Who Is The Customer When It Comes To BT?


As SEI rolls out the Hybrid Business Transformation model, with its consolidated beer and soda deliveries and McLane deliveries to stores all set on designated days, many questions continue to arise about this new distribution program. One of the questions we’ve always asked is, “Who is the customer when it comes to BT?” Is it us as franchisees, or is it SEI, which has direct contact with our vendors and suppliers, and subsequently makes all the deals with them? Is it the guest who comes into our store to make purchases, or is it the vendors that are trying to adapt to our new business concept? It seems like we as franchisees are caught in the middle, not really understanding who the true customer is in this scenario.

Through Retailer Initiative we’ve always been able to merchandise our stores according to our customers’ needs and wants. We’ve always had the opportunity to call McLane, for example, and add items to our order. We’ve also been able to set up new items in the system and order them. Since the rollout of BT, however, this is all more labor intensive, more difficult to do, and our suppliers are oftentimes caught in a tight spot of having to decide whether to make a product available to the store or go by SEI’s guidelines.

This leaves the franchisee wondering what they need to do to get that product into their store. One solution some have found is to use a non-recommended vendor, but then you’re going up against your 15 percent purchasing allowance, which could get tricky at times. To complicate matters further, if we want to add items to an order—even with our national vendors—we must now pay by either COD, money order or we try to get our own credit line with the vendor. Also, the sales reps that come to our stores are not really sure about the sales promotions or what they can introduce to the store, because even if we want the product, we still have to apply for credit or pay for that product upon delivery, which some stores do not favor. So adding more items to an order or adding new items into the system is now more restrictive with BT.

We, as franchisees, are caught in the middle between SEI and our vendors as we try to get merchandise into our stores so we can maximize sales and profits. We’re being restricted on our ability to be truly independent contractors and satisfy the needs of our customers and deal effectively with our vendor partners. Previously we were able to work with our suppliers to set up delivery schedules that fit the store’s needs. Now under BT it’s all being routed. The store has no discretion in changing delivery days, and this impacts the labor hours designated. Many times deliveries arrive during a store’s prime sales time, which means guests are not being attended to in a proper manner, and of course our guest is the one person that has no knowledge of the tough situation we’re in.

In short, we hope that somewhere down the line, as the Hybrid BT rollout is completed, we will all go back and remember who the customer is. Our customer is the guest that’s coming into our store and our customer is our vendor partner that we rely on to bring us new merchandise and help us increase our business. Looking forward, we hope that this entire rollout will be reviewed and adapted to where a store can actually take charge of their own ordering and store deliveries.