Operators: Here Are 10 Reasons To Be Thankful

Nov. 21, 2018

The positive vibe at the Coffee, Tea & Water show is a good reminder that coffee service, vending and micro market operators have plenty of reasons to be thankful. 

Be thankful that it isn’t the 1990’s.

That’s when we learned to never say “never.” Vending operators saw a significant portion of their revenue wiped away when cigarette vending was essentially outlawed. My company sold off some beverage and snack routes to survive and eventually, started a coffee service company that worked out well for us. Others were not as fortunate. Almost as devastating for many – the ban on snacks and carbonated soft drinks in schools. Great accounts for operators and literally hundreds of thousands of dollars in commissions, badly needed by school athletic departments – lost forever. 

Be thankful for our diverse offerings. 

Today – despite threats of new regressive taxes and endless nutritional issues, our industry has no guillotine blade hanging over it. In fact, our image is better than ever. Yes, we can deliver traditional soda, candy and snacks, but we are also purveyors of healthy snacks, fresh fruit, organic products, dairy and are positioned to offer customized refreshment programs that are driven by client needs. 

Be thankful for low unemployment. 

As challenging as it is to find and retain quality employees, the low unemployment rate is contributing directly to sales for operators of coffee service, vending and micro markets. If you were in business during the Great Recession – 2007 to 2009, when unemployment popped over 10 percent, you know exactly what I’m talking about. 

Be thankful for Google Pay Per Click Advertising. 

Google offers a simple solution for generating significant amounts of warm (sometimes hot) leads every month. Yes, you may pay $5, $6 or even more per lead, but so what? If you are looking to grow your business, Google AdWords is the best value on earth. 

Be thankful for industry consolidation. 

While the seemingly endless flow of acquisitions in the convenience services industry isn’t the best news for national or the state associations, it’s great news for operators. Your business is in demand. You can actually plan and execute an exit strategy. If you choose to stay and operate, the competition is thinning out and the small to medium sized operator enjoys a nice competitive advantage against the giant competitors – especially with customers who demand the highest level of service. 

Be thankful for the price of coffee. 

Coffee prices are at historic lows. I keep saying that it can’t last forever, but I am starting to wonder. This is terrible for coffee farmers, but it makes life easy for operators who are enjoying high margins and do not have to explain price increases (often month after month) to skittish customers. The right thing to do right now: Whenever possible buy the highest quality beans that are available and focus on products that promote pricing support that farmers can live with. Make Fair Trade available to your clients and make sure that they understand what Fair Trade means. 

Be thankful for NAMA, the NAMA Show & CTW. 

As an industry, we are blessed to have a well-established, completely focused industry association. From education to legislative action, NAMA provides support on so many levels for operators and suppliers. The NAMA Show and CTW are well run industry conventions that are packed with opportunity for operators – from education, to product knowledge to networking. These are two events that every operator should attend. If you aren’t a NAMA member – then you really can’t be serious about succeeding as an operator. 

Be thankful for ELN – The emerging leader’s network. 

The fact that our industry has young talent moving into leadership positions is a very healthy sign for the future. We have seen many ELN members move into key roles in every sector of the industry. These young pros understand the changing needs of our clients. If you have a talented young employee on your management team, get them involved in ELN and watch them learn from their peers. It will be good for the future of your company and the industry. 

Be thankful for micro markets. 

In terms of serving top locations, micro markets are the present and the future of office refreshment. The convenience services industry is poised to capitalize on this incredible opportunity, but only if we treat these prized locations as something other than a vending machine. We need to be sure that the offerings are well beyond what vending traditionally offers, from both a quality and selection standpoint. Amazon is moving into the business with AmazonGo (thousands of locations are planned) and be assured, if we drop the ball as operators, Amazon will be there, along with other c-store operators, ready to fill the void in our best locations. Get rid of the white bread vending sandwiches. Be creative. 

Be thankful for pantry service. 

For operators, is there anything better than pantry service? When a client is demanding nothing but a great selection of beverages and snacks and plenty of it on the shelves at all times – this is the joy of operating. Never stop suggesting new products. Never stop suggesting new equipment. “Over service” the locations. For the pantry service client, variety is key. Never running out of product is key. Of course, at some point, the client will ask for better pricing. This is the inevitable result of doing a brilliant job of operating a pantry location. Keep that in mind when you set your initial pricing structure. 

Of course, none of this prosperity matters without good health and loving people in your life. I am thankful for both and I hope you can be too. Happy Thanksgiving - 2018!