Vladik Rikhter

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Can an Organic Fast-Food Restaurant Play the Value Game?

By Vladik Rikhter

organix.pngDid you notice that QSR magazine upped their 9 fast-food trends for 2016 to 12 trends for 2017? They kept the descriptions more succinct and business-focused rather than about the food itself. I have a theory for why this is… because today’s customers are all over the place!  Wouldn’t the foodservice industry be much simpler if everyone just wanted a salad for lunch and a craft pizza by night? (Answer: Yes it would be, but it would also be completely boring!)


We’re living in an age of fast-food paradoxes. Let’s face it: What tastes good isn’t always good for you. What’s good for you can’t always be delivered quickly and with real ingredients.

Dashboard dining is not exactly synonymous with mindful eating…. until now. Finally! Someone brave enough to try bridging all these gaps!

Meet the Brittsans, a couple who dared to open Nic’S Organic Fast Food: the nation’s first certified-organic fast-food restaurant with a drive-thru (two trends in one description)! Like many good food ideas, it all started with a pregnant woman who craved a burger. The Brittsans, who met while enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu, know fine dining, but they’re just like the rest of us—sometimes you have a hankering. It’s why their concept features a menu of burgers, fried and grilled chicken, AND salads. Breakfast (yet another trend) will also be served and will feature freshly squeezed juices and organic coffee.


“The organic lifestyle doesn’t mean you’re eating any healthier in terms of the food,” CEO Benjamin Brittsan told Chicago Eater. “What you’re benefitting from is from what’s not in the food.” (Do you feel the sun’s warmth? I believe the clouds just parted.)


This makes so much sense for describing what appeals to today’s consumers who actually don’t know what they want on any given day—they want it all and NOW! At Nic’s, they can order a healthy or indulgent meal without feeling bad about it either way. And an indulgent meal is less guilt-inducing when we know the ingredients are free of hormones and chemicals, and that the meat was sourced from a farm that uses ethical practices.


Brittsan is confident in his concept and bold enough to forecast opening 50 locations in the next three years. In fact, he wants to take his concept west from Chicagoland to California, right to the doorstep of competitors like The Organic Coup, which is opening its eighth location after launching in late 2015. The Organic Coup was billed as the country’s first USDA-certified organic fast-food restaurant. That’s a distinction from Nic’s, which is certified organic by Quality Assurance International, but it’s an organic certification nevertheless.

The Takeaway

New concepts like Nic’s and The Organic Coup represent an exciting opportunity for foodpreneurs with big dreams. It also presents an urgency for major fast-food industry players with menus that can’t be revolutionized to this extent. What is a red-headed gal, a stately colonel, and the Golden Arches to do?


The answer is to double-down on operational efficiency. The last listed trend in QSR’s article is “fast casual embraces value.” I think they saved the most important trend for last! As one industry expert put it, quick-service in infringing on fast-casual’s space, so fast-casual will have to compete on value. This is yet another paradox—organic, fresh ingredients usually carry a premium that’s passed onto the customer. Nic’s menu isn’t available, but we know The Organic Coup Signature Sandwich is $10. Fast-food will offer you a premium, non-organic version at half the price or less.


So will these newer fast-food restaurants flourish or have the growing pains of expanding businesses finding their way?

Will traditional fast-food players continue to tweak their menus or capitalize by offering more immediately recognized value?

We’re staying tuned to see how this one plays out!

Healthy Food in C-Stores: The Transformative New Trend

By Vladik Rikhter

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From 1952 to 1972, Sheetz Inc. did not sell gasoline- the pumps were only added in 1973. There’s a similar story behind Oklahoma-based QuikTrip, which first began as a mini-mart in 1957 (And the founder was actually inspired by 7-Eleven stores during a visit to Dallas). It wasn’t until 1971 that QuikTrip installed its first gas pumps.

So there you have it. It took a decade, or in some cases two, for prominent convenience store retailers to offer gasoline. If there’s ever a “Jeopardy!” Convenience Store edition, you’re now well prepared.  Interestingly enough, both of these retailers are today considered innovative leaders in convenience store foodservice. QuikTrip is known for its QT Kitchens full-service counters, while Sheetz is known for its M•T•O (made-to-order) menu and Shweetz Bakery offerings. And as reported by Convenience Store News, both of these retailers are now looking to open more stores without gasoline. Food-only stores are not only a return to their roots, but also a realization that high-quality, prepared food (high-margin sale for retailer) is driving traffic, even without gasoline (low-margin for retailer).

"To be successful without gasoline, a store has to offer high-quality, well-differentiated prepared food," Donald Strenk, a consultant for the industry, told CSNews. "7-Eleven does well [without selling gas], but they may not be averaging $300,000 a month. Sheetz and QuikTrip have locations that do significantly high sales in the c-store."

Setting up a smaller store without gas pumps allows retailers to experiment both with a smaller footprint and different merchandise. For instance, QuikTrip’s 3,500-sq.-ft. downtown Atlanta store is even more focused on fresh foods than other locations.  

The fact that more convenience store retailers are committing to healthy choices was one of the headlines of the 2016 NACS Show. Aloha Petroleum, Ricker Oil Co. and Core-Mark International made commitments to the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) at this year’s show.

A commitment with PHA means more than “Oh, these apples in the cold case are nice to have in the front of the store.” We’re talking real commitment! For instance, Ricker’s committed to offering healthier food options at an affordable cost; marketing and promoting healthier food choices; and offering employee benefits such as a 50% discount on all fresh fruit and vegetables purchases. Aloha also committed to PHA’s beverage marketing initiatives to promote fruit and vegetable consumption and water as healthier choices. As a distributor, Core-Mark will do its part to modify merchandising sets to incorporate healthier options.

According to the PHA, half of the U.S. population visits a convenience store every single day, and these consumers are looking for healthier options. Each of the new PHA partners is “stepping up” to ensure both consumers and retailers have access to healthier, more accessible options. It’s what 21st century retailers need to do—step up to meet the changing preferences of consumers who demand quality and demand it now!

More Options, Better Execution

In our experience working with convenience store retailers, we know that consumer preferences change and that retailers must respond to them or risk the consequences of losing business. The most successful retailers adapt to change with ease. Some even thrive because they’re able to successfully differentiate themselves in the market.

Remember: The quality of fresh foods is ultimately a reflection of your brand. Because these foods are fresh, they often come with more food safety concerns, so employees must be mindful of storage temperatures and other food safety factors.

Ultimately, if retailers want to provide customers with better, healthier food choices, they have to optimize the store-level execution of safety checks and audits. 

If you’re looking for a solution to help maintain safe, high-quality food operations, read this white paper on creating a food safety audit, visit Zenput’s website, or schedule a demotoday.

Topics: C-store, food safety

Food Delivery: The New Frontier

By Vladik Rikhter

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It’s a pizza company! … It’s a tech company! … It’s Domino’s!

I doubt Domino’s will pick up a motto that infringes on DC Comics, but that’s essentially what they’ve become—a superhero among companies that handles delivery themselves. Think about all of Domino’s innovations in food delivery over the past decade, as highlighted in this recent Eater articlethat declares Domino’s “the Best Delivery Startup in America.” When it comes to investing in technology, Domino’s has always been a company that got it right.

One of the great paradoxes of Millennials is that they are social media whizzes but antisocial because they are always on their phones. Domino’s foresaw the importance of on-demand and online ordering well before their competitors did.

Domino’s continues to set the bar high for companies who want to maintain control over their food quality by delivering their food themselves. Keep in mind that Domino’s is no spring chicken—it was founded in 1960! While newer pizza companies may be touting the craft pizza experience, Domino’s is still the go-to pizza delivery service for the pajama crowd. With Domino’s introduction of new chatbots, visitors don’t even have to talk to a human or go to the Dominos ordering website to order a pizza—just message the chatbot to order your pizza. Some of these innovations haven’t been perfect upon rollout, but considering Domino’s strong market position, they don’t need to be. Domino’s may be learning what works as they go along, but at the end of the day, they own their own process.

Here’s the reality: the third-party food delivery space is becoming crowded. There will be few winners and many losers. With Amazon, Google and UberEats now moving into the space—not to mention the expansion of GrubHub’s turnkey service—only the best will survive. So the question is: Where does that leave foodservice operators?

There are two possible scenarios
  1. Companies like Domino’s rely on third-party delivery companies to deliver their food
  2. They continue taking ownership of their own food delivery

Restaurant delivery isn’t for everyone. We know from our experience working with foodservice operators: delivery workforces are difficult to maintain.  

But if you offer delivery and you’re serious about becoming better at it, you have to become more serious about technology. You also have to become more serious about what’s going on in your stores. Domino’s can offer a pizza tracker because they’ve got the process for making a pizza down to a science. Even if you’re not at that level of tech, are you able to address problems in real time? Something as basic as an ingredient shortage or a failure to implement a new promotion can really hurt your bottom line.

Zenput is a mobile solution that helps foodservice operators gain valuable insights about their businesses in real-time. Whether you are exploring food delivery or looking to improve your current operations, Zenput can help you identify exceptions, timely address problems, and improve your restaurant operations. Zenput already helps the 5th largest Domino’s operator in the U.S. manage daily tasks and improve store productivity. Find out how Domino’s franchisee Hismeh Enterprises uses Zenput by checking out this case study.

Related

Wanna ‘Pizza’ Your Restaurant Competition? Customization and Technology Are Key

What Restaurants Considering Third-Party Delivery Need to Consider

Performing Regular Delivery Driver Audits Protects Employees and Customers

Topics: Restaurants, Delivery

Donating Unsold Food: It’s All in the Process

By Vladik Rikhter

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Starbucks recently announced that it would donate 100% of unsold food that’s still safe to consume to help feed the hungry. With 7,600 Starbucks stores set to participate, coordinating this effort was going to require a well-planned system.

To properly develop a way to safely donate fresh food, Starbucks has been investing in research and quality assurance testing. Starbucks has named the program FoodShare, and will rely on an existing collaboration with Food Donation Connection and a new partnership with Feeding America. The program will focus on the donation of ready-to-eat meals. Food Donation Connection will pick up the food from Starbucks locations in refrigerated vans and deliver it to Feeding America for distribution to food banks.

According to Starbucks, the program had to be piloted because they had to make sure fresh items would remain cold enough to ensure their safety for consumption. Compliance is key. The temperature, texture, and flavor of the surplus food were all taken into account, a brand manager on the Starbucks Food team told USA Today.

The fact that a Starbucks brand manager commented is interesting. No matter how noble the deed, a donation to charity must be treated similarly to a marketing program rollout. The reason is simple: Your brand’s good name is attached to it.

In the first year alone, Starbucks FoodShare will be able to provide 5 million meals to individuals and families in need. Starbucks plans to scale this program over the next five years, eventually “rescuing” 100% of its food available for donation from participating company-operated stores. The effort could amount to 50 million meals by 2021.

Looking at Starbucks’ press release, I noticed the word “rescue.” That’s a term tied to Feeding America, and it’s actually more powerful than the word “donate” when describing this program. “Donate” connotes something was unneeded or unwanted. “Rescue” connotes that it was both valued and wanted. Again, the word choice is very much tied to branding.

In the future, Starbucks is hoping to expand its program and offer the service of its refrigerated vans to other restaurants. Considering 70 billion pounds of food is wasted in America each year, according to Feed America, Starbucks is hoping other businesses join the effort.

The Takeaway

The simple, underlying fact is that throwing out unsold food is easier than developing the process to donate or rescue it. That process is going to cost time and money. But a company has to ask itself this question: Do the benefits outweigh the cost?

Starbucks has positioned itself as the market leader in this effort because it invested the time and resources into developing a system that’s measurable. As a values-oriented company, Starbucks wouldn’t settle for less. In fact, if you visit the homepage of their website “Responsibility” is the tab next to “Coffeehouse.”

“We make sure everything we do is through the lens of humanity—from our commitment to the highest quality in the world, to the way we engage with our customers and communities to do business responsibly,” Starbucks writes under Company Information.

Starbucks is certainly not the first to come up with this food bank idea. However, they’re the first major foodservice chain to develop a program as comprehensive as FoodShare. There are other brands in the foodservice industry that haven’t lived up to lofty promises to donate unsold food—or maybe they have but they don’t have a means of sharing that information.

These brands should re-evaluate their presence in the communities they serve. They must keep in mind that actions speak louder than words, and through the lens of marketing, actions can be more influential when you have a means of sharing their progress.

Topics: Restaurants

The Hidden Advantages for Multi-Unit Franchisees

By Vladik Rikhter

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I recently encountered an interesting comparison to being a multi-unit franchisee. For some people, it’s like having a tattoo—they find they can’t have just one!

In fact, multi-unit franchisees account for 53% of the 450,000 franchise units in the U.S. and 76.5% of franchised restaurants, according to FranData. A report by Entrepreneur explains how multi-unit franchises used to be rare. The climate changed during the Great Recession when franchise brands saw that small operators of one or two units were struggling. Working with larger franchisees proved to be easier, considering their existing relationships with vendors and realtors and their ability to rapidly expand across a region.

One multi-unit franchisor put it this way: “If we build 50 restaurants, we don’t want 50 partners. It takes as much energy to manage 50 franchisees as it does 300. We want the sophistication of our partners to be as good or better than we are.”

In fact, many brands now have multi-unit signup deals for franchisees who are new to brand, but not new to the game. There are numerous advantages offered in these deals:

  1. Higher profits (more locations = more revenue)
  2. Better access to capital
  3. Shared marketing
  4. Lower infrastructure and human resources costs
  5. Lower costs due to greater buying and negotiating power with vendors/suppliers

These 5 are the “no-brainers,” considering they all have dollar signs readily attached to them. But there’s an added, hidden advantage to multi-unit franchising.

Increased Uniformity to Build Your Brand

Multi–unit franchisees begin to develop turn-key business models for what works best. A business plan on paper is one thing; in practice, it can become something very different.

The business acumen of a multi-unit franchisee increases as he/she experiences new events—both positive and negative—that impact business. When one of these events occurs, it’s not enough to chalk it up to experience and say, “I’ll know for next time!” You improve your business by documenting the experience. Take notes, capture your surroundings with a photo, and share the information with store managers in your network. Also document how you responded to the event and what you learned from the experience.

Let’s consider a scenario of what might happen in day-to-day operations:

  • You receive a notification that one of your locations ran out of a product or ingredient because a vendor failed to deliver.
  • Rather than look up a telephone number or find a computer, the store manager has a mobile form ready to go on their smartphone.  In addition, they attach a photo to show the out-of-stock.
  • The vendor is notified in real time of the exception. Faced with visual evidence, they comply with contract execution and notify their driver to make a stop.

Over time, you’ll begin to see patterns of historical analytics of exceptions. Maybe the out-of-stock is occurring during a certain day of the week, and the delivery schedule with the vendor needs to be readjusted. Information will be documented and stored to help you make a more informed decision. You’ll be able to adjust your processes and better train staff, if necessary.

While it’s wise to “expect the unexpected,” you’ll have a uniform process of handling many common challenges that arise.

So, while multi-unit franchising may be like getting more than one tattoo, just know that day-to-day operations aren’t permanent. When franchisees are frustrated by something or notice inefficiencies, they should have the tools necessary to help them adjust in real time.

Topics: Franchise, Restaurants

How CPG Rebate Verification Grows Your Brand

By Vladik Rikhter

supermarket-cpg-rebate

CPG (consumer packaged goods) rebate verification works a lot like the "gold star" system in grade school. When retailers are compliant and correctly execute the program the CPG company rewards these retailers with a monetary incentive. Both the retailers and CPG company benefit from improved sales.

Here is what a field merchandising rep should be looking for verifying a CPG rebate:

  1. Are the correct SKUs set up according to planogram?
  2. Are promotional displays set up correctly?

No free lunch: Of course, these two items should be part of the rebate agreement. Did a retailer actually meet sales and volume criteria by following the planogram? Is there enough product available, and is the facing correct?

When done correctly, CPG rebate verification programs will save your organization the money and time critical to growing your brand.

3 Advantages of digitizing CPG verification for rebate programs:

  1. Eliminates the “middle men” of paper sheets and Excel. There are no duplication of efforts in recording notes, taking photos, and sharing them with your team. All of this information is collected on a central platform.
  2. Easily verifies time and place. Mobile platforms use GPS location and timestamp, ensuring that your team knows when and where these photos were taken.
  3. Quickly generates reports with actionable results. The right program helps you work smarter, not harder. Ideally, you can set the system to alert you of exceptions.  

Remember: You know best when it comes to your brand! The CPG company needs its own process for verifying that retailers are reaching sales and volume criteria according to the agreed upon terms—the methods that are best for your growth.

Need Proof? Don’t just take our word for it. See how Zenput helped Jack Link’s capitalize on its large direct and indirect teams

Topics: C-store, CPG

Fast-Food Giants Battle for Consumers’ Breakfast Bucks

By Vladik Rikhter

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Breakfast is no longer just the most important meal of the day—it’s the most talked about meal of the day! The expansion of fast-food breakfast menu items was identified as the “top food story” of the year.

This year’s top headlines included McDonald’s all-day breakfast menu and menu innovations at Taco Bell. Just the other day, I logged onto Facebook and read my friend’s status/rant: “When the hell will Burger King get on the all day breakfast bandwagon? I don’t know if it’s a good thing or bad thing that they don’t... but waking up on a Saturday afternoon and going to get a Croissantwich always feels like a good idea.”

What is it about the prompt service of eggs, bacon and biscuits that captures our attention? “The fast-food industry is tapping the ‘want it now’ mentality of today’s consumer by offering greater availability of favorite offerings,” said Grace Leong, CEO and partner of Hunter Public Relations, a public relations agency that commissions a study of the nation’s top food news stories of the year. “Consumers who crave breakfast food in the afternoon no longer feel they should have to wait until tomorrow morning to satisfy it.”

And just how competitive is the fast-food breakfast landscape? AdWeek breaks it down by company. During the first 9 months of 2015, Taco Bell spent $79 million on national and local TV spots focused on breakfast. During the same period, McDonald’s spent $53 million; however, that was before the all-day breakfast announcement. Not to be completely outdone, regional chains also spent a lot on breakfast announcements. These brands included Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s ($18 million), Jack in the Box ($8 million), Chick-fil-A ($6 million), and Bojangles ($3 million). The effectiveness of the campaign is also relevant to market.  For instance, a couple of million for TV spots goes a long way in only four or five target markets.

That got me thinking about other smaller networks of restaurants—those who don’t have a million dollar budget for television and print advertising. How can convenience stores, in particular, make a stand against the QSR giants?

Better Promotions Can Help You Win

Recently, we discussed the “healthy” fast food debate. Fast-food breakfast campaigns all have something in common—no one is really touting the healthy, fresh ingredients.

Let’s face it.  Microwaved eggs and bacon won’t top the list of 2016 diet foods, but in all fairness, neither will real eggs and bacon.  However, real eggs and bacon have the appeal of being made to order with fresh ingredients. “Fresh” doesn’t necessarily have to mean healthy; it just means it should taste better.

Do you have what it takes to contend in the breakfast battle? Maybe your advantage is fresher ingredients with competitive prices. Promote your breakfast offerings inside and outside your store with well-placed signage and menus. Test new items like breakfast burritos and sandwiches, and exercise due diligence during rollouts by checking for compliance across your network.

Customers responded well to McDonald’s all-day breakfast because it’s time-tested and predictable. They know the Egg McMuffin will taste the same no matter what store they visit.

The real question is: Can you build a menu that makes you a breakfast destination? Pardon the egg joke, but you better get crackin’ on finding out what your stores need!

Topics: Restaurants

The Case for Routine Hardware Security Audits and Inspections

By Vladik Rikhter

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Part of modern day security is a company’s ability to combat scams that aim to take advantage of customers. It’s in the best interest of any company because a brand’s success is often built on basic trust. When customers shop at a store or eat at a restaurant, they expect a secure transaction.

For some companies, changing technology has made it more difficult to keep up with scammers. The problems for a company’s image are two-fold:

  1. Scams display weaknesses in security systems.
  2. Reports of customers being scammed spread rapidly around the Internet.

It’s now more important than ever to make sure that your business is up to date with technology auditing, and keep customers informed of breaches in security.

How Skimming Works

Most of the scams that occur inside retail locations require inside knowledge of the company’s mechanics. The thieves open the card processing terminals at a checkout lane and install a skimming device that sits underneath the keypad. The apparatus then steals account data when customers swipe their cards at the register.

Sometimes, thieves place a hidden camera in order to record personal identification numbers. The camera may be hidden in the ATM, or even just to the side inside a plastic case holding other items. Other skimmers install a fake PIN pad over the actual keyboard to capture the PIN directly, so a camera is not needed.

Regardless, employees and managers should be trained on how to detect ATM tampering. It comes down to knowing what to look for when inspecting machines. PC Magazine offers more specifics here.

If a breach is confirmed, companies must be fully transparent in notifying customers. Here’s a case-in-point:

Safeway Loses Safety Points

In some parts of Colorado and California, the grocery chain Safeway recently had issues with scammers who “skim” for PIN and credit card numbers.

The company released a statement concerning the fraud:

"Like all responsible business owners, our store teams routinely inspect all point-of-sale devices and discovered the three skimmers during these inspections. When our store teams find evidence of criminal activity like this, we have been able to pinpoint with surveillance video when the devices were installed and how many transactions were processed.”

To Safeway’s credit, the breach was detected during a routine audit. However, the company chose not to notify customers immediately, deferring the problem to banks. A spokesperson said Safeway’s internal security team did not want to alarm customers and possibly compromise the investigation. However, that decision backfired with some customers.

“Oh boy does this tick me off!” wrote Larry Taylor of Lakewood, Co. “I've been shopping at the Safeway at Garrison and Colfax for about 15 years. I'm stunned that they found skimmers and didn't bother to let any of us know. Looks like it’s Soopers from now on!”

Many customers saw a company trying to protect themselves—not their security.

The Takeaway

  • Companies should make sure their ATM security is up to date and audited on a regular basis to detect fraud.
  • Tampering is detectable and employees should be trained to detect when an ATM has been tampered with.
  • Regular, routine auditing means less risk for your brand in the long run.
  • Be sure to have a plan for how your company would react in a security breach, keeping in mind that full transparency with your customers is a priority.   

Topics: Retail, Grocery

Alon Brands Chooses Zenput to Streamline C-Stores: Why ‘Flattening’ is Still the Future

By Vladik Rikhter

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The world is flat. You may recall that’s the name of the international best-selling book by Thomas L. Friedman, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist. This book analyzes globalization in the 21st century, and the title is a metaphor for viewing the world as a level playing field. Part of this concept is that geographical divisions are no longer a hindrance to companies’ growth.

At Zenput, we work with companies who embrace the idea of flattening. Just because retailers operate dozens, if not hundreds, of stores across their network, doesn’t mean they can’t reduce the time and labor involved in cross-company task management from weeks to just hours.

Case in Point: Alon Brands, the largest franchisee of 7-Eleven stores in the United States, has realized the advantage of Zenput and recently adopted the mobile app across its network. Now, more than 400 users across 300 convenience stores in Texas and New Mexico can automatically assign tasks and centralize auditing functions. Zenput will replace manual processes in Alon Brands’ stores, including the preparation of spreadsheets, emails and paperwork to conduct operational and retail merchandising audits. Exceptions on retail execution will be automatically routed, in-store campaigns will be verified, and other tasks will be managed through Zenput.

So in terms of geography, it doesn’t matter that a New Mexico store is hundreds of miles away from Alon Brands’ Dallas headquarters. That store will remain stocked and brand promotions will be up to date because the manager of that store is using a mobile-driven task management tool to manage inventory and verify marketing materials.

Friedman calls certain technological advancements “flatteners” because they level the playing field. Just consider Zenput’s ability to level the playing field for the in-store customer experience—it’s pretty amazing. Looking back, a technology like Zenput is like the fulfillment of a prophecy. (Keep in mind his book was published more than 10 years ago!)

Workflow software
The ability of machines to talk to other machines with no humans involved. Zenput allows senior management to auto-generate tasks and automatically monitors compliance of those tasks. Zenput works smarter so individuals don’t have to work harder.

Uploading
Friedman called it “the most disruptive force of all.” Uploading allows organizations to collaborate on online projects via customizable software. That’s the beauty of a customizable app like Zenput and cloud-based technology.

Supply-chaining
Ten years ago, Walmart was ahead of its time by using technology to streamline item sales, distribution and shipping. As we see with Alon Brands today, more retailers are using technology to improve the way they do business. It’s faster, easier and just makes sense.

“The Steroids”
This is the name Friedman gives to all analog content and processes being digitized and and transmitted virtually. It may have been hard to predict the impact a device like the iPhone (first released in 2007) would have on mobile technology, but smartphone adoption has grown exponentially in the last decade. It’s a powerful technology right in the palm of your hand. And the best part is, it requires minimal investment since your employees already have the hardware—their own mobile devices.

Alon Brands has embraced that notion, and that’s why more than 400 users will be able to access Zenput’s platform. To learn more about Zenput’s ability to serve the convenience store industry, explore our website. Be sure to watch the Zenput overview video and consider scheduling a live demo.

Topics: Product Announcements

Zenput’s ‘Tech Temperature’ at the 2015 NACS Show

By Vladik Rikhter

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It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of the convenience and fuel retail industry’s annual NACS Show, especially when it takes place in Las Vegas! That’s why it’s important to take a step back and reflect on the experience. We were certainly thrilled to exhibit for the first time this year, and met many new and familiar faces.

One of the familiar faces was Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Content Development Coordinator for CSP. You may recall his 2014 article on Mapco’s network-wide implementation of Zenput. The great thing about NACS is that it allows you to put on a bit of a mini-show for passersby at the booth. Our mini-show focused on, of all things, a chicken sandwich!

As Angel explains in this NACS tech overview, Zenput showed how a hand-held gauge can read the temperature of food and how data can flow into our app and onto the cloud. He’s referring to Zenput’s recent integration with Bluetherm probe thermometers. By working together, these technologies eliminate the need for foodservice workers or managers to manually log temperatures and guarantee exact readings every time.

Taking Our Own ‘Tech Temperature’

The great thing about a trade show is that you get to take your own temperature as a company and compare it to some of the other trends on the show floor. Angel’s article highlights some of those trends, and Zenput is on point:

Big Data – Data is being used to assess customer shopping habits, manage inventory, and measure performance.

Branding – This is especially hot right now in the foodservice arena, and it really comes down to execution of in-store signage programs. How well do your stores execute on any given day? That’s where mobile reporting at the store level is especially handy.

Connectivity – That’s how you share information about in-store signage and inventory control. It’s all about staying connected while staying secure. This is where having GPS and timestamp and a secure cloud-based technology is useful.

Customer-relationship management – While the signage and in-store promotions are a component, it’s much more than that. It’s about responding quickly to problems that can arise in a store on any given day, from inventory control to maintenance. How well does your store respond to a shortage of the new CPG or a broken latte dispenser? Do they even have that capability? That’s where real-time exception reports and notifications can make a difference in a retailer’s bottom line.

To learn more about Zenput’s application in the convenience channel, click here.

And be sure to read about our recent partnership with Alon Brands, the largest 7-Eleven franchisee in the U.S.

Topics: C-store