First Annual Pros to Know of the Year

Dec. 17, 2014

The first annual Automatic Merchandiser and VendingMarketWatch Pros to Know has arrived. This award recognizes vending, micro market and office coffee service industry professionals who are leading initiatives to help prepare their company, organization and the industry for the significant challenges of today's business climate. This award highlights both individual and group achievements that promote industry innovation and future growth.

Nearly fifty individuals and teams were nominated and less than thirty were chosen to be 2014 Pros to Know. We commend those who were chosen and listed beginning on page XX. We especially would like to draw attention to our first Pros to Know overall winners, Jeff Whitacre of USConnect and Food Express and Cantaloupe Systems.

Criteria for selection included a thorough understanding of the vending, micro market or OCS segments from an operator’s perspective, as well as being an industry member. Nominees had to provide an example of a time they went above and beyond in 2014 to advocate, innovate or educate the industry, comprehensive industry knowledge and experience, leadership characteristics which include but are not limited to forward-thinking, open-mindedness, effective communication and an interest in feedback. Pros to Know is our annual opportunity to recognize outstanding individuals in the vending, micro market and coffee service industry.

Individual Pro of the Year, Jeff Whitacre

Jeff Whitacre, CEO of Food Express located in Greensboro, NC, knows that to be a “pro” in the vending, micro market and coffee service industry, you have to be able to identify challenges and proactively target those challenges with innovation and forward-thinking actions.

“The immediate challenges facing the vending, coffee service and micro market industry center around retooling existing assets and engaging the consumer,” said Whitacre. In order to address these challenges, Whitacre and his employees at Food Express have been installing micro markets, retrofitting existing vending machines and deploying new vending machines to allow for wireless telemetry services, cashless and contactless payment options as well as including healthy option choices for consumers.

Whitacre, however, isn’t solely concerned with the success of his business. Rather, he’s interested in seeing the entire industry thrive and this interest helped him create USConnect in 2013, a coalition of independent vend operations that is focused on industry technological advances, consumer product offerings and strategic supplier relationships. In 2014, Whitacre expanded USConnect services and helped the organization meet several milestones along the way.

In just a year and a half, the coalition gained 42 affiliate members, who now serve 100 U.S. metropolitan areas. More than 100,000 vending machines and 50,000 wirelessly equipped vending machines, along with 1,000 micro markets are connected through the USConnect network, which also produced revenues of more than $500,000,000. USConnect has partnered with other industry companies such as VendScreen and Crane to offer its members cashless and loyalty options and in 2014 it held several technology seminars aimed at educating members with current and future operational challenges and solutions. “We are growing same store sales and helping to teach other operators how to do the same,” said Whitacre.

Pros To Know Team of the Year, Cantaloupe Systems

Challenges are synonymous with opportunity at Cantaloupe Systems. This year the Cantaloupe team noticed that the industry was faced with three primary challenges: business diversification, consumer engagement and employee engagement. “But we viewed them as opportunities for everyone,” said Anant Agrawal, co-founder and CMO of Cantaloupe Systems located in San Francisco, CA. The Cantaloupe Systems team includes Agrawal; Mandeep Arora, co-founder and CEO; Sarah Rankin, COO; Tammy Baker, VP Engineering; Justin Grant, VP of Product; Mark Kronenberg, vice president of VMS; and Igor Schtein, director of engineering, SaaS Solutions, alongside with the increasing 65 person Cantaloupe team.

To meet those challenges, Cantaloupe focused its business efforts on bringing operators a technology and services platform that would offer advanced logistics, analytics and payment applications to a new diversified operating model with the use of cloud and mobile based technologies. And the company wanted their operators to come into the 21st century. “Business software should be intuitive to use, and be available to collaborate with anytime, anywhere,” said Agrawal. In 2014 Cantaloupe Systems took this challenge as an opportunity to invest in a platform that would offer business solutions for cashless, analytics and VMS through the use of mobile devices and online-based applications where information is integrated, available on any device and based on real time information both in the office and in the field.

“We don't just sell technology, we are selling a new business model that is built on the premise that real time information and accurate information is absolutely critical in the evolving automated retail channels,” said Agrawal. “This information should be easily actionable through tools that the new generations are used to using, like cloud and mobile.” He continued, “We spend a considerable amount of time evolving our roadmap and solution set to blend the needs of our customers who are the experts in vending, retail success stories in outside channels, and the best technologies being adopted by the workers of tomorrow, today.”

2014 Individual Pros To Know (Listed alphabetically by company)

Joe Hessling, Chief Executive Officer, 365 Retail Markets

Since 2009 Hessling has been pioneering innovation in the vending industry through his leadership of 365 Retail Markets. Hessling is a serial entrepreneur and an active seed and start-up investor, most notably in Down,, AirVend and QuickLeft. Hessling looks forward to tackling industry challenges such as commissions and low-pricing selling and applying management skills, wisdom and innovation to bring together the best of vending, foodservice and hospitality technology. .

Rinaldo Spinella, Executive Vice President of Strategic Accounts, Apriva

Rinaldo Spinella is a key technologist and driver of much of Apriva’s technological leadership in the industry. He brings more than 40 years of experience in the development of hardware and software products and services in the technology industry to Apriva, and has been awarded 11 patents to date. His latest focus is on incorporating the evolving mobile technology into the vending industry.

Jim Collins, Director of Engineering, Automated Merchandising Systems

With more than 20 years in the vending industry, Collins understands the challenges that the industry faces from regulations being proposed and implemented by agencies at the federal level. Collins is an expert in the energy consumption and refrigeration areas and has spent time educating NAMA's staff on the potential impact of proposed federal regulations on the industry and the manufacturing process of vending machines. His knowledge has allowed NAMA staff to provide comments on proposed regulations that are based in sound science and professional engineering standards.

Elyssa Allahyar-Steiner, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Avanti Markets Inc.

Allahyar-Steiner joined the industry in 2010 and has risen to the position of Avanti Markets Vice President of Sales & Marketing. During that time she has become active in NAMA’s Emerging Leaders Network, NAMA Government Affairs Committee and NAMA Events Committee. Although she works solely in the micro market industry, her industry strategy is to inspire, motivate and encourage operators to be a part of the re-birth of the industry through all segments.

Brad Bachtelle, President, Bachtelle and Associates

With more than 30 years of experience within vending, Bachtelle has extensive experience as a vend operator, vend product distributor and industry consultant. Bachtelle has authored and presented NAMA micro market seminars, both associated with the OneShow and additional regional presentations including state and other association presentations at ACE and CAVC/AAMC meetings. Bachtelle publishes the annual micro market channel census.

Lori Salow Marshall, Founder & Chief Executive Officer, BYNDL, Inc.

Salow Marshall has been instrumental in creating a mobile payment and consumer engagement solution targeted at driving greater interaction between operators and consumers, to enable better service, greater loyalty and a deeper understanding of consumers based on real data. She believes operators need to have common front end mobile app interaction across various machines and services, and common processing and reporting on the back end systems.

Doug Haddon, Global Director and General Manager of Intelligent Vending, Crane Payment Innovations

Haddon began in the vending industry in 1999. For the past 15 years Haddon has been helping to develop and market telemetry technology that is future-proof for operators. With Haddon’s guidance, CPI integrated a redesigned cashless bezel and new digital display screen for a project with Coca-Cola. Haddon’s vision for aligning micro market, OCS and vending is to create a seamless holistic view of all three vending avenues and have the management and accessibility of the data be available in one location, accessible from anywhere.

Glenn Butler, Chief Executive Officer, CTO Services, LLC

Butler was the co-founder of Streamware and VendScreen and today works as a consultant with start-ups and established companies inside and outside the vending, OCS and micro market spaces to help bring new technologies to market. His focus is on C level strategy, mobile and web software development, mobile to mobile technologies, and advanced payment. He believes that In the next few years  vending will have to adopt new technology to enhance the consumer experience during the sale.

Paul Schlossberg, President, DFW Consulting

Paul Schlossberg is a veteran of the food industry, specializing in foodservice. His experience includes assignments in sales and marketing management, new business development, mergers and acquisitions, channel development, and strategic planning. He presents at national, regional and state association meetings on issues and direction  on subjects including how to compete against convenience stores, merchandising and varying product mix.

Nick Yates, Founder, Fresh Healthy Vending International

Yates started his first healthy vending company in Australia in 2002 and founded Fresh Healthy Vending International in the U.S. in 2010. Yates' company has evolved from becoming solely a franchisor of healthy vending machines, to an operator of both healthy vending machines and, now, traditional and healthy micro markets.

Steve Hyde, Owner, Hyde Enterprises

Steve Hyde has been in the coffee service side of the industry for 40 years and has built relationships with many operators helping to get them started and growing their OCS business. Hyde continually helps operators understand the importance of coffee service in the micro market segment and believes this will be a challenge that continues into 2015.

Michael Kasavana, NAMA Endowed Professor, Michigan State University

Dr. Michael Kasavana has been NAMA’s endowed professor for 14 years and since 1999 has developed, delivered and/or moderated numerous sessions at the annual NAMA trade show. He annually delivers a two hour presentation on vending, refreshment and micro market technology as part of the Michigan State University and NAMA joint industry Executive Development Program. Among many other accomplishments, he authored a revised version of the 2014 NAMA Technician Handbook manual used to certify field technicians in the vending industry.

Paresh Patel, Founder & Chief Executive Officer, PayRange

Patel is an award-winning innovator who has designed and developed products that have won an unprecedented five vending industry gold innovation awards, a Connected World award, an American Beverage Association award for Best Technology Innovation and numerous patents. As an innovation and industry leader, Patel saw both a great need and opportunity to improve the vending user experience while solving the payment barrier for machines and therefore founded PayRange.

Joe Gilbert, Vice President & General Manager, VE South LLC

In his 50 years in vending, Gilbert has seen the evolution of machines and the types of products dispensed through vending. In the mid-90's he went to work for Vendors Exchange and established VE South in Fort Lauderdale, FL, to handle Florida, the Caribbean and South America. Gilbert launched Star Food Healthy Express and has helped changed the way kids eat at school. In 2014 Star Food Healthy Express Made its 400th Placement in the U.S.

2014 Team Pros To Know (Listed alphabetically by company)

Five Star Food Service

Team Leader: Alan Recher, President and Chief Executive Officer

Team Members: Gregory McCall, Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing; Jean Bouchard, Chief Financial Officer

Leadership at Five Star Food Service takes proactive and innovative measures to stay ahead of constantly changing industry technology. Their goal is continuous improvement which will lead to a better offering for their customers, so they have built partnerships with cutting-edge companies that provide technology that will help grow their business. To that end they have brought cashless vending to their customer base and have heavily expanded micro market integration to set the stage for future growth within the industry.

LaRue Coffee & Roasterie

Team Leader: Verlyn L’Heureux, Chief Executive Officer & Founder

Team Members: Terry Herr, Vice President Sales & Marketing; Tracy O'Gorman, Vice President Field Operations; Travis O'Gorman, Vice President Roasterie Operations

The coffee industry has been facing a rise in the cost of green coffee, materials and overhead. The LaRue leadership team believes addressing operations is the best course of action. In their own business, the team has spent time re-routing vans to be more efficient and provide better service to clients, increasing productivity in all aspects of the operation including warehouse, shop and machine output at the corporate facility. They have increased the roasterie productivity by 96 percent which has allowed the company the opportunity to bring on new business and now LaRue roasts and packages coffee for over 60 other coffee companies across the U.S.

Mondelez International

Team Leader: Frank Guzzone, Business Development Manager, diji-touch Interactive Vending Machine

Team Members: Paul Schindelar, vice president Vend/OCS; Mike Miller, Senior Director Foodservice; Donald Reonieri, Customer & Consumer Engagement Coordinator; Chuck Kohaut, Associate Manager Information Systems Enterprise; Rose Moda Associate Manager Information Systems Digital Marketing

The Mondelez International team believes the vending industry needs to improve its image as the first place to shop in the retail space. They focused on this belief when they created the diji-touch machine that engages users with advertising, promotions, games and messaging and creates a new experience for consumers.

National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA)

Team Leader: Carla Balakgie, President & Chief Executive Officer

Team Members: Dan Mathews, NCE5, CCS, Executive Vice President & COO; Eric Dell, Senior Vice President, Government Affairs; Dean Gilland, NCE5, CCS, Vice President, Sales & Service; Roni Moore, Vice President, Marketing & Public Relations; LyNae Schleyer, NCE, CMP, Vice President, Meetings & Events; Kim Hammond, Vice President, Finance & Administration; Lindsey K. Nelson, Executive Director, Development; Jo Bradshaw, Senior Coordinator, Association & Member Service; Joann DeNardis, PHR, Director, Education/Certification; Marilyn Dent, Manager/Executive Assistant, Association Services; Sheree Edwards, Regional Legislative Director; Pam Gilbert, Director of Association Services; Deborah Lara, Association Services Manager; Sandy Larson, Senior Director & Counsel Government Affairs; Mary Lou Monaghan, Association Services Manager; John L Clarke, Interim Director of Membership and Marketing; Kelly Doherty, Manager, Marketing & Communications; Gloria Gordils, Controller; Melissa Villegas, Assistant to the President - Office Services Manager

The National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA), led by CEO Carla Balakgie, supports the growth and development of its 1,800 member companies within the refreshment services industry overall. NAMA prioritizes advocacy, education, network and information that provides the strategic framework to foster its members' business growth. In the past year alone, the NAMA team has taken proactive steps to educate legislators about the industry and the impact of current issues and legislation, including Calorie Disclosure and the proposed changes to coin currency. The team has also launched tools for operators including a revised FitPick® healthy vending program which includes FitPick Select for products that meet USDA’s Smart Snacks in School.  The association established and hosts the OneShow and CTW, the world’s largest industry events, convening thousands of industry leaders each year.  

The Occupational Advisory Committee To The Vending Technologies Program, Randolph Technical High School  

Team Leader: Bud Burke, Senior Account Executive, Thayer Distribution

Team Members: Davis Haines, Instructor; Anthony Ortiz, Crane Payment Innovations; Charles Lewis, School District of Philadelphia; Chuck Reed, Crane Payment Innovations; Clyde Fairman, Elliot's Vending; Darryl Overton, Principal, Randolph Technical HS; Dave Gellman, Gellman Associates; Eric Cardonic, Advanced Services; Jeff Sax., Nestle; Jim Clark, retired Instructor; LyNae Schleyer, NAMA; Larry Eils, NAMA; Peter Whitney, Crane; John Pavone, Crane; Russ Guarino, Coca Cola; Scott Wechsler, Quality Express Coffee; Wayne Campbell, Changer Services; Mike Butler, AMS; Alan Drazen, Mid-lantic Vending; Tom Paine, Canteen; John Dettinger, Vend Screen

The Occupational Advisory Committee to the Vending Technologies program at Randolph Technical High School, meets a few times per year to access the needs of the program, which trains students to become technicians who repair and move today’s vending equipment. Thanks to the committee of dedicated professional, led by the commitment of Bud Burke, the program has existed for almost 25 years  With the technology advancements in the vending industry, the committee is working to re-vamp the curriculum to better meet the needs of today's operating companies. The committee is also working with NAMA to revamp the Job Fundamentals Manual to bring that, and the industry, up to date.

Tri-R Coffee and Vending

Team Leader: Jeff Leider, President

Team Members: Scott Leider, Co-President; Jeff Doyle, director of corporate development; Matt Humble, general manager ; Adrienne Leider director of finance and all additional employees

Under Jeff Leider’s leadership, the company takes advantage of opportunities that will help it stay competitive while keeping the same level of customer service. Over 2014, the Tri-R team has added healthy items, created new marketing designs and re-vamped menus in micro markets and machines to appeal to consumer demands. The company has added card readers and experienced a 20 percent increase.


Team Leader: Michael Lovett, Chief Executive Officer

Team Members: Juan Jorquera, Co-Founder and President; Ryan Ostendorf, Lead Engineer; Hector Benavides, Vice President of Sales

The Vagabond team works together to support the industry’s wider growth. Hector Benavides mentors and advises vending operators, Vagabond customers and non-customers alike on how to improve their businesses with the help of various technologies available. Juan Jorquera serves on the Steering Committee of the emerging leaders network (ELN) and has represented the industry at the past two NAMA Public Policy Conferences in Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, Ryan Ostendorf has managed the development of telemetry hardware and VMS solutions which  has resulted in hundreds vending operators experiencing 10 to 15 percent net incomes in their business.