CCentral-Main-logo-EN-trans

Convenience Central
Join our community
extra content
image

Oshawa City Council opposes 7-Eleven’s bar bid

imageOshawa City Council is opposing a proposal by 7-Eleven Canada to operate consumption areas for beer and wine in its 61 stores across Ontario, including one in Oshawa at 245 Wentworth St. W.

According to the Toronto Star, Oshawa City Council is sending a letter of objection to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission opposing 7-Eleven’s application.

“I can tell you I’ve been around a long time and I’ve never seen an application for a licence with such a potential for negativity in a local community,” Councillor Brian Nicholson to the Star. “What we’re talking about is placing a bar inside a convenience store and that people will be sitting and drinking right next to your children.”

The Oshawa store, located at the corner of Wentworth Street West and Cedar Street, is in the midst of a busy area, with plazas features restaurants and a nearby Beer Store, as well as a number of apartment buildings.

“You couldn’t design a worse possible place for adding a bar,” he said, noting the city has worked hard to improve this stretch of road. “This would be a step backwards by the community.”

The report notes that council not only opposes 7-Eleven’s application, but all applications for beer and wine in convenience stores.

“I think this motion is right on, but let’s be proactive and decide now that it’s not just good in 7-Eleven – it’s not good in any convenience store,” said Councillor and Deputy Mayor Bob Chapman.

.

Screen Shot 2019-12-29 at 2.45.10 PM

McPlant and more: Beyond Meat inks McDonald’s, Yum deals

Plant-based food company Beyond Meat will be partnering with several major fast-food chains in the coming years to expand offerings that could eventually include plant-based burgers, chalupas or toppings on a stuffed-crust pizza.

Beyond Meat announced distribution agreements with McDonald’s as well as with Yum Brands, the parent company of KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut.

READ: Plant-based goes mainstream

The company based in El Segundo, California, said it will develop plant-based products for all the restaurants, with exclusive menu items for each brand.

Beyond Meat had limited partnerships with McDonald’s and Yum Brands before, testing its products in limited geographies or with only an item or two. The companies are now expanding those ties.

Chicago-based McDonald’s will use the Beyond Meat partnership to roll out what it is calling the “McPlant” burger, as well as eventually plant-based pork, egg and chicken products.

Yum will use Beyond Meat to expand its “Beyond Fried Chicken” products, as well as pizza toppings at Pizza Hut. Yum, which is based in Louisville, Kentucky, did not lay out specific menu options for Taco Bell.

Plant-based food products that are designed to imitate meat have grown in popularity in the last few years and several large restaurant chains are now experimenting with food science to make healthier and more environmentally friendly products for customers. Burger King has partnered with Impossible Foods to provide products that use plant-based products as well.


Blue,Rest,Area,Road,Sign

Town raises concerns over rest area improvements along Alberta highway

Alberta Transportation has identified four existing rest areas, two of which are located 27 kilometres north of Fox Creek along both sides of Highway 43 and another two existing sites between the Fox Creek and Whitecourt corridor. The proposed project rest sites for improvements would consist of having facilities such as heated washrooms with flushing toilets, showers, indoor and outdoor seating areas, quick service restaurants, gas stations or convenience stores.

However, during the February 22 council meeting, CAO Kristen Milne felt motorists should be encouraged to stop in communities rather than the rest areas. “The potential retail development at rest stations surrounding Fox Creek could be detrimental to the growth of the community,” stated Milne. Alberta Transportation defends its proposal as it is not the intention of the CRSA project to compete with established businesses in the communities, so they’d intentionally identified rest area sites outside of urban areas. “This project intends to improve the amenities offered at the various rest stop areas and try and encourage the travelling public and commercial truck drivers to take regular breaks and rest, which in turn improves the safety of the highway corridors.” Stated Stuart Richardson, Alberta Transportation’s Central Region Infrastructure Manager.

Richardson indicated the project began five or six years ago as the need for improved rest areas was recognized. The project slowly progressed over the years after receiving Ministerial approval to conduct a highway study and hire engineers to review identified sites along Highway 63, 16, 2 and Highway 1. “These are the four corridors we initially looked at when we did the planning.” Adding in Highway 43 was factored in afterwards but completed the main Highway corridors that cover the province. “Part of the planning process involved financial experts who looked at the business opportunities available for those rest areas to see if having development on those sites would be viable.” Stated Richardson. Through the research and studies, it was determined that improving the rest areas not only attracts drivers to pull in and rest but can be financially appealing to private investors who are looking at placing a business at these sites.”

The extensive research and strategy for the Commercial Rest Area Project addressed a number of factors. In collaboration with the various stakeholders, they’ve identified the need for additional stopping opportunities and improvements along the highways. Stakeholders include the Alberta Motor Transport Association, Alberta Motor Association, the heavy haul trucking industry, the oil drilling industry and the logging trucking industry. The Needs Identification study further illustrated how rest areas improve highway safety with the additional key elements. The need for improved rest areas addresses safety and driver fatigue, allowing long haul truckers and motorists more opportunity to stop, get out and stretch, or nap before getting back behind the wheel. Under the commercial vehicle requirements, having adequate rest areas allows drivers to conduct inspections, open cargo load checks, heavy truck haul checks and driver fatigue management. Highway 43 between Fox Creek and Whitecourt sees a lot of logging trucks, and under the new guidelines imposed in 2002, it requires wrapper checks within the first 80 kilometres of their trip. Drivers must also follow designated routes and cannot pull off at unapproved locations, including towns. The last sector covered is the wide load trucks. The wide load truck staging areas are not part of the safety rest area program; however, the industry has identified the need for good staging areas. Wide loads have specific permit restrictions such as daylight travel only and no Sunday travel. They must also be out of urban areas before daylight and conduct load checks every four hours. Another factor considered in the study is driving during harsh weather conditions. Having adequate rest areas allows motorists to get off the highway and have a coffee while waiting out the storm instead of pushing on through to the next town and ultimately risking the safety of themselves, passengers or others on the highway.

As Richardson stressed, “generally speaking, it’s the truckers we’re targeting by providing better rest areas with better facilities. This is to support their industry and to support new or younger truck drivers. Having facilities like the ones proposed will help the trucking industry because these drivers will stop and rest. Most likely, they’ll stay the night, and they’re not close to anything to have a shower in the morning or a meal before continuing their journey. Again, this is not to take away business from neighbouring towns but to provide a safe haven and a place for truckers to rest and access the amenities needed.”

Alberta Transportation is in the process of seeking commercial sector partners who are interested in owning and operating businesses at any one of the selected rest areas. The Negotiated Request for Proposals will be made public in the coming weeks. The Alberta government will provide the land, and the rest will be up to the private developer to develop the business that offers the recommended amenities. The government will also give a 30-year contract to the business owner, citing they’d be responsible for the business and property maintenance during that period. After the 30-year contract expires, the government will put the contract back out for another 30-year term.

“Essentially, we are giving up that property at no cost to allow private industry to establish a business. We recognize it will cost them significant money upfront, but over that 30-year term, they should make their money back and profit. We do not want anyone to go bust; we want them to become successful. We also don’t want them to have an advantage over anyone else, including paying municipal taxes. They won’t be getting a free ride from the government. It will be a legit business in which they will have to pay municipal taxes to the community closest to their business.” stated Richardson. Once bidding opens up, Richardson commented the process would take several months as proposals have to be submitted, reviewed and then evaluated. We would be looking more around the fall before any contracts are signed. Depending on how quickly sites can be designed, the construction phase most likely won’t occur until 2022 at the earliest.


Screen-Shot-2020-03-24-at-12.54.15-PM-300x181

We are interested in your story: One year later, how has the pandemic shaped your business?

Screen-Shot-2020-03-24-at-12.54.15-PM-300x181In early spring of 2020, we asked operators across the country: How is COVID-19 affecting your business? It was the early days of the pandemic, c-stores and gas stations were stepping up as essential businesses and operators were scrambling to meet the needs of Canadians, while also prioritizing the health and safety of staff and employees.

A year later, as we all reflect on a defining year, we want to check in and give you the opportunity to share what’s on your mind. Please note that some responses will be published in the magazine or online.

Thank you!

Michelle Warren, editor, Convenience Store News Canada

Kelly Gray, editor, OCTANE




Photo: Facebook

Winnipeg c-store debuts during the pandemic

Photo: Facebook

Photo: Facebook

RH Variety is being celebrated by local Winnipeg business association

Every other day, Rey Jazmin finds his mind trapped underneath an avalanche.

It’s a torrent of worries he believes few people can relate to. But as the owner of a new business, rapidly forced to become a one-man show after cost-cutting layoffs, Jazmin has had to learn how to deal with his anxieties at the same length of time he’s been stuck beneath pandemic protocols.

“At least a landslide you can somewhat be prepared for,” he said in an interview with the Winnipeg Free Press. “The pandemic, on the other hand, no one saw coming – especially not me, who put my entire sweat and tears to get all of this running just a month before COVID-19 happened.”

Jazmin’s still not sure RH Variety, the new convenience store and Filipino takeout restaurant he opened last year, is completely out of trouble. It’s getting easier though, he said, to find himself smiling again when he opens his shop every day.

Photo: Facebook

Photo: Facebook

“It’s hard, but this is the only way to financially support my family right now,” said Jazmin. “And now, I’ve started to look at it in sort of a positive way. Maybe, this will eventually be an opportunity for growth. Just maybe, very soon.”

Statistic after statistic makes one thing abundantly clear: It’s not easy running a business during COVID-19.

Sixty storefronts in Winnipeg’s West End, however, have not only stood tall against the pandemic, but they’ve done so as brand-new businesses in the city. Jazmin’s is one of them.

That’s why the association representing commerce in the neighbourhood is holding a weeklong event to celebrate those that have opened up since January 2020, with prizes and gift certificates up for grabs for anyone who visits them and all other stores in the area.

“Truly, all the odds were anything but in these businesses’ favour and yet, they’ve survived against all of that,” said Joe Kornelsen, executive director for West End BIZ, in an interview.

“While older stores have also been hurting, they do have somewhat of a customer base that kept them afloat in some way. The new businesses barely had the time to establish themselves before this crisis,” he said. “I think that’s more than worth celebrating, especially after they poured their heart and soul into their openings.”

Kornelsen said he’s never seen more outlets close in the West End than during the pandemic. The association has kept track of statistics for at least five years, and 90 businesses closed in the area in 2020 – 51% higher than ever before.

“It’s certainly affected the culture of the neighbourhood,” he said. “The West End has long been a home for newcomers to Canada, and so many of them start their first earnings by setting up a small family business with their fresh new ideas… the loss of that is very, very clear to anyone who comes here.”

Still, the opening of new shops like Jazmin’s is a sign of hope, said Kornelsen. The figure for new openings from last year – 60 new grocery stores, restaurants, retailers and other startups- is only slightly below previous numbers.

“It’s been much better than a lot of other neighbourhoods,” he said. “In so many ways, I think that’s because the West End’s a great way to get your start as a business owner. The lease rate is second-lowest in the city, costs are more affordable and it’s a neighbourhood that actively likes participating in the economy.”

For Warkentin Business Solutions co-owners Vitaliy Lebezun and TJ Gross, that’s something their new tax and bookkeeping service firm can relate to.

“It really goes without saying, I think we wouldn’t have survived anything if it weren’t for the support of people that live here,” said Gross.

“We’ve had a major shift, we moved online quicker than we planned to and the lockdowns certainly didn’t make things easy, “ he said. “But I love working here in the area and I love what we’re doing with our company. That makes things so much better, even with all this uncertainty.”

West End visitors and residents are invited to watch for decals popping up around the neighbourhood. The association’s website will be in full swing throughout the week, featuring all the new businesses in the area. Participating customers will be entered in a draw and prizes include gift certificates to any West End outlet.

 


Rick_Rabba

Rabba Fine Foods elevates convenience with Paramount partnership

In an interview with Convenience Store News Canada, Rick Rabba shares insights into how Rabba Fine Foods becomes a part of the neighbourhoods it serves, lessons learned from COVID and the values his father taught him about operating a successful business

Photos by Daniel Alexander

Photos by Daniel Alexander

It seems to have been Rick Rabba’s destiny to work in the convenience/grocery retail business. Even as a youngster, cleaning cooler doors, packing groceries and working the cash register at his family’s store in downtown Toronto, he felt it would be his future. He was 100% right. Today, Rabba is president of Rabba Fine Foods with 34 (soon to be 35) locations in neighbourhoods across the GTA. 

His family were Palestinian immigrants who came to Canada in 1966 with little money. His mother worked at the University of Toronto library and his father got a job at a restaurant, then a hotel and a convenience store. “It’s the classic immigrant story,” says Rabba. “By saving and denying himself any sort of luxury, my dad was able to put a down payment on a house and rented out part of it. I have so much respect for him.”

By 1967, Rabba’s father had scraped together enough money to buy a convenience store at 37 Charles Street West and called it Variety Food Fair. It was where Rick would work alongside his grandfather, who managed the business, and learn about customers wanted from their local convenience store and how to evolve according to their needs, like adding deli foods and fresh produce. 

Rick continued to work to grow his skills. “As I got older, I took on more and more roles,” he recalls. “It got to the point where there isn’t one in the organization I haven’t done in some capacity. I could gladly serve you on the cash register today and tell you the PLU [price look-up code] for bananas.”

He went on to attend university, but he always knew he’d go back to his roots. “I always wanted to improve the family business,” he says. “That has always been a strong passion of mine. 

Screen Shot 2021-02-22 at 5.34.51 PMA major shift happened in the 1980s as their stores began to stock more groceries and fresh produce. In 1987, all Variety Food Fairs became Rabba Fine Foods with the first store under that brand opening near Queen’s Quay. 

While it would have been easier to roll out the new convenience/grocery store hybrid concept uniformly across all Rabba Fine Foods locations, that approach did not jibe with the company’s principles—to serve local communities and to honour the diversity and uniqueness of each. “We don’t have a single location I would call a cookie-cutter store,” says Rabba. “We customize based on the physical realities of the location we’re working in, whether it’s underneath a condominium building or a stand-alone. Over time, we learn what items customers in that neighbourhood are looking for, based on their lifestyle or ethnicity.”

Photos by Daniel Alexander

Photos by Daniel Alexander

That could mean offering Middle Eastern for an Arabic community, hard dough bread for a Jamaican one, or grab-and-go meals in areas with a lot of offices. It’s a process of constant pivoting as needed. Fortunately, Rabba Fine Foods is cohesive enough to allow that to happen fairly quickly. Rick credits his ace head office team, who can source items store operators say customers are asking for.

Pivoting with finesse has become a coveted skill in 2020 with the pandemic challenging business-as-usual norms. Rabba Fine Foods has done well during COVID since they are open seven days a week and 24 hours a day. “We are very proud that we’ve remained open throughout COVID because we are here to serve our communities,” Rabba says. “We recognize, especially during lockdowns and times when other retailers have restricted their shopping hours, that our community needs us.”

Screen Shot 2021-02-22 at 5.35.16 PM

He has noticed a significant change. “Customers are using us more like a grocery store these days, and less like a convenience store. We are making sure we are well-stocked on more dry goods than in the past, including toilet paper, pasta, and rice. Once the pandemic has subsided, I think people will resume using us as a convenience store again, as well as a grocery store.”

 The company is getting ready to pivot again. It already has a partnership with Tim Hortons and this month it opened its ninth Tim Horton’s counter, at its Lakeshore Boulevard West location in Etobicoke.

In December, Rabba announced it had joined forces with Paramount Fine Foods, a well-known restaurant group, to rebuild Rabba’s in-store prepared foods menu. Rabba Kitchen by Paramount will debut at the chain’s newest store, which is slated to open this year at the base of a condo tower in Toronto’s revitalized Regent Park neighbourhood. 

Screen Shot 2021-02-22 at 3.34.36 PMBuilding on the Paramount partnership, Rabba Fine Foods on February 8 debuted a Paramount Butcher counter inside its Meadowvale Town Centre Circle location in Mississauga, Ont. Described as a “scaled-down version” of a Paramount restaurant, the innovative offering features take-home menu items from the Middle Eastern restaurant chain, as well as Halal poultry and deli options, complemented by an assortment of Paramount dips and spreads.

“Our business is in a constant state of flux and we’re happy to find in Paramount Fine Foods a partner that is nimble and, at the same time, committed to quality products and service,” Rabba said in a release following the announcement. “We’re determined to help our customers in whatever way we can and expanding this partnership with Paramount is an example of that commitment.”

The company told Convenience Store News Canada it plans to roll out the concept in other stores in its network.

“It’s something we’re doing to cater to our neighbourhoods,” adds Rabba. “We are offering home meal replacements, fresh produce, organic foods, and interesting items to create a bit of excitement.”

Screen Shot 2021-02-22 at 5.35.07 PMAll Rabba locations offer valued popular brands like Heinz and Kraft, but where they can really shine in with the smaller names, like Owl & Goose, a Toronto company offering raw and unpasteurized smoothies and juices. It’s part of an effort to differentiate themselves from the big box retailers and also to support local businesses. Rabba Fine Foods is one, too—Canadian owned and operated, with deep roots in Toronto. That’s something Rabba has never forgotten. 

The company gives back to the communities that support it through Rabba Roots. It has hosted a Super Bowl event for Covenant House and Good Shepherd shelter for the homeless and vulnerable, and donated thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer to the Peel Children’s Aid Society. 

“We’re part of the community,” Rabba explains. “We feel the need to support the community that we are serving. We feel it’s reasonable and responsible because we are all in it together.”


Screen Shot 2021-02-22 at 3.34.36 PM

Rabba opens in-store Paramount Butcher counter

Screen Shot 2021-02-22 at 3.34.36 PMBuilding on a partnership first announced last year, Rabba Fine Foods has launched the Paramount Butcher counter inside its Meadowvale Town Centre Circle location in Mississauga, Ont. The counter officially opened on Feb. 8.

Rabba Fine Foods describes it as a “scaled-down version” of a Paramount restaurant, featuring take-home menu items from the Middle Eastern restaurant chain. It also includes Halal poultry and deli options, complemented by an assortment of Paramount dips and spreads.

“Our business is in a constant state of flux and we’re happy to find in Paramount Fine Foods a partner that is nimble and, at the same time, committed to quality products and service,” said Rabba Fine Foods CEO Rick Rabba in a release. “We’re determined to help our customers in whatever way we can and expanding this partnership with Paramount is an example of that commitment.”

Paramount launched its Paramount Butcher Shop division in 2012 and started expanding the concept throughout the U.S. and Canada in 2015, followed by entry into the Middle Eastern and European markets in 2016. It describes its offering as a blend of “premium cut meats to go with premium quality restaurant recipes from the Paramount Fine Foods restaurants.”

The latest announcement comes after Rabba announced in December it was partnering with Paramount to open a prepared food offering called Rabba Kitchen — By Paramount in its upcoming location, its 35th, in Toronto’s Regent Park neighbourhood. The company said it plans to roll out the concept in other stores in its network.

Speaking with Canadian Grocer at the time, Rabba president Rick Rabba said the new concepts arose out the “close, congenial” relationship that exists between the two companies.

Rabba also announced this month it opened a Tim Hortons counter, its ninth, at its Lakeshore Boulevard West location in Etobicoke. “We’re happy any time we can expand our offering to improve the service we provide neighbours,” said Rabba.

Read CSNC’s interview with Rick Rabba, who shares insights into how Rabba Fine Foods becomes a part of the neighbourhoods it serves, lessons learned from COVID and the values his father taught him about operating a successful business.


beer-store

President of union representing The Beer Store workers criticizes 7-Eleven’s alcohol plan

beer-storeThe union representing Ontario Beer Store workers is calling on the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario to reject the proposal by 7-Eleven to sell alcohol for on-site consumption at 61 of its Ontario convenience stores.

On February 17, the c-store giant confirmed that the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario was reviewing its liquor sales licence applications, which were filed after the Ontario government decided to extend beer and wine retailing to convenience stores.

7-Eleven says the alcoholic drinks would complement its push into fresh and hot food, and would build on the chain’s long history of controlling access to age-restricted products, including lottery and tobacco.

In a statement, the company said staff would take the Smart Serve training program, which is designed for workers who sell, serve, deliver or handle alcohol in Ontario. “We are committed to meeting the needs of our Ontario customers and we look forward to the opportunity to grow jobs and contribute to the Ontario economy.”

John, Nock, the president of UFCW 12R24, the union representing workers at Beer Store in Ontario, counters that its members work hard to sell beer safely and responsibly and came out swinging against 7-Eleven’s announcement. “The anti-union global convenience-store chain 7-Eleven has applied to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario to serve alcohol in 61 of their Ontario convenience stores for in-store consumption. They think it’s easy. It’s not. It’s obvious 7-Eleven is trying to find a back door to sell alcohol in convenience stores at a time when small businesses and workers are struggling with the economic devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic. The AGCO should shut down this proposal immediately.”

He says that allowing 7-Eleven to offer on-site consumption will make communities less safe. “Their low-wage clerks will have to serve alcohol, late at night, while also dealing with everything else going on in the store. School kids on lunch breaks will have to pass bar patrons to get a hot dog or a Slurpee.”

He goes on to say that “cheap alcohol and gas stations don’t mix,” adding “The last thing Ontario needs right now as we try to bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic is alcohol in convenience stores. It does nothing to rebuild our province. In fact, it threatens our communities even more.”


image

7-Eleven Canada proposes in-store ‘consumption areas’ for beer and wine

imagesConvenience store chain 7-Eleven Canada says it is preparing many of its Ontario shops to serve beer and wine in the store.

The company says it is planning in-store service of a small selection of Ontario-made beer and wine products.

7-Eleven says the beer and wine would be offered during limited hours in designated consumption areas of some Ontario stores.

The retailer says the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario is still reviewing its liquor sales licence applications, which were filed after the Ontario government decided to extend beer and wine retailing to convenience stores.

7-Eleven says the alcoholic drinks would complement its push into fresh and hot food, and would build on the chain’s long history of controlling access to age-restricted products.

A statement from the chain says that if the licences come through, staff would take the Smart Serve training program, which is designed for workers who sell, serve, deliver or handle alcohol in Ontario.

“We are committed to meeting the needs of our Ontario customers and we look forward to the opportunity to grow jobs and contribute to the Ontario economy,” the company said in a statement.

The plans to serve alcohol in Ontario may be hard for convenience store patrons to envision – but the Restaurants Canada industry association says it is actually a new take on an old format.

7-Eleven Canada says it is awaiting approval for liquor sales licences that would allow in-store service of beer and wine.

If the 61 licences are approved, 7-Eleven Canada says trained servers would offer the alcoholic beverages during limited hours in designated consumption areas of the shops.

Restaurants Canada vice president James Rilett says that since the convenience store chain is not primarily a restaurant, regulations don’t allow the chain to compete with restaurants by offering takeout alcohol sales.

Rilett, who is vice president of central Canada for the nation’s restaurant advocacy group, says he sees 7-Eleven Canada’s in-store venture as healthy competition – similar to long-standing cafes or delis located in bodegas.

Rilett says that while 7-Eleven will need to come up with safety policies for drivers buying gas, the convenience stores could look to restaurants at rest stops for examples of how to manage alcohol service.

“The restaurant industry is always evolving, and we see this as just another evolution. It’s actually nothing new in many ways,” says Rilett.

“There’ll probably be some hiccups along the way. They’re an innovative company, so hopefully, they’ll be able to address them. It might end up being that some restaurants that don’t have liquor licences now see this as an opportunity to do this as well.”

 

READ MORE: However, not everyone is supportive of the move. The president of union representing The Beer Store workers criticizes 7-Eleven’s alcohol plan, saying: “The last thing Ontario needs right now as we try to bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic is alcohol in convenience stores. It does nothing to rebuild our province. In fact, it threatens our communities even more.”


Éric Gemme

Éric Gemme to step into CFO role at Lassonde Industries

Éric Gemme

Éric Gemme

Quebec-based Lassonde Industries has announced that Éric Gemme will step into the role of chief financial officer on April 1. The appointment is what the company describes as a “long-prepared transition plan” as Gemme replaces Guy Blanchette, current executive vice-president and chief financial officer, who is retiring at the end of March after 14 years at the company.

Gemme, who joined the company in 2014, is currently senior vice-president and chief financial officer of the Lassonde Pappas and Company Inc. division.

Post-retirement, Blanchette will continue his relationship with Lassonde serving as a strategic advisor to its CEO Nathalie Lassonde.