Ricker Refocuses on Foodservice

Yogurt, shakes, barista, more under consideration

ANDERSON, Ind. -- After an intense couple of years focused on marketing and loyalty programs, Ricker Oil is turning its retail attentions toward foodservice. A few months after tapping distributor Eby-Brown Co.'s fresh-sandwich program, the Indiana convenience-store chain plans to further grow foodservice through new programs and partnerships, according to president and CEO Quinn Ricker.

"We have a sales, marketing and loyalty phase we're just coming out of. Now we're going to refocus our efforts on foodservice," Ricker told CSP Daily News. "It's a daunting task to try to figure out: Is it a foodservice program that fits over all of our stores? Do we go store by store and try to pick out something a little different than the store down the road?"

Ricker said the Eby-Brown deli-sandwich program has been the chain's biggest growth category in recent months.

"We've invested in new deli coolers. With that investment and a great, fresh product from Eby-Brown, our sales are really taking off," he said. "The biggest problem we have with that program is keeping the shelves stocked, which is a great problem to have."

Ricker said he hopes to maintain that growth with additional product offers.

"I think our industry has an opportunity to mimic something like a McCafe," he said. "Our industry has always been very beverage focused, so how do we take those great components of what we have historically done and leap into the next generation of it? Is it yogurts? Is it shakes? Is it a barista-style presentation? Is it meal-replacement shakes? How do we take what we're so strong in historically and take that to the next level?"

One step aimed at answering those questions will be seeking the right partnerships and even employees.

"It's going to be a big task, and the most challenging part of that task will probably be to find the right people to fit in the organization to lead us down that path of being a great foodservice marketer," Ricker said. "That will be a lot of what we put our efforts behind this year, how to expand foodservice more, and I'm excited about the direction we're going in."

Founded in 1979, Ricker Oil is a family-owned company based in Anderson, Ind. It owns and operates 50 convenience stores in Indiana, as well as a petroleum dealership and other enterprises.

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