USI and Wittern CEO, and Incoming NAMA Chair Heidi Chico Talks Industry interviewed USI and Wittern CEO, and Incoming NAMA Chair Heidi Chico. Heidi reviewed the opportunities and challenges for the industry. Below is the interview between Heidi Chico and Emily Refermat of Vending Market Watch. As you take the role of Chair for NAMA, what, in brief, are your views of the opportunities and challenges for the industry?


Heidi Chico: We all generally share similar aspirations in our industry: providing great jobs, a great working environment, and great refreshment services to our customers. That’s true in U.S. cities like Des Moines – where The Wittern Group, the company I now have the privilege to lead, is headquartered – and it’s true all over the world. What’s also true, and too often overlooked, is the vital role that convenience services play.


Our industry is constantly evolving and adapting to business and consumer trends by delivering quality refreshments through vending, foodservice, OCS, micro markets, and pantry services. But is that enough in today’s world of “Uberized” delivery? We are seeing our industry being penetrated by QSR delivery, Whole Food/Amazon, Online pre-order apps, and the list goes on. Our challenge: how does our industry create enduring value? Finding the successful path forward means demonstrating we are best suited to perfect small drop distribution to the workplace.


One of our focuses this year is defining convenience services. The business world is looking for frictionless fulfillment services to help manage their foodservice needs. What other products or needs are our clients purchasing from others? Are these opportunities that we may want to provide in the future? Consumers are paying for prepared foods to be delivered to their homes like Blue Apron, and Hello Fresh. Why can’t that be delivered in the workplace? Our industry is at a tipping point and it’s our job to meet our customers’ demands for convenience and frictionless solutions. How does the Fly-In tie into that?


HC: The NAMA Fly-In is a significant opportunity to talk to lawmakers about the convenience service industry, and to communicate how unique we are as an industry. When I visit DC to represent our industry – and even when I’m in Des Moines — my approach involves considering three key points:


  1. Tell Our Story: make it a priority to communicate what’s new regarding the convenience services industry. Our elected officials – at every level – should better understand our industry’s challenges.


  1. Advocacy is Everyone’s Job: I encourage everyone to support the Fly-In, to build relationships with elected officials and to support advocacy overall.


  1. Make it Fun: NAMA members are passionate and dedicated to our industry – getting involved and adding value is also fun. I’ve heard that the Fly-In is one of your favorite NAMA events. Can you share some reasons why?


HC: I have been on NAMA board for 11 years now; over the years, I have seen a huge difference in how we approach advocacy. We made the decision in 2008 to make an annual trip to Washington DC with the main goal to focus on advocacy for this industry. This event taught me that one person matters and our industry can be heard, making a difference in DC.


From this experience, I’ve progressively built positive relationships with our representatives from our state. In fact, I often see them in airports. When this happens, I make it a priority to get on issues pertaining to our industry, and it’s pretty rewarding when an elected representative knows you by your first name and you can get business done in a meaningful conversation.


Looking ahead, July 25 and 26, I’ll attend our Fly-In as proud member of the 300+ NAMA delegation in DC. Join us and let’s work together to ensure our industry’s voice is heard!


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