by Lorrie Griffith/editor–West
The Western Association of Food Chains (WAFC) is taking its 97th annual convention eastward. The gathering will take place May 5-9 at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country in San Antonio, Texas.
The WAFC already may be familiar to Texas grocers; the association’s Community College Retail Management Certificate Program “has expanded to Texas, with scholarships available for food industry employees in the state,” Carole Christianson, COO of WAFC, told The Shelby Report Feb. 20.
“We’re thrilled to be returning to the state of Texas,” said Christianson. “We’re going back to San Antonio, which we hope to be a future site of more of our conventions.
“We really need the support of the Texas retailer community.”
There are solid reasons Lone Star State retailers should consider attending. They get a discount on registration; they have the opportunity to meet with top-level executives from vendor companies; it’s a family-friendly event; and Crawford, Texas, resident and former President George W. Bush will be a featured speaker.
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Christianson said retailers can meet with vendors several ways. One is a question-and-answer session; another is pre-scheduled one-on-one meetings.
“One of the beauties about the WAFC convention is that the senior-level leadership from the CPG companies that you do business with are present,” she said. “So even though you have account management teams that are strong and service your business, their boss’s boss’s boss is actually on-site, and high-level decisions and collaboration can take place because you have at the table leadership from both the retail and the supplier side of the business.”
Christianson said about 1,200 people have thus far registered for the convention that is about 70 days away and takes place in “a fantastic venue.”
A Kids Club for ages 4-12—the cost of which is included in registration—is available for those who bring their children.
The registration cost, in fact, is all-inclusive (even all the hotel-related fees), and “you won’t go hungry, you won’t go thirsty,” she said. “I assure you—you will have a fantastic time.”
There are a couple of new events planned for this year’s convention. One of them, scheduled for Sunday night, May 6, is a Texas ranch experience at the Knibbe Ranch, befitting the show’s locale. In addition to food, it will feature a rodeo, live music, dancing and more.
Another new event takes place Monday night, May 7. The “Hospitality Horseshoe” experience will feature food, entertainment and an ice cream social.
General sessions, delegate breakfasts and luncheons and the annual WAFC Gala also are scheduled as usual, as well as the capstone team presentations from the USC Marshall Food Industry Management Program class of 2018.
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Featured speakers at the convention, in addition to President Bush, include Mick Ebeling, CEO of Not Impossible Labs and author of “The Art and Joy of Doing What Couldn’t Be Done”; Jeannette Walls, award-winning journalist and author of “The Glass Castle”; and Billy Gardell, comedian, actor and co-star of the TV series “Mike & Molly.”
WAFC officers also will speak during the event. They include WAFC President and Chairman Mike Stigers, EVP of wholesale and supply chain for Supervalu; Treasurer Sarah Wehling, VP and GM manager for Costco Wholesale; Education Chairman Pat Posey, VP of non-perishable and merchandising for Bristol Farms; VP Dennis McIntyre, EVP of marketing for Stater Bros.; Secretary Greg McNiff, president of Albertsons/Safeway in Portland, Oregon; and Illuminators Headlite Mark Olejnik, sales manager for ASR Group/C&H Sugar.
The convention welcomes retailers, wholesalers, brokers, manufacturers and suppliers.
Christianson concluded, “We definitely want Texas to be well represented at the WAFC convention.”