The convenience hotbed will be the host city for Convenience Store News' 2022 Convenience Foodservice Exchange event.
By: Don Longo Editorial Director
SAVANNAH, GA. — Registration is now open for the 2022 Convenience Foodservice Exchange, to be hosted by Convenience Store News in Savannah this June.
Savannah is consistently included on lists of both the most affordable U.S. cities and great places to retire. A healthy economy, relatively low cost of living and a warm coastal climate have made Savannah a relocation hub for thousands of people who moved there during the pandemic — and a hotbed of convenience retail competition.
"We consider Savannah to be America's most beautiful city," said Greg Parker, founder and CEO of Parker's Convenience Stores, which operates 25 of its 69 convenience stores in the Savannah metropolitan area. "People who were planning to retire here in the future have decided to fast-track their plans during the pandemic, plus a number of professionals who can work from home are choosing Savannah as their home base. They're attracted by the incredible quality of life here, the strong sense of community, and the remarkable natural beauty of coastal Georgia."
Savannah is also one of the most walkable cities in the United States, which makes it perfect for the food tours and other excursions planned for the 2022 Convenience Foodservice Exchange, which will take place June 21-22.
Brett Giesick, president of locally based Enmarket, which also has a solid market penetration with 10 stores in the city limits and 63 of its 129 stores in the Savannah designated market area, pointed out that historic downtown Savannah has been transformed into a booming entertainment destination with the February opening of Enmarket Arena. The 9,500-seat arena is ushering in a new era of music, sports and entertainment experiences for southern Georgia. As the home of the ECHL Savannah Ghost Pirates, the city will see a surge of new interest in hockey and other sporting events, he predicts.
Enmarket is no stranger to the convenience foodservice business.
"Of our 63 area stores, only 18 do not have foodservice," said Giesick, "and most of those are small kiosk locations. We have 20 locations with The Eatery [Enmarket's proprietary foodservice format], 18 locations have Eatery Express grab-and-go, and an additional six locations feature branded QSR or fast-casual dining options."
All Enmarket prototype stores include either The Eatery or have the option to partner with a franchise brand. Chainwide, Enmarket has a foodservice offering in 84 stores.
The retailer just completed a significant expansion project. "Newly installed foodservice equipment and, in some cases, major store remodels allowed us to expand our Eatery offering to 30 additional stores, either in the form of a full Eatery or a limited grab-and-go Eatery Express," said Giesick. Food is always prepared daily in each store.
In 2020, Enmarket captured CSNews' Foodservice Innovator to Watch award. That same year, Ryan Krebs joined Enmarket as its foodservice director, coming from York, Pa.-based Rutter's. He has been instrumental in the company's foodservice growth, introducing a DSD whole fruit program and adding new foodservice positions: a roving general manager for five restaurant concepts, and two foodservice quality assurance and training coordinators. He also spearheaded the rebranding of Enmarket's coffee cups, hot dog carriers, doughnut boxes, fried chicken boxes and roller-grill tags, and upgraded label printer technology at the chain's foodservice locations.
Another selling point for Savannah is its positioning as the Hostess City of the South. The Port of Savannah is the fourth-busiest seaport in the U.S. In January 2022, the port recorded 12 consecutive months of record growth. Savannah's superior location provides vital links to U.S. and international markets through two Class I railroads and interstates 95 and 16, which can reach key cities throughout the nation in one- to two-day drives.
"We've built two new travel centers and completed a major remodel of another within the last couple of years, all positioned on highways with heavy traffic going to and from the ports," Giesick shared. "These sites include trucker supplies, sit-down restaurants, showers, scales, and other truck driver services."
He also noted that Enmarket has invested heavily in technology over the last few years to meet the ever-changing expectations of customers, especially the younger generations that are such an important part of the Savannah population. Indeed, the theme of this year's Convenience Foodservice Exchange happens to be "Strategies to Meet Consumers' Changing Expectations of Convenience."
"The Enmarket mobile app is an ecosystem where customers can scan and pay for items, pay for fuel, redeem digital coupons, and much more — all integrated with our Enjoy Rewards loyalty program," said Giesick.
Enmarket recently partnered with PayPal/Venmo to accept these methods of payments. The company is also in the process of adding self-checkout registers to 46 locations.
"We're extremely excited about the future for Enmarket in Savannah," said Giesick. "The population influx and logistics boom in the area will support new store growth for many years to come. We continue to look for ways to diversify our services and offerings, including but not limited to car washes and foodservice."
EXCITED OVER FUTURE GROWTH
The Savannah market continues to grow and be extremely attractive to Parker's as well, which was honored as CSNews' Foodservice Leader of the Year in 2018.
The city has the hottest industrial market in the nation with millions of square feet currently under construction. The region, home to close to one million people, also has a skilled workforce that includes more than 4,000 military transitioning to the civil sector each year. This, plus 72,000 students across 17 area colleges and universities, is fueling a talented workforce in industries ranging from creative and technical services to advanced manufacturing to healthcare technology.
"We've been successful in Savannah because we have a powerful, unwavering commitment to high-quality foodservice, customer service and to giving back to the community," said Parker. "Our customers know they can enjoy freshly prepared, Southern-inspired food at Parker's Kitchen, that our team members are top-notch, and that our restrooms are the cleanest in the industry."
Parker's plans to open 85 new stores over the next four years. The company's growth plan calls for the opening 15, 20 and 25 new stores, respectively, in each of the next four years. Anticipated openings for 2022 include:
- Bees Ferry in Charleston in August;
- Bluffton Parkway at Oliver Court in Bluffton in August;
- Blue Jay & Highway 17 in Effingham County in August;
- DeRenne & White Bluff in Savannah in September; and
- College Park in Charleston in September.
Parker, who was inducted into the CSNews Hall of Fame in 2020, has been nurturing and growing an exceptional team of relatively new leaders at the company, including Parker's Kitchen President Brandon Hofmann, who recently celebrated his 25th anniversary with the company and is considered the "heart and soul" of Parker's. Hofmann originally joined the chain in 1997 as a third-shift customer service representative and, during his career at Parker's, has managed operations, marketing strategy and foodservice.
Earlier this year, Parker's hired Ted Sadowski III, the former director of operations at QuickChek Corp., as vice president of operations. He is responsible for overseeing all aspects of Parker's retail store operations, leading and motivating team members, optimizing operational processes and systems, serving as a brand ambassador, and enhancing productivity as well as customer service.
Additionally, Chief Financial Officer Brian Prevatt, who is also president of Parker's Support, is a "rock star" who is helping the company grow strategically and thoughtfully, according to Parker. Prevatt manages finance, financial planning, legal compliance, human resources, technology, innovation, procurement and loss prevention.
Eric Jones is chief innovation officer, working to make sure the company uses cutting-edge predictive analytics and machine learning to optimize operations. He led the implementation of the Smart Kitchen at Parker's locations across Georgia and South Carolina.
Parker's also hired Katie Kerney, a former Marriott HR executive, as its chief people officer in 2021. An award-winning professional, Kerney brings 24 years of experience in human resources and talent development to the position.
Chief Development Officer John Rudolfs came to Parker's from MAPCO, where he managed growth strategy for the Tennessee-based convenience retailer. An executive leader with a strong cross-functional management background and a former U.S. Navy officer, Rudolfs is responsible for the growth and overall network-development strategy of Parker's.
In addition to tours of Parker's and Enmarket stores, the seventh-annual Convenience Foodservice Exchange will explore the ways retailers are reviving their foodservice sales in the new normal. Topics to be discussed include:
- What kitchen upgrades give you the best return on investment;
- Dealing with supply chain challenges;
- How menu innovation can drive foodservice growth;
- Getting the right mix of grab-and-go and made-to-order;
- The new essentials of food safety; and
- Online ordering, home delivery and drive-thru best practices.
As in previous years, the 2022 program will include the presentation of CSNews' annual Foodservice Innovators Awards, as well as the highly praised Power Hour of one-on-one business meetings among attendees.
Attendance is by invitation only. Convenience store retailers may request an invite from CSNews Editorial Director Don Longo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sponsorships are available for suppliers and solutions providers. For more information on sponsorship opportunities, contact CSNews Brand Director Paula Lashinsky at email@example.com or (917) 446-4117.