Q&A: Ryan Krebs on a Fresh Beginning With Enmarket
Veteran foodservice retailer tells CSP about his new role, what he looks forward to
SAVANNA, Ga. — Convenience-store retailer Enmarket Inc. earlier this month officially named Ryan Krebs, former director of foodservice for Rutter’s, as its director of food and beverage.
Krebs joined York, Pa.-based Rutter’s in 2013 as a restaurant manager before becoming the company’s director of foodservice in 2015. At Rutter’s, Krebs helped the convenience-store retailer win two CSP-Intouch Insight Mystery Shop victories and implement trend-setting items such as plant-based burgers.
Now with Enmarket, Krebs looks forward to a new journey in a new market. CSP spoke with Krebs about this opportunity, what brought on the change and what his foodservice goals with Enmarket include.
- Enmarket, based in Savannah, Ga., operates 125 convenience stores in Georgia. The chain is No. 55 on CSP’s 2019 Top 202 ranking of c-store chains by total number of company-owned retail outlets.
Talk to me about your new role at Enmarket. Is it similar to what you were doing at Rutter's?
It certainly has overarching similarities: overseeing the restaurants, food production, menu development and research and development, coffee, fountain and frozen carbonated beverage, the cold and hot grab-and-go cases. The top c-store operators in the country are ultra-focused on a food-centric culture driven by someone who has a strong foodservice background, executive leadership and sometimes even a culinary degree. In order to separate oneself as an industry leader, the top companies are carving out their own identity via foodservice experts in key positions.
What sparked your change? Were you just looking for a new challenge?
The change was ignited by a passion to take a program that has a great foundation in foodservice but is focused on becoming a top-tier food destination in the Southeastern United States. I'm a guy who loves new challenges, and I was quickly convinced that Enmarket is committed to achieving next-level status. Enmarket’s foundation is incredibly solid, and being able to implement my skill set and decades of foodservice experience will provide what I’m passionate about to achieve those goals.
Speaking of bringing Enmarket's foodservice operations to the next level, do you have any concrete goals as 2020 gets underway?
Streamlining programs and processes are key, since [Enmarket] is in acquisition and overall growth mode. We’re making beautiful stores out of existing properties that we’ve acquired and building state-of-the-art new locations. The look, feel, professionalism, quality and friendliness of the employees, the Southern hospitality … is all there. But really, for me, it's tying all of that together and being able to develop a brand identity anchored in quality, consistent food offers and streamlining foodservice in general. Making stores feel similar from a foodservice perspective can be a challenge as, particularly in acquisitions, every single store can't be cookie-cutter. But my goal is to make sure that when you walk into an Enmarket, you'd say, "I was at an Enmarket three hours away and I still feel the same synergy within the store, and the foodservice offer is something I can’t find anywhere else."
Over the past few months, you and I have spoken quite a bit about plant-based meats. You even helped implement a plant-based burger at Rutter's. Is this something you're already looking at for Enmarket down the road?
Time will tell. [Enmarket] has a healthy and fresh focus both in retail and in their foodservice offers, but I can't say at this time that plant-based will be part of the portfolio. But it's certainly something that I'll consider. I think the alternative-protein focus is relevant to a certain degree in any market.
Labor has been the fly that won't leave c-store foodservice operators alone. It's so hard to not only find qualified kitchen staff but also to retain those employees. Do you have a strategy coming into Enmarket on finding qualified staff and retaining them?
Sure. It's a great question. It’s a challenge for all operators and, unfortunately, there’s no magic potion. At Enmarket, I'm evaluating how we can make things easier and more efficient for our staff. Making sure that our processes are easy to execute and are easily trainable is key. I think the more complicated you get with your foodservice programs, the harder it is to retain staff. Leveraging manufacturers with quality, easy-to-execute products and implementing technology that works within the operation to alleviate some of the pain points associated with, say, temperature monitoring, food labeling or fryer filtering can bring ease to the store-level team. Anything that you can do to take some of that weight off an employee is key to establishing a core program. The easier to learn and apply, making staff confident within their role, I’m convinced can result in a better opportunity for retention. Secondly, culture is critical. And Enmarket prides itself in being a family, something I’ve experienced since day one. When that is transferred to each store and employee, the desire to work for a company that cares and values each individual goes a long way to keeping staff on board.
What is one project or one thing about working with Enmarket that you are really looking forward to?
I think the most exciting piece for me is to be in a place that I'll be able to look back and see us on the leaderboard in foodservice across the country. I’m convinced that Enmarket will be a go-to destination for food whenever anyone hits our footprint. I wholeheartedly believe that, and it's not just me as the food guy; it’s the entire Enmarket team. The passion for food and the programs that are already in place are a strong foundation. I’m excited to be part of the journey with a vision that says, "This is where we want to be, we’ve aligned all the pieces to achieve it and here’s how we’re going to get there. Now let’s go get it done."