Operator's Thankful List - 2019

Nov. 15, 2019

In 2019, Even more reasons for operators to be thankful!

In all my years of writing for publications, I’ve never met an editor who can resist a column with a seasonal theme, so welcome to my annual recap of why convenience services operators should be thankful. In this 2019 edition, there are seven new reasons on the list. First, let’s review last year’s list to see if those items are still relevant.

From one year ago: Operator’s Thankful List – 2018

Be thankful that it isn’t the 1990s – The overnight end of cigarette vending, plus a ban on carbonated beverages and snacks in schools. We are still thankful to be done with that decade.

Be thankful for our diverse offerings – Selection is better than ever.

Be thankful for low unemployment – One year later, the cubicles are still full and that is great news for convenience services.

Be thankful for Google Pay Per Click Advertising – As I referred to it earlier this year, pay per click is “the secret sauce.”

Be thankful for industry consolidation – Things have slowed a little on the mergers and acquisitions front, but look what’s happening now (see item #1 below on the Operator’s Thankful List – 2019).

Be thankful for the price of coffee – Not the best news for farmers, but for operators, the margins remain solid. There has also been a key trend in office coffee service that is delivering solid profits for operators who are willing to go the extra mile.  See item #2 on the Operator’s Thankful List – 2019.

Be thankful for NAMA, The NAMA Show and CTW – Still essential to attend and something to be thankful for. Additionally, NAMA has made a huge commitment to sales training in 2020. See item #3 on the Operator’s Thankful List – 2019.

Be thankful for ELN – The emerging leader’s network – How can you be anything but thankful for young industry talent?  Plus, the industry is attracting even more young stars for reasons that may surprise you. See item #4 on the Operator’s Thankful List – 2019.

Be thankful for micro markets – If you are an operator, have you ever seen anything better than this? One year later, it just keeps getting better. See items #5 and #6 on the Operator’s Thankful List – 2019.

Be thankful for pantry service – Certainly, we are still thankful for this “golden goose” of convenience services, but operators tell me that margins are getting squeezed by outside competition – Costco, Amazon and a host of online predators – happy to deliver whatever they can to bargain-seeking clients who love to place orders on their own.

Operator’s Thankful List for 2019 – Seven New Reasons

#1 – Be thankful for the increasing value of your company - According to leading industry business brokers like Mike Kelner of VBB Advisors, following a flurry of M&A activity in 2018, there is a supply and demand issue now: new players in the game (convenience store companies and bottlers) and valuations are higher than ever.

#2 – Be thankful for the hot new trend in coffee – Prices remain down, margins remain high and customers are clamoring for local roasters. For operators who are willing to embrace this “Fourth Wave” of coffee, the opportunity is enormous.

#3 – Be thankful for “Selling Convenience Services” – Full disclosure: This online course (coming in 2020 from NAMA) was written and narrated by me. I sincerely hope that operators embrace it as the convenience services sales training manual and business development playbook. Packed with about 200 valuable, specific nuggets of information, Selling Convenience Services is designed for operators who sell, operators who have a sales team, sales managers and sales reps (both novice and experienced). NAMA has made a commitment to helping operators develop elite sales reps.

#4 – Be thankful for tech savvy newcomers – Young investors are being attracted to the convenience services industry. These newcomers aren’t family members of operators, they are part of investment groups who, as Kelner points out, “can’t resist the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a technology-driven industry. Unattended retail, warehouse management programs and route telemetric software have suddenly positioned convenience services as a cutting-edge industry with plenty of upside. Investors have taken notice."

Business broker Michael Ferguson of VMAC Solutions said the best advice he can give operators who are planning to sell, besides using a broker, is to invest in technology. “Technology is attracting buyers to our industry and it is a very important factor relating to the selling price,” he said.

#5 – Be thankful for micro market apps – This new technology is lowering the cost of micro market setups and opens the door to profitability in medium-sized locations. 

#6 – Be thankful for micro market consultants – Industry veterans like consultant Sandy Schoenthaler and Steve Closser at Translucent are busy helping operators make the transition into the micro market world. Schoenthaler said she is amazed at how many operators continue to resist the move to micro markets but are always thrilled when they finally take the big step into unattended retail under her guidance. Closser and his team at Translucent are expecting to have another busy year working with newcomers and experienced operators as well. 

#7 – Be thankful for the improved image of convenience services  Our industry has a tremendous positive buzz now associated with it. Once known for cigarette vending, junk food and sugary drinks, the convenience services industry has a new image that focuses on providing healthier snacks and beverages, sustainability, artisan roasted coffee and creating break rooms that reflect a company’s corporate culture. We’ve come a long way as an industry.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Industry consultant Bob Tullio (www.tullioB2B.com) is a content specialist who advises operators in the convenience services industry on how to build a successful business from the ground up. As a recognized industry expert in business development and sales, NAMA has hired Tullio to write and narrate its new online course, “Selling Convenience Services,” to be released in early 2020. At the CTW show, Tullio will be a presenter at the Nov. 18 pre-conference session, “The Essence of Coffee,” with his portion of the program focusing on Business Development Financial Choices, OCS Sales Techniques and Storytelling. On December 10, 2019, 2:00 PM EST, Tullio will host a NAMA Sponsored Webinar, “Selling Convenience Services – How Management Support Creates Elite Sales Reps.” Tullio will also do a live version of that webinar topic at 9:45 AM PST Nov. 19 at the CTW Show.

About the Author

Bob Tullio

Bob Tullio is a content specialist, speaker, sales trainer, consultant and contributing editor of Automatic Merchandiser and VendingMarketWatch.com. He advises entrepreneurs on how to build a successful business from the ground up. He specializes in helping suppliers connect with operators in the convenience services industry — coffee service, vending, micro markets and pantry service specifically. He can be reached at 818 261-1758 and [email protected]. Tullio welcomes your feedback.

Subscribe to Automatic Merchandiser’s new podcast, Vending & OCS Nation, which Tullio hosts. Each episode is designed to make your business more profitable.



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