As always, the annual National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show serves as a great forum to see the latest and greatest. This year did not disappoint.

There were numerous new products that I saw that could easily be utilized within the convenience store channel. These products included appetizers, grab-and-go items, entrees, and desserts. Other items such as Italian wood fired crusts and flatbreads would be tremendous as a platform for new snack, sandwich and pizza-type offerings. There continue to be substantial opportunities for C-store operators to improve their offerings by tapping into these products. It should also be noted that many of these products are designed to help restaurants compete with C-stores.

Perhaps the even larger opportunity remains in the leveraging of the tools, equipment and technology advancements that restaurants utilize to drive profitability and to manage key facets of the business. Food safety is a great example. I saw multiple items that help streamline both the execution and documentation of this critical function. Leveraging technology and integration into a comprehensive food safety approach fills a tremendous need for C-store operators. And the fact that so much attention throughout the show was focused on food safety should speak volumes to all foodservice operators. Advancements in equipment such as high speed, versatile, compact ovens and others that are focused on cost and labor savings serve as reminders that those that stay on the cutting edge are better positioned to execute, compete, and maximize the profitability of their business. Savvy foodservice operators know this and C-store operators must become savvy foodservice operators to successfully compete in this channel.