Accent Food Service

Accent Food Services Geico

Accent Food Services has built its reputation in Texas by emphasizing the importance of its customers and employees.

By Bianca Herron

Accent Food Services is the leading provider of vending, coffee and break room refreshment services in the state of Texas. Tom and Rhonda Hawkins founded the company in 1994 initially as a vending company for snacks and beverages, but quickly realized the opportunity to broaden scope as technology firms established in Austin, offered a much broader breakroom offering than the norm.

“In our region at that particular time, many operators either offered snacks or coffee,” CEO and President Josh Rosenberg says. “Hawkins brought them both together to broaden the company service lines. In 1994, we were a $1 million company. Today, our revenue is now pacing $72 million with pending acquisitions that will take us to more than $100 million by the end of the year.”

Accent Food Services infoThe market has evolved and Accent Food Services has grown with it, says Rosenberg, noting that nearly six years ago the industry produced its most progressive innovation yet: micro markets. “They are unattended retail stores within the work place,” he says. “We’ve grown that business from zero stores to more than 350, which has equated to more than $20 million in total revenue. It’s taken the industry by storm.”

At Accent Food Services, the backbone of what the Texas-based company does is adaptability, explains Rosenberg. “We’re always trying to stay ahead of the trend,” he says. “This industry relied heavily on low cost distribution, driven by the buy side of large scale sugar based beverage and snacks. This approach limits consumer reach, whereas we’ve always thought of ourselves more as retailers. That’s the mindset I’ve tried to bring since I’ve been here. We’re a retail organization focused on consumer and customer ever changing need states.”

The company’s clients work primarily in the workplace, including institutions, universities, secondary education and non-retail establishments like car dealerships. Yet, the bulk of its clients are in business and industry. “We provide break room solutions for our clients, which can vary from traditional snack and beverage, full pantry, health and wellness consulting & solutions, as well as employer subsidized solutions for the overall compensation and culture of the organization.”

Improved Tech

By integrating technology into their retail store footprints and operations, for the first time in the company’s history, Accent Food Services is interacting directly with consumers. Technology has played a critical role, Rosenberg says, whether it is through the mobile app, loyalty programs or consumer surveys.

“We were one of the first companies in the U.S. that has fully integrated technology into our distribution,” Rosenberg explains. “All of our equipment – outside of coffee of course – operate in real time, enabling just in time delivery and transactional data. So we can see every transaction, product sale and technical service component that runs through each piece of equipment 24/7.”

The technological innovation has also enabled the company to reduce their overall fleet by 40 percent,” Rosenberg noted. “It’s real time delivery driven by dynamic scheduling and routing that allows our team to be as efficient as possible.. If the machine is not working you’re not in business. You have to have eyes into your retail store and if the store shuts down you can’t sell anything. So we’re able to proactively manage the service model.”

Through consumer relevant tools, which include product discounts and loyalty/rewards, and charitable contributions, Rosenberg says the company has seen positive results, as they have become a “relevant consumer place to shop.”

“Just like Starbucks, we have consumer loyalty apps,” he explains. “Customers can purchase items with Apple Pay, loyalty/rewards cards, and our in-app purchases rewards consumers for charitable contributions; they can pick their charity of choice and a percentage of the transaction will go to that charity. Employers can do it as well if they have a campaign.”

This seamless integration, Rosenberg added, is changing the dichotomy of the relationship of consumers and businesses from a transaction to something much more. “We’re now bringing solutions, brand products and technology all to the client as part of their employee engagement platform,” he says. “So it’s really changed the way our employees and clients think about our industry and us. In addition, we now can be part of a solution that’s much broader than having a break time snack or beverage.”

Keys To Success

Everyday, Accent Food Services is focused on their customers and people. According to Rosenberg, the company has some of the best retention rates in the industry for both: nearly 97 percent retention of clients and 61 percent employee turnover.

“Our mantra is built on the ideas of fail fast, move quick, satisfying customers and your people, as well as managing your partners effectively,” he says. “That’s what Accent does. We are accountable to our actions and we work quickly to address it.”

Accent Food Services staffCulture also plays a critical role in their company’s development, Rosenberg explained, noting that people have to feel like they have a voice and that they are a part of something.

“When in it comes to our employees, we try not to allow our leaders to minimize any great idea, but instead to stop, listen and act,” Rosenberg says. “From an innovations standpoint, consumers are so well connected to insights, they are driving everything. That’s why we need great people that really understand the mission we’re on and have a willingness to adapt to change. With that, as long as we can keep evolving with this constantly changing consumer environment, then the sky is the limit for what we can do.”

Accent Food Services relationship with their suppliers is no different, they are just as a critical and important to the success of the company just like their employees. “They have to feel like they are a part of your solutions, so transparency and clarity of what their role is within your organization is key,” he adds. “You have to have mutually aligned goals and objectives, too. Then you have to steward that and own it. We have to be accountable and demonstrate to them we are not just in it for us, but for them too. That’s really important to expand your reach within the industry in order to be a high performing company.”

Acquiring Talent

At Accent Food Services, people and customers are their most valuable assets. In the past 12 to 24 months, the company has evolved its innovation through new talent, including our investment in channel marketing led by John Christian, Chief Marketing Officer, we’ve added a new director of category management and insights.

“Amanda Sulc has been able to use data now to establish trends, understand opportunities and connect better with consumers and engagement,” says Rosenberg. “She’s done a really good job of helping us to evolve planning and have the right product at the right place at the right time. So that’s been a great evolution to help our same store sales rise year-over-year.”

Though the company has a dedicated human resources team, according to Rosenberg, Accent Food Services also emphasizes outside recruitment efforts for middle level management or frontline positions. “We do a lot of marketing; articles like this help us tremendously when we’re trying to recruit because if you’re exposed effectively, you can really build credibility in your brand and who you are. We use employee and customer referrals as well, they’re you’re best spokes people after all.”

In addition, the company trains all of its managers to conduct behavioral-based interviews. “Not only do we need to get people in the door, we need to make sure they fit our culture and beliefs,” Rosenberg says. “This really helps you get beyond just a skillset and into whether or not it’s the right personality and profile fit for the organization.”

An organization that Rosenberg explains “starts from the bottom up,” noting that he’s the “last man on the totem pole.” “We’re constantly trying to empower our people to be entrepreneurial, and make decisions that they believe are best for the business. We reward them when they make the right decisions, then pick them up, dust them off and challenge them to do it again when they don’t. You have to make sure your door is open and that you’re listening to your people if you want them to really engage and grow to be the best.”

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