MYRTLE BEACH, SC -- Operators, distributors, suppliers and manufacturers thronged the Embassy Suites Hotel at Kingston Plantation for the 2010 Atlantic Coast Exposition. More than 600 industry members participated in the event, and 59 manufacturers and suppliers exhibited at the trade show.
In a break with tradition, the 56th annual ACE was scheduled for early fall rather than late spring. And in a return to a practice that had lapsed more than four decades ago, the show was held in the host hotel, unifying all activities under one roof from Oct. 14 to 16.
The centerpiece of the convention was an in-depth Super Technology panel discussion that explored ways to implement today's data communications and processing systems to boost profitability by improving efficiency, maximizing sales, enhancing responsiveness and tightening control. It was moderated by Scott Halloran, Halloran's Refreshment Services (Richmond, VA). Panelists were Warren Phillips, Validata Computer & Research (Montgomery, AL); Mark Kronenberg, CompuVend (Metairie, LA); Laurin Miller, Crane Streamware (Norwood, MA); Brian Fischer, Cantaloupe Systems (San Francisco); Cliff Fisher, MEI (West Chester, PA); and Gregg Hasslinger, InOne Technology (Hunt Valley, MD).
Halloran led off by observing that an initial difficulty with adopting new technology is imagining, in detail, just how to implement it. Speaking from experience, he said, "You don't jump right into this. There's an investment in time, too."
In three years, he reported, his company has installed Streamware's vending management system, and has gone to complete prepacking (prekitting) of route orders. This has allowed the consolidation of six vending routes into four, and substantially improved route profitability. He is currently exploring remote data collection and considering cashless payment options.
Halloran concluded by reporting that, in his experience, most of the real work involves getting all the inventory barcoded into the system's database, training the staff to use the features and reorienting everyone to a new way of doing things.
The panelists then offered detailed recommendations for getting started and following through.
The second part of the program reviewed new technologies that have entered the market and are available to operators who have made the fundamental transition to computer-based management. Joining the panel were Randy Smith, LightSpeed Automation (Alpharetta, GA), and Robin Houston, Apriva (Scottsdale, AZ). They offered details on completing the revolution effected by automated machine data capture, transmission and analysis by adding warehouse automation to save time and labor, and implementing cashless vending to broaden customer options, enhance pricing flexibility, reduce cash handling costs and boost sales.
After lunch, a panel session explored the legislative outlook for the Southeast and the nation. It was moderated by Canteen Services' Lance Roper (Columbia, SC), secretary of the South Carolina Vending Association. Panelists were Dick Carlton, legislative representative of the North Carolina Vending Association; Tom Sponseller of the South Carolina Hospitality Association, legislative representative of the South Carolina Vending Association; Jeff Smith, the Virginia Automatic Merchandising Association's legislative representative; and Ned Monroe, National Automatic Merchandising Association senior vice-president of government affairs.
Roper led off by observing that, in today's high-pressure political environment, "If you're not at the table, you're on the menu." He then invited the panel to review the principal legislative and regulatory issues facing the industry, which include ongoing efforts to restrict America's food choices in the interest of combating obesity, tax increases to offset state budget shortfalls and the growing federal deficit, and nutrition labeling for vending machines that is mandated by the new healthcare reform bill.
The session concluded with brief overviews of the impending elections, and an emphatic and united call for everyone to get involved and vote.
At the annual awards breakfast on the second day of the convention, the three sponsoring state associations recognized members who have made outstanding contributions.
The Barbara W. Short Lifetime Achievement Award, which honors long, exceptional service to the industry and the community, was presented by convention chairman John Ripley Jr., R&T Vending (Charleston, SC), to C.T. Cromer, Cromer Food Services (Anderson, SC).
PHOTO: Second-generation industry veteran C.T. Cromer (right), Cromer Food Services (Anderson, SC), receives Barbara W. Short Lifetime Achievement Award from 2010 ACE chairman John Ripley Jr., R&T Vending (Charleston), vice-president of the South Carolina Vending Association.
Lauded as VAMA Operator of the Year was Scott Halloran. Hailed as VAMA Supplier of the Year was Vistar Carolinas' Walt Abele (Greensboro, NC). The presentations were made by VAMA vice-president Carl Moser, Cardinal Services (Chesapeake).
In the limelight as North Carolina Operator of the Year was James Barber, Classic Food Services (Durham). Recognized as North Carolina Supplier of the Year was Jim Roberson, Brokers Unlimited (Denver, NC). The awards were bestowed by North Carolina Vending Association president Zed Bradley, Piedmont Vending Service (Hickory).
Keynoting the breakfast was Dennis Hogan, Canteen Vending Services, which is part of Compass Group North America (Charlotte, NC), who offered an overview of the economy from the perspective of a national vending and foodservice operation. He believes that the economy has stabilized and, while the manufacturing segment that traditionally has been vending's core market, has contracted dramatically, other types of location (notably colleges and universities) have opened up. It is important for operators to invest in new technology, he emphasized -- especially cashless payment options -- and, more than ever, to establish good working relationships with government in order to educate legislators and regulators.
Two concurrent workshops followed the awards breakfast. Designed for startup operators, Vending 101 and OCS for Vending Operators were presented by panels of experts in an open format encouraging questions from the operator participants.
The Vending 101 panel included Harry Poston, Carolinas Vending (Taylors, SC); Rick Mathews, H&L Tom's Distributors (Virginia Beach, VA); Steve Mims, Columbia (SC) Snacks; and Chip Block, DBV Inc. (Wilmington, NC). The points to which they continually returned are the importance of developing cordial relations with other, larger operators in one's market area, and joining trade associations, which will help with that task and enable new operators to take an active part in the defense of their new industry.
OCS panelists were Lester Lail, Have A Cup Coffee Service (Hickory, NC); Watt Mays, Kwik Kafe (Bluefield, VA); Stuart Greene, Kraft Foods North America; and Ted Godwin, Nestlé Professional. They explored proven strategies for increasing volume, maintaining margins and competing with giant office supply companies. Key questions raised by participants included compensating route drivers, the role of single-cup brewers and the best way to communicate coffee price increases to clients.
The Atlantic Coast Exposition is cosponsored by the North Carolina Vending Association, South Carolina Vending Association (formerly South Carolina Automatic Merchandising Association) and Virginia Automatic Merchandising Association (formerly Automatic Vending Association of Virginia). IMI Association Executives Inc. (Morrisville, NC) provides administrative services for the convention, exhibit and sponsoring associations.