The Big Question: Elizabeth Hoffer, Vice President Food Service, Weigel’s

The Big Question: Elizabeth Hoffer, Vice President Food Service, Weigel’s

March 2024   minute read

How is Weigel’s innovating its foodservice program for success now and in the future?

One thing we’ve done in terms of the menu itself is to go after Gen Z and Millennial customers more. They’re very passionate about social issues and so are we. For our chicken program, we chose to partner with a company called Springer Mountain Farms. They’re well-known in our area for high-quality, top-end chicken. They have humanely treated, no antibiotics, no hormones, 100% vegetarian no-animal-byproduct feed, grown-in-the-U.S.A. chickens.

It says volumes that a c-store can have that chicken. And we love that we are able to talk about that on our digital menus, that we have got this really good product that nobody else can say they’ve got.

We’ve spent the last year actually paring down our menu. The food team said, instead of trying to be everything for everybody, let’s decide what we want to be really good at. And we decided we want to be really good at pizza and really, really good at chicken.

We pared down our SKUs and went from having around 60 SKUs to now in the 25 range for lunch and dinner. The best part is we saw double-digit growth in sales. And it’s because when you think about innovation, that’s great, but it’s got to be executed. We must think about our operations partner who has to make those things happen. If you can streamline and pick a couple of avenues to innovate within, I think it’s more successful.

The worst thing you can do is to have innovation that you cannot execute, and so it fails. We’re constantly figuring out how do you innovate and keep it simple enough to where your team members can execute, but also have enough change and fun to draw in your customers. It is really all about balance.

As we continue to grow we know that training is key to innovation. We wrote SOPs for every product that we make in our store. And now we’re in the process of doing the exact same thing for all of our equipment and cleaning processes. We are careful to make sure that we keep it as simple as possible so that it’s easily executable, because we want to make sure that no matter which Weigel’s you go into, you get the same pizza, the same chicken tenders. When you look at a lot of operations, there’s a big disconnect between the food team and the operations team. How do you get the two of them to work successfully together? We actually started a new program for all of our district leaders. Moving forward, anyone who is going to be in the district leader position must first be a food supervisor for a period of time before moving into the district leader position.

Our leadership made the decision to be food first. It is a strategic goal. To make sure that happens, we have even done a few things to change the structure of our organization. In the past, you would have had food rolling up under operations. I am the vice president of food, and recently I took the operations department. This was a strategic move to ensure that food stays top of mind and that we continue to have the mindset that food is first.

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