Dirks Delivers Startup Consulting Venture

Former Balmar exec to assist retailers with foodservice

Steve Dwyer, CSP Reporter

GIG HARBOR, Wash. -- Dean Dirks, former vice president of category management for Denver-based Balmar Petroleum, has formed a consultancy to assist retailers in becoming competentand completefoodservice providers.

In launching Gig Harbor, Wash.-based Dirks & Associates, Dirks said his firm plans to focus on such core competencies as site evaluation, forecasting, due diligence and information gathering for companies considering entering the foodservice business.

As he embarks on the new venture, Dirks told CSP Daily News that [image-nocss] one chronic problem that continues to hamper c-store retailers is they become blinded by their allure for branded foodservice programs. Many often fail to conduct due diligence upfront in what a branded program can, or cannot, accomplish for them. Other firms don't understand the cost of proprietary programs and income streams needed to succeed.

For existing companies struggling with foodservice ventures, the consultant plans to provide financial analysis, margin maximization and labor reduction services. Dirks, 47, plans to retain his former employer, Balmar Petroleum, as a client.

With the exception of some large-size chainssuch as Wawa, Sheetz and other successful retailersthat leverage internal resources to recruit talented individuals to run foodservice programs, most retailers look outside for guidance. A large chain might be able to invest $80,000 to hire a foodservice manager, said Dirks. A smaller chain might select one of their cashiers as the foodservice manager. To compound matters, that individual might not receive sufficient training to perform these duties. Dirks said he estimates as many as 60% of c-store foodservice programs have serious operational flaws.

Dirks joined West Star Corp., owned by Hank Armour (president and CEO of the National Association of Convenience Stores) in 1996 as its foodservice director, and a year later was promoted to director of operations, and later to vice president. In 2004, Dirks joined Firsthand Management LLCa division of the 56-store Balmar Petroleumas the senior category manager. He has been a member of the NACS Foodservice Committee and other industry groups, as well as a member of advisory boards for Sara Lee, Pierre Foods, Boyd's Coffee and Kraft.

Dirks identified two core areas in which he plans to engage, and assist, retailers. The first is targeting those who have already begun the process of foodservice program selection, and need to pinpoint an optimal fit. Secondly, he plans to offer services to programs dogged by inefficiency by assisting retailers in cutting their losses quickly. For retailers who get entrenched into bad decisions, I can help them dig themselves out of this situation, he said.