By Kim Stewart
MIAMI BEACH, Fla.—The 2023 NACS Leadership Forum opened yesterday with a general session featuring Casey’s President and CEO Darren Rebelez, who sat down with NACS CEO and President Henry Armour to discuss how the Iowa-based retailer continues to innovate the guest experience and its iconic pizza program.
Casey’s is the third-largest convenience retailer in the United States and the fifth-largest pizza chain, with more than 2,400 stores in 16 states.
Since taking the helm in 2019, Rebelez has led the 55-year-old company on a transformation to “be a bigger, better and more contemporary version of ourselves,” he said. Guided by a new strategic plan, Casey’s has refreshed its brand, launched private-label goods, made significant new acquisitions and added new digital capabilities across loyalty, delivery and fulfillment.
The plan centers on four primary strategies: reinventing the guest experience, identifying operational efficiencies, accelerating store growth and investing in people and community.
When it comes to the guest experience, Casey’s starts with merchandising and product assortment. An important part of this is Casey’s digital platform and rewards program, which now has six million members.
Rebelez shared that 64% of Casey’s rewards members engage with the brand during a 90-day period. On a monthly basis, 50% of loyalty members engage with the brand, beating industry averages for engagement.
And then, of course, there is Casey’s pizza program, which Rebelez calls the “crown jewels” of the operation. “There’s a lot of love put into that pizza,” Rebelez said, noting that everything is made from scratch with fresh ingredients on-site each day. (Read more about Casey’s pizza program and how the retailer managed increases in the cost of cheese.)
Of the 100% whole milk mozzarella cheese, Rebelez said, “That's where all the love and the flavor is, and so we don't skimp on that stuff. The product quality is paramount.”
The foodservice team has worked to elevate the rest of the menu to the “Casey’s good” level of its beloved pizza in part by simplifying kitchen operations. And the culinary team isn’t done creating new pizza flavors.
“Last summer our team identified that brisket was on trend, and so we launched a new BBQ Brisket Pizza, which is phenomenal,” Rebelez said. The pizza was so good that it earned a spot on the permanent menu and became Casey’s best-selling LTO to date.
To celebrate the 21st birthday of its famous breakfast pizza in September 2022, Casey’s collaborated with Anheuser-Busch on an LTO dubbed the Ultimate Beer Cheese Breakfast Pizza, complete with Busch Light beer cheese sauce.
“We rolled that out, and it immediately took off,” Rebelez said, “but really what was great about that, in addition to selling a lot, it was a huge thing on social media,” he said. “We generated over 80 million impressions on social media just over this one pizza.”
Look for more coverage of Rebelez’s Q&A with Armour on leadership and building teams, plus other learnings from the 2023 NACS Leadership Forum, in the April issue of NACS Magazine.
Kim Stewart is NACS editorial director and editor-in-chief of NACS Magazine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.