingredients for the products it makes in its stores are sourced via area suppliers. For its newest stores carrying produce, the company hired an individual with grocery experience to keep those categories stocked and fresh.
The direction lends itself to other discussions, such as hiring a dietitian, says MacDougall: “It’s one of the many ideas we have up in the air.”
Probably one of the more continuous themes in MacDougall’s story is the idea of a legacy. It’s here where, again, talk goes to core values and what he’s made of.