Automatic Merchandiser Announces 2015 Pros to Know

Dec. 16, 2015

The second annual Automatic Merchandiser and Pros to Know Award recognizes vending, micro market and office coffee service professionals who are proven leaders in the industry. These teams and individuals have worked hard all year to move their company, organization and the industry forward and have faced this year’s challenges head on.

The 2015 Pros to Know innovators, made up of vending operators, marketers, manufacturer representatives, brokers, micro market teams, techies and entrepreneurs, were selected from a nomination pool of more than 115 applicants.

Download a PDF of the Pros to Know document with photos here.

2015 Individual Pros to Know
(Listed alphabetically by company)

Ryan McWhirter, Director of Product, 365 Retail Markets: McWhirter, a graduate from Michigan State University with a degree in Telecommunications, has a decade of experience in the interactive self-service technology field. At 365 Retail Markets, McWhirter finds his best ideas in the field with the customers, brainstorming solutions to any issues and proceeding on to build a prototype. This year McWhirter was an integral part of expanding the 365 software, releasing two service packs full of new features including security improvements, inventory controls and promotional tools.

Josh Rosenberg, President, Accent Food Service: In January 2015 Rosenberg was named president and CEO of Austin, TX-based Accent Food Services. Rosenberg credits much of his success in the industry to the diverse background experience he gained from the operator community as well as his many early years working for the Coca-Cola Co. This year he has successfully implemented fresh food, lean processes and sales disciplines supported by focused, dedicated channel support in his more than 250 micro market locations which earn an average of $40,000 minimum sales. Rosenberg believes in advocacy to move the industry forward and sits on NAMA’s board of director and is a USConnect advisory board member.

Chris Allahyar, Director of Vending Sales, AdvancePierre Foods, Inc.: Allahyar has been involved in the vending industry for nearly four decades, over half of that spent as an operator. In his current role as director of vending sales, Allahyar manages AdvancePierre’s vending sales on a national level through G & J sales and national accounts. Allahyar played a significant role in forming AdvancePierre’s sales, marketing and product strategies, which have led to its growth and leading position in the vending sandwich and foodservice segment. In his sales position with AdvancePierre, Allahyar has challenged operators to understand their price points and waste costs, often guaranteeing product to secure trials. He has become a trusted source of information on product mix as well as new product introductions.

Paul DeRosse, Vice President of Business Development, Canada, Apriva: In his role with Apriva, DeRosse is highly involved in the cashless payment movement in the vending industry in Canada. DeRosse sees a great need to encourage the vending industry to establish a local networking base and has taken an active role in educating the vending industry through his many presentations at trade shows. DeRosse works with the local regulatory agencies and associations to ensure the specific requirements of the vending industry are addressed. For example, Paul lobbied with Interac so that expensive PIN ENTRY devices and separate receipt printers would not be required on a vending machine which would accept Interac FLASH, greatly impacting the industry.

Tom Steuber, President, Associated Coffee: Steuber began in the OCS industry in 1972 when his family started Associated Services. Steuber took over leadership of the company in 2007 and led both the company and his employees through a recession. Steuber’s philosophy to growing a successful company is learning how he can add value to the customers, the company and the employees. He has invested in both technology and micro markets, as well as his own employees’ training so they are better equipped to evolve with the changing marketplace. Steuber will continue to look towards consumer trends and evaluate investments that work for his company, his customers and his employees.

Scott Meskin, President, Black Tie Services: Meskin has been involved in the vending industry for more than 35 years and currently serves as the president for Baltimore, MD–based Black Tie Services. Meskin has witnessed the growing imbalance between free market demands and government regulation surrounding the industry, but works with NAMA and industry partners like USConnect to better respond to and overcome challenges. An industry advocate, Meskin participated in NAMA’s Fly-In event in Washington, D.C. and is heavily involved in the Maryland DC Vending Association. This year Meskin led his team to integrate healthy vending throughout the city of Baltimore and added 500 machines to locations. 

Frank Baron, President, Cafection Enterprises: After taking over ownership of Cafection three years ago, Frank (Francois) Baron has watched the company grow 300 percent over the same time period. Baron focuses growth on creating OCS equipment and technology that is based on secure networking and user interaction. This year Baron has led the company to launch private networked OCS solutions that allow field monitoring of an operator’s entire fleet of equipment.

Robert Fidler, Vice President of Equipment and Service, Coffee Distributing Corp/Compass Group NA: With more than 30 years in the OCS industry, Fidler understands the challenges the industry faces. In response to growing competition and smaller margins, Fidler emphasizes his top-notch customer service, focuses on other sources of revenue—such as a scheduled maintenance program for bean-to-cup equipment—and ensures that his team of more than 50 bench and field technicians is properly trained. Fidler maintains a high record of client retention through impeccable service and great products. He is a strong advocate for green initiatives and recycling from his company and the OCS industry.

Steve Williams, Manager of Professional Services, Crane Merchandising Systems: After 22 years in the industry, Williams finds that no matter the size of the vending company, the issues can be the same – cash accountability, inventory control, shrinking profits, increased theft and retaining drivers. For the last three years Williams has been conducting three to four seminars in various parts of the country for his customers to come together and learn best practices and techniques to improve in these areas and resolve industry problems. As a NCE5 Williams has encouraged others in his organization to participate in the NAMA Certified Executive (NCE) program and stresses to customers and employees the importance of continued education of industry matters.

Patrick Richards, Cashless Product Manager, Crane Payment Innovations: Richards joined CPI (formerly MEI) in the fall of 2011, as the company’s cashless product manager. Leveraging his experience creating EMV vending solutions throughout the globe, Richards played an integral part in advancing CPI’s efforts to develop a user-friendly chip card reader for the U.S. vending market. Today Richards has helped CPI deploy more than 50,000 EMV solutions worldwide, with expectations to grow this number substantially when its newest EMV bezel is ready for the U.S. market in mid-2016. As a rising industry professional, Richards attends payment conferences throughout the year and possesses his certification in project management.

Cherri Newbury, President & Co-Founder, Newbury pioneered the ICS industry (Internet Coffee Service) back in 1998 and is still growing that industry concept today under the philosophy that ‘doing the same thing the same way is not how to write a company success story.’ Newbury works to adapt her company to meet changing consumer shopping habits, constantly evolving how the company markets, serves and ships to its customers.

Jack Brown, CEO, EAGLE USA, Inc.: Brown started EAGLE USA, Inc. in 1994 as a janitorial company and launched the company’s refreshment services side in September 2012. With the help of his entire team Brown has grown his company to over 80 employees and $2.5 million in revenue this year. Although customer buying habits, rising costs and compliance with new laws and programs have been a challenge, Brown has focused on partnering with other companies in the industry to launch a private label coffee program, expand into micro markets and offer mobile payment options at vending machines. Brown focuses on training his staff to provide the best support and products to the company’s customers.

Mark Stephanos, Vice President of Micro Markets, Five Star Food Service: Stephanos has been a leader in the contract food and vending service business for more than 35 years. In 2013, a decade after joining the Five Star team, Stephanos was promoted to Corporate Vice President of Micro Markets. In 2015 Stephanos led Five Star to open 475 micro markets and grew same store sales in its micro market segment. Stephanos believes that the best recipe for success is providing the very best in quality service to customers with a great sense of urgency; integrity in business; and creating a team of confident and quality people that will execute a strong business plan. Stephanos can also be found on page 30 as part of the Five Star Food Service Micro Market division team.

David Barrientos, Broker, G & J Marketing and Sales: Barrientos is a NAMA/MSU Executive Development Program graduate who began his career in the food industry in 1990. Since 2010 he has been with G & J Marketing helping his customer base thrive despite increasing cost challenges. In order to help his customers increase sales and grow their overall business, Barrientos helps in the implementation of marketing ideas based around the end user and the vend/micro market trends. For example, Barrientos identifies new products that will drive value to the industry and helps his customers create value added promotions in order to increase profits.

Mark Kelley, Region Manager, General Mills: Over the years, Kelley has led change including pioneering different packs and price points, identifying product concepts/trends and embracing proven marketing concepts that can propel the vending industry forward. One of Kelley’s most notable accomplishments has been working to bring to market a protein bar creation that operators could sell for a dollar. Kelley has taken on many roles in the industry and serves as the current chair for the NAMA Public Relations and Affairs committee, Millennial Advisory – Vice Chair and Research and Information board member. He is currently the Committee Chair for Membership and Public Relations with the CAVC.

Randall Huft, President, Innovation Agency: Huft has a 25-year career in marketing and advertising, is a well-known speaker and author on business and marketing topics and has developed programs and contributed to the growth of many successful companies, with the largest focus on the vending industry. Huft’s focus on the vending and automated retailing industry helps him understand the everyday challenges of manufacturers, operators and entrepreneurs looking to start in the vending space. In 2016, Huft’s company plans on expanding its Social Marketing Division, which helps connect companies with causes in new, engaging and mutually-beneficial ways.

John Rego, VP of Emerging Technologies, On Track Innovations (OTI) America: With more than 25 years in the NFC industry, Rego brought his expertise to the vending industry when he joined OTI America in 2005. Since then he has focused on building partnerships to deliver the best technology solutions to the markets and improving telemetry in the industry. In 2015 he was a speaker at the NFC Solutions Summit in Phoenix, AZ and in 2016 he will be a speaker at Payments Summit Smart Card Alliance in Orlando, FL.

Alan Munson, CCO, Parlevel Systems: With over 15 years in the vending industry, Munson has used his experience as a vending operator to help other operators stay competitive by adopting revolutionary technology in their own companies. Munson, co-founder and CCO of Parlevel Systems, believes that in the coming year operators need to look towards technology to maintain and grow in the vending space. Munson is active on the board of the Texas Merchandise Vending Association and focuses on educating operators of all sizes on the benefits of using technology to track and gain control of their inventory.

Dan Ragan, National Sales Manager, Pod Pack Int.: Ragan is a coffee service industry veteran with 39 years of experience who has been instrumental in helping operators throughout the U.S. establish and enhance their customized single serve programs. Ragan believes the industry challenges in the year ahead include increased big box competition, a need for higher quality, a requirement to have more environmentally friendly products and a continual need to improve technology. He has implemented The Balanced Scorecard, Lean, and Six Sigma techniques to improve process controls, and reduce errors to create higher efficiencies.

Marc Rosset, President, Professional Vending Consultants, Inc.: Rosset has represented more than 300 sellers throughout his 22 years as a consultant and intermediary and has been instrumental in establishing industry-recognized guidelines for the value of vending/OCS and food service companies. Rosset treats every partnership with the utmost confidentiality and works to smoothly combine two competitors by listening to each company’s needs. Rosset believes that in the future more resources need to go towards the study of the balance between micro markets and vending so operators are aware of where to best allocate their future capital expenditures. He suggests that operators look at new technologies and advancements in credit/debit and mobile payment options, as well as streamlined warehouse inventory controls.

Heather Bailey, Attorney & Partner, SmithAmundsen LLC: For more than 14 years, Heather Bailey, Esq., a partner with SmithAmundsen LLC law firm, has concentrated her practice in employment and labor litigation, including discrimination and trade secret / non-compete lawsuits, FLSA wage & hour class actions, labor negotiations and arbitrations, affirmative action, and OFCCP/DOL audits. She counsels on day-to-day operations, human resources, and management decisions regarding employees, practices and policies. Bailey has been a NAMA Knowledge Source Partner for over a decade and presents at NAMA trade shows. In 2015, Bailey was named one of Chicago Business Journal’s Women of Influence, the President of the Professional Women’s Club of Chicago and was selected to the Illinois Super Lawyers list 2014, 2015.

Bryan Real, President, United Food Group: Bryan Real believes that one of the biggest challenges an operator faces is finding ways to make all aspects of business more successful. Real credits his success to listening to his employees and operators in order to find the best ways to fit their needs. The president of United Food Group, based in Elgin, IL, Real continues to lead the company in the development of its own proprietary brands with a focus on packing and designing new and innovative equipment for the beverage industry. Real was named NAMA’s 2014 Allied Member of the Year —
Coffee award winner.

2015 Team Pros to Know
(Listed alphabetically by company)

Black Tie Services
Team Leader: Scott Meskin, President/Owner

Team Members: David Mandella, Vice President and General Manager; Hugh Oneill, Vice President of Client Relations; Brian Traub, Vice President Business Development OCS; Michael Allan, Vice President Business Development; Robert Feldstein, Vice President Business Development; John Finch, Service Manager; Mark Osborne, Operations Manager; Adriane Emenhauser, Customer Service Manager; Robert Hemmig, Customer Service Manager; Christo Massaquoi, Customer Service Manager; Lynn Mensch, Scheduling Coordinator; Barbara Touchette, Service Dispatcher; Lisa Burke, Accounts Receivable Manager; Angie Paul, Office Manager; Brenda Brown, Commissary Manager; Van Carol, Warehouse Manager; Joseph Hybdzinski, Fleet Manager; and the entire Black Tie staff.

Black Tie Services saw a growth spurt in 2015. The company witnessed an upswing in sales due to offering new items not vended in the past. Those items along with the USConnect prepay card, loyalty program and promotions have created a new customer that did not use the machines previously. Additionally, after 19 years in the same location, the company moved its entire operation including its commissary, pre-kit line, computer servers, online ordering system and contents of the entire warehouse and office space. In 2016, the Black Tie team, led by Scott Meskin will look to large growth in both OCS and healthy vending placements.

The Coca-Cola Company
Team Leader: Derek Myers, Group Director, Channel Strategy & Development

Team Members: Tyler Torti, DeAnna Coffield, Lindsey Aitken, Kelly Iacobelli, Derek Myers, Amanda Wagner, Ashley Kearns, Scott Corley, Sal Shaikh, Jason Aurelia, Son Van Tran, Rick Kanemasu, Danny Toland, Heather Stage, Jeff Cummins, Dan Ashcraft, Orson Brumbaugh, Stephen Merwarth, Tom Daly and Ed Budd 

At The Coca-Cola Company, the vending team has focused on finding solutions and best practices related to three primary challenges: driving availability of cashless vending (including mobile payment technology), harnessing value from big data and accelerating micro markets. The team works to bring the industry forward in its challenge areas by sharing its knowledge and working collaboratively with its customers. As a retailer, the Coca–Cola Company has the most locations enabled for mobile payments around the world and will have more than 100,000 mobile–capable machines in North America by the end of the year. As a result, the company is in a unique position to drive the industry forward and help find innovative solutions.

Five Star Food Service – Micro Market Division
Team Leader: Mark Stephanos, Vice President of Micro Markets

Team Members: Danelle Layton, Marketing Manager; C J Recher, Senior Marketing Manager, Joseph Aguado, Corporate Operations Micro Markets; Devin Ingram, Micro Market Loss Prevention; Tiffany Hawkins, Micro Market Loss Prevention; Rusty Lawson, Area Micro Market Manager; Jeff Veres, Area Micro Market Manager; Kevin Clark, Regional Micro Market Manager; Jessie Brown, Micro Market Support Manager; Brady Dillard, Team Leader Micro Market Loss Prevention

In 2015 the Five Star Micro Market team has focused on growing same store sales, expanding its healthy category, improving client retention and remaining a leader in technology. To boost same store sales and improve costs of doing business, Five Star has implemented an inventory tracking system, warehouse kit picking system, and specific planograms for its micro markets. To further drive sales in the healthy category, the company created an attractive point-of-sale that calls out its healthy set of products. To maintain customers, in 2015 the Micro Market team ramped up its efforts and expectations of managers to include more frequent market visits and evaluations providing a higher level of communication with its clients.

Parlevel Systems

Team Leader: Luis Gonzalez, Chief Executive Officer

Team Members: Alan Munson, CCO; Rafael Barroso, CIO; Alfonso Garcia, Sr. SW Engineer; Gabriel Senior, COO; Cassie Constanzo, Dir. of Marketing; Margaret Elbert, Dir. of Operations; Felix Gutierrez, VP of HW Engineer; Richard Jimenez, Dir. of Implementation; Frank Quintero, Support Manager; Corey Kepple, SW Developer; Jeremy Brice, C. Success Manager; Joey Gutierrez, Imp. Specialist; John Wolff, Imp. Specialist; Ashley Reno, SW Developer; Alexander Rendon, C. Success Specialist; Ethan Waleson, Imp. Specialist; Josh Leone, Onboarding
Specialist; Jason Loehman, Sales Representative; Alejandra Madera, Support Specialist; Jacey Spargo, Client Outreach; Lisa Araiza, Client Outreach; Thomas DePaola, Sales Manager; Zachary Mueller, Support Specialist; Chris Blomquist, MKT Content Manager; Chris Jenkins, HW Engineer; Julian Fernandez, Implementation and Training Specialist; Andrew Minerd, Sr. SW Developer; Omar Vergara, Support Specialist.

Parlevel System’s innovative approach to technology gives operators the ability to grow their companies using powerful tools within their Vending Management System & Coffee on Demand Management platform. These tools give vendors real-time visibility into their operations from the office or in the field on any device. This rapidly growing company invests valuable time & resources to ensure that operators receive the highest level of support to guarantee complete comfort leveraging the cloud-based technology in their day-to-day operations. Operators using the system have been able to swiftly grow their companies, sell more products, while spending less. Parlevel’s expert technicians provide onsite assistance to help operators configure and manage the management systems beyond the 24/7 customer support.

Southern Refreshment Services
Team Leader: Dan Hart, Owner/CEO

Team Members: Jeff Parks, Greg Sams, Terry Todriff, Stewart Moss, Chris Hart, Scott Plaisted, Tom Beals, Nancy Siegman

In the year ahead, major challenges for the industry and Southern Refreshment Services (SRS) include the increasing demand for micro markets, healthy snacks and updated technology. Optimization of roles within the business is a huge focus in order to take on these challenges. As SRS looks to use technology to add competitive differentiation and exploit new cost savings, the roles of existing personnel are expanding to include new proficiencies in new processes and technologies. So far, SRS has been able to deploy tens of new micro markets in the span of a few weeks. It has also increased deployments with the new data collection system, Gimme Vending, giving them the ability to receive real-time data from the field.

Tech 2 Success
Team Members: John Hickey, Don Bates, Darryl Perkins, Morgan Frazier

Tech 2 Success helps companies achieve results in Inventory Accountability, Merchandising, Same Store Sales Improvement, System Selection, Dynamic Scheduling, Remote Monitoring, Web Technologies and more. The Tech 2 Success team has developed the Team Improvement Project (T.I.P.) management system to help companies achieve goals by reducing defects in their services and delays in achieving results. T.I.P. uses features of popular process improvement programs to identify and execute on opportunities inside of a business. The Tech 2 Success team gives companies access to enterprise level IT, Operations and Vending Technology resources with objective advice.

Three Square Market
Team Leader: Patrick McMullan, Chief Operating Officer

Team Members: Matt Lardinois, Vice President of Operations; Brenda Stegeman, Director of Sales and Product Development; Katy Melstrom, Director of Marketing
Three Square Market (32M) seeks to create success at every opportunity. This includes providing significant operational efficiency through technology and expertise that allows operators to focus more on their customers, outsourcing their “busy admin and product management work” to 32M. The company believes that by paying more attention to the product and having a back end run by experts, operators should see stronger top line revenue, as well as more efficient and less expensive operations and overhead, thus improving cash flow and bottom line profit. This quarter 32M partnered with Vistar and its own institutional supply company to launch a one stop fulfillment initiative. It also instituted a complete “we run your back end” program.

Nayax Embedded Software Group
Team Leader: Philippe Berrebi, Embedded Software Group Manager

Team Members: Ilan Graidy, Team Leader, Devices; Idan Blech, Software Engineer; Noam Ashual, Software Engineer; Yair Ackerman, Software Engineer; Daniel Perry, Team Leader, Card Reader; Lotan Ganot, Software Engineer; Idan Rubin, Team Leader, QA; Oded Frenkel, QA Engineer; Tal Goldstine, QA Engineer; Moshe Relles, Hardware Manager
The Nayax Embedded Software Group knows firsthand that no one wants to have it take more than a second to make a purchase, especially at a vending machine. The Nayax team is working to make its cashless payment solutions fully compatible and easy to use with the mobile device that never leaves the consumer’s hand or pocket, regardless of what device or app they choose to use. The company’s goal is to improve security by migrating to support PIN entry, as multiple markets require this step, even for micro transactions. The Nayax group leader, Berrebi, has been with the company for two years and has grown the team to its current size of 11. The team works on projects ranging from pure hardware integration to sophisticated logics implemented in Nayax’s line of products.

Unified Strategies Group
Team Leader: Brian Faley, CEO

Team Members: Ed Cunningham, Chris Stave, Matt Warner

Unified Strategies Group (USG) is a member owned Group Purchasing Organization representing about 2,000 independent vending, micro market, food service and OCS operators in the U.S. USG provides member services that help independent vend operators face the challenges of today’s changing business climate. Some initiatives include a more competitive cost of goods structure via industry leading rebate programs; a focus on the emerging micro market segment providing incremental rebates, end consumer promotions and a merchandising roadmap; Web-based business intelligence services to help operators navigate the complexity of rebate programs; and leadership in the deployment of telemetry and cashless services to provide business optimization as well as consumer satisfaction, among many other initiatives.