Since we opened our doors in 1979, Dash In has been a cornerstone of innovation and service, evolving from humble beginnings to a leader in the convenience retail sector. Now, with nearly 60 locations throughout the Mid-Atlantic, Dash In is poised for major expansion in 2024, in both footprint and offerings. In this exclusive Q&A, Mark Samuels, Executive Vice President of Convenience Retailing, shares his insights on the strategic vision and exciting developments that are shaping the future of Dash In and Splash In:
Q: As we look ahead to 2024, what are the key strategic priorities for Dash In and Splash In, and how do these align with the evolving needs of your customers?
Mark Samuels: Dash In is advancing towards a multi-year strategic goal of achieving consistency across our operations. Our plan for 2024 focuses on unifying our store footprint, layout, foodservice menu, and guest experience. We are on track to complete major construction projects and introduce our new fresh food menu – “made for you” and “fresh to go” with wholesome, fresh ingredients – to existing Dash In locations.
To achieve an exceptional and consistent guest experience, we plan to expand our e-commerce loyalty platform from three initial test sites to more locations, integrating new features like mobile ordering and third-party delivery services for added convenience..
We’re also making great strides in improving our guest experience model by leveraging technology and optimizing our processes. Our team is working collaboratively to ensure that every guest receives the freshest Made-to-Order food in a fast and frictionless manner. These changes will help strengthen our brand presence and deliver an elevated food experience that is new to the industry.
At Splash In, we plan to build stand-alone express tunnel sites that complement our Dash In store and fuel experience. This integrated approach broadens our service offerings and underscores our commitment to delivering a superior customer experience.
Q: You’ve been instrumental in evolving the customer experience at Dash In. Can you share some specific innovations or enhancements we can expect to see in 2024 that will further differentiate Dash In in the convenience store market?
Mark: Innovation is at the heart of Dash In. We’ve handpicked top talent to help us shift our culture, making every interaction with our guests an uplifting experience. We’ve partnered with a leading training organization to craft unique training programs to achieve this.
In our newer stores, we’re piloting roles like Guest Experience Manager and Guest Concierge, who help guests navigate our store, educate them on our offerings, and assist them with their orders. This level of personalized service is groundbreaking in the industry and resonates strongly with our customers. Our Google rating is an impressive 4.9 stars with over 675 reviews in just the first year. It’s clear proof that our commitment to exceptional service makes a difference.
Q: What factors drive expansion and growth decisions, and how do you envision expansion into new markets shaping the future of Dash In?
Mark: We are very confident about Dash In’s business model. Success in top-line growth and guest adoption fuels our expansion into new territories. Consistency in brand identity, building footprint, store layout, and foodservice is key to scaling our business. We’re building a legacy and a brand that resonates in every market we touch.
Q: In an era where digital transformation is key, how is Dash In leveraging technology to enhance the customer experience and streamline operations? Are there any new digital initiatives planned for 2024?
Mark: Technology will be the cornerstone of our guest experience in 2024. We’ve invested in cutting edge technology to streamline food orders and launched the Dash In Rewards Loyalty app for a seamless customer experience. The app allows guests to order and pay for food on their mobile phones, and collect rewards for store, fuel and car wash purchases.
A new ERP solution and an HRIS platform are also in the works. Each of these digital initiatives are about enhancing efficiency and focusing on what matters most – our guests.
Q: Dash In has been recognized for its innovative approach to food service. What new food and beverage trends are you excited about, and how might these be incorporated into Dash In’s menu in the coming year?
Mark: Dash In is hyper-focused on expanding our new foodservice menu into existing stores, featuring a wholesome approach to both ingredients and production. Fresh ingredients, on-site preparation, and minimal processing are our mantras. When you buy food at Dash In, you are getting food that has been freshly prepared in our stores, just for you.
We’re particularly excited about our unique, trademarked “Stackadilla” – a sandwich version of the classic quesadilla. Our gourmet burgers are also making waves, made from fresh ground beef, griddle-pressed to order, and served on artisan buns with fresh veggies and distinctive Dash In recipes. And let’s not forget breakfast – our sandwiches feature freshly cracked eggs on croissants or buttermilk biscuits and are baked on-site each morning. We’re redefining convenience food, one ingredient at a time, and our guests absolutely love it!
Q: Every industry faces its set of challenges and opportunities. What do you see as the biggest challenges and opportunities for Dash In/Splash In in 2024?
Mark: The labor market remains a challenge, but we’re countering it by building a supportive and empowering culture where our diverse teams can thrive and grow personally and professionally. Our goal is simple yet profound – to be the best in the business. Our unique model, executed flawlessly, will set us apart in the convenience store arena.
Q: Finally, as a leader, how do you approach decision-making and innovation at Dash In/Splash In, and what personal philosophies guide you in steering the company toward future success?
Mark: My personal leadership philosophy centers on building high-performing teams and providing them with the necessary support and resources to succeed. I challenge them to get results, to meet their goals, and to be accountable to those above and below the chain of command.
When it comes to convenience retail, I believe in data-driven decision-making, supplemented by experience and stakeholder opinions. We embrace a ‘test and learn’ approach, rapidly experimenting with new ideas to gain insights quickly. This strategy enables us to innovate with confidence and scale our operations effectively.
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About Wills Group, Inc.
Headquartered in La Plata, Maryland, the Wills Group is Great Place to Work Certified™ and has nearly 300 retail locations across the Mid-Atlantic region, including Dash In, Splash In ECO Car Wash, and SMO Motor Fuels. A family-owned company since 1926 with expertise in convenience retailing, fuels marketing, and commercial real estate, the Wills Group prides itself on keeping customers,’ employees,’ and communities’ Lives in Motion. For more information about the Wills Group, visit willsgroup.com.