At Casey’s, Connecting With Teams Is Crucial

Julie Jackowski shares with Convenience Matters how the Iowa chain is navigating the pandemic.

April 29, 2020

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—On this week’s episode of Convenience Matters, “Stories from the Field: Casey’s Julie Jackowski,” NACS hosts Jeff Lenard, vice president of strategic industry initiatives, and Carolyn Schnare, director of strategic initiatives, discuss the new retail normal with Julie Jackowski, senior vice president, corporate general counsel and secretary for Casey’s.

“We know that our convenience store business collectively is so important to our community for fuel, food and household products,” said NACS Chair Jackowski. Casey’s has locations in 16 states, and 60% of its stores are in communities of less than 5,000 people.

“We’ve really been hearing how important it is, that we are an essential business. In some of the towns we’re in, we are the grocery store and the restaurant and the fuel supplier—and we’re it,” Jackowski said. “It’s been ever more apparent to our team members how important they are in helping us to serve those communities.”

One of the things Casey’s has focused on lately has been ensuring those team connections stay strong, even while much of the corporate office staff are working from home. “At the store level, what’s been really important has been for us to enhance our communication,” Jackowski said. “When you have 2,200 stores, communication is key. … Now we not only need to have the information getting to the stores, but we need them to understand that … we do care about their safety and the protocols that we’re putting in place are not only for our team members but [for] our guests.”

Casey’s holds weekly conference calls with all team members, along with scheduled video calls. “We’re trying to ramp up the communication, so they have every avenue, whether they want to see somebody physically on a video or whether they want the information written or they want to be on a conference call,” Jackowski said. “We want to put their minds at ease and help them understand how we’re trying to keep them safe and what they can do to better serve their communities in a safe manner.”

One challenge for many convenience stores is how to keep the connection strong with customers in light of social distancing. “We’ve had to take out all of our seating to discourage customers from hanging out in our stores like they did before, so we’re trying to find ways for our team members to connect with those community members,” Jackowski said. One way has been Casey’s curbside pickup option, where team members deliver the food or groceries to a customer’s car.

Another challenge has been keeping up with the fast-changing rules at the state and federal level. “We’ve had to rely on our team members quite a bit more on the regulatory side because different municipalities interpret state and federal regulations differently,” Jackowski said. “They’ve really had to become those frontline folks helping us to stay open, helping us to better serve our guests.”

Casey’s put together a team to keep up to date on the regulations and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. “They meet three times a day, and we have a briefing at the end of each day to find out what has changed and how we need to adapt so we can continue to serve our guests,” Jackowski said.

Earlier this year, Casey’s rolled out a new loyalty program and app and had begun a pilot program with DoorDash for delivery, which the chain accelerated to more than 700 stores in early April. Jackowski encouraged retailers to make their service as convenient as possible for customers, whether through an app for orders or phoned-in orders for curbside pickup or delivery. “The big key is that the convenience industry is so important—not just what Casey’s is doing but our whole industry,” Jackowski said.

Each week a new Convenience Matters episode is released. With more than 200 episodes to choose from, the podcast can be heard on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play and other podcast apps and YouTube and at Episodes have been downloaded more than 130,000 times by listeners around the world.

For more on how Casey’s and Sheetz are telling their stories in this current crisis, don’t miss the session “Pivoting to Meet Communication Expectations in a New Normal” as part of the NACS SOI Summit Virtual Experience.