Scaling up a pantry services operation – from a client’s perspective

June 13, 2023
In this session from the 2023 NAMA Show, Kimberly Lenz of Associated Services Company and Linda Saldana of Seventh Wave Refreshments brought in three clients to provide an inside perspective of what they are looking for in a pantry service program.

In this NAMA education session, “Scaling Up a Pantry Services Operation: A Client’s Perspective,” Kimberly Lenz, the director of sales and procurement at Associated Services Company, and Linda Saldana, CEO of Seventh Wave Refreshments, brought in three clients — Theron Thackery, manager of workplace and real estate, Flexiport; Tim Bright, general manager of Elevance Health’s Atlanta campus; and Anthony Myers, facilities manager at Paypal — to provide an inside perspective of what the client is looking for in a pantry service program and their thought process when selecting a pantry service operator.

This article is part of a series from Automatic Merchandiser and that recaps some of the sessions from the 2023 NAMA Show. Check out Automatic Merchandiser’s Vending & OCS Nation podcast, hosted by Bob Tullio, for more comments on the education sessions.

What makes for a successful food and beverage program?

Anthony Myers, facilities manager at Paypal, said he wants a provider to offer the latest and greatest products that are in demand. “A provider for me is someone who can manage the whole process and take the weight off my shoulders,” he said.

Theron Thackery, manager of workplace and real estate at Flexiport, wants a supplier that understands his priorities and program needs. “It’s important to have a partner who agrees with your vision of the workplace. We need to have visons that align,” explained Thackery.

Tim Bright, general manager of Elevance Health’s Atlanta campus, said that a refreshment program should elevate the social experience in every way in the workplace. “We want a partner that is flexible and innovative. If you have the same thing every day, the associates get bored very quickly,” said Bright.

Linda Saldana, CEO of Seventh Wave Refreshments, acknowledged the perspectives offered by Myers, Thackery and Bright. “We do a lot of communicating with the client when we are in the process of setting up a pantry program,” she said.

Kimberly Lenz, the director of sales and procurement at Associated Services Company, voiced agreement with Saldana. “Programs need to be very collaborative – that is a key component,” said Lenz.

What makes for a poor experience with a provider?

All the facility managers pointed to lack of trust as a major negative issue and provided some specific examples.

  • Is the vendor delivering the right amount of products? Too much or too little is a problem.
  • Is the pricing clear or are there price changes going on that are unknown?
  • Will the vendor show up on time?
  • Will the level of service be consistent?

Bright added that instead of saying no to a request or refusing to work on an issue, the question from the supplier should be, how can we solve this?

Employee requests

The client group made it clear that they were interested in getting feedback from their employees. “We have a very robust suggestion box, because we want to get feedback on everything,” said Bright. “We also have a set of community managers who function like concierges, and they also collect a lot of feedback.”

Thackery noted that if his company accommodated all of their requests, “We would go from 25 selections to 125 and people respect that.” He added that substituting products – bringing in one product for another, seems to work well.

Importance of wellness

As a health insurance provider, Bright’s company is focused on having the “the healthiest account of all of our national account customers, so wellness and food became a big part of that strategy,” he said. “We have relaxed it a little, but it is still very health oriented. We have a fully subsidized model, which helps.”

On offering a large selection of healthy products, Thackery said that you don’t want the selections to feel like punishment. “Balance is the key, and it can be met, but it takes a lot of experimentation.”

From a wellness standpoint, Myers said the program they have now is not exactly where they want it to be, but they are always looking for the healthiest options and making the best product selections they can.

“As an operator, we have to do our best to maintain balance,” said Lenz, adding that many companies that were wellness focused before, are now mostly interested in doing whatever they can to get people back to the office.


For Myers at PayPal, sustainability is important. “For us, we ask, is it recyclable, is it biodegradable, do we want to bring a product in if it is producing waste? Compostable and recyclable is a big driver for us,” he said.

“We are not on the forefront of sustainability in Atlanta,” said Thackery. He added that energy use is an important priority along with supporting local companies. “Our sustainability has to do with helping local companies sustain their business. To us, that is sustainability.”

“It’s a focus, but a journey,” said Bright. “We are phasing out bottled water. We are working on it.”


Budget is a big issue when it comes to maintaining a pantry service program. Myers said that while he is ultimately responsible for staying on budget, he looks to his supplier for support.

Bright said the budget is always being evaluated. “Costs are going up as people return to the office, but food is a critical aspect of the workplace experience.”

“You have to guide clients on budget and explain that if a product really takes off, this is what it is going to cost,” said Saldana. “You have to let clients know the reality of what things will cost.”

Ultimately, the clients and the operators all agreed that cooperation, partnership, collaboration, communication and flexibility is essential in terms of the relationship between the operator and the pantry service client – especially during this challenging hybrid workplace environment.


Bob Tullio is a content specialist, speaker, sales trainer, consultant and contributing editor of Automatic Merchandiser/ He advises entrepreneurs on how to build a successful business from the ground up and specializes in helping suppliers connect with operators in the convenience services industry – coffee service, vending, micro markets and pantry service specifically. 

Subscribe to Automatic Merchandiser's podcast, Vending & OCS Nation, hosted by Tullio and designed to make your business more profitable.

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Tullio delivers this promise to any company that hires him for a 30-minute or 1-hour Zoom call: "One short session with me will elevate the performance of your sales team.”


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