Care and attention pay off for Cash-Wa Distributing
Over the years, the Henning family has nurtured Cash-Wa Distributing into one of the most impressive independent broadline food distributors in the nation. Established in 1934 and purchased by former Cash-Wa candy salesman Harvey Henning in 1957, the organization’s history is marked by thoughtful and successful M&A activity, smartly orchestrated to extend their reach throughout the Midwest and Plains states.
While their ability to anticipate changing tastes and consumer demands is impressive, perhaps most remarkable is their dedication to their customers’ success.
Whether they are serving a national chain, healthcare facilities, universities, or delivering the goods to a beloved mom and pop restaurant, Cash-Wa is agile, attentive, and always on point. They carry the nation’s most recognizable brands in food, beverages, household, and healthcare goods, and foodservice equipment and supplies.
As the leading independent foodservice and equipment distributor in the region, the company boasts three complete distribution centers in Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota, four Cash and Carry stores in Nebraska, Wyoming, and South Dakota, as well as multiple shuttle locations and sales offices in 11 states.
Partnerships with major distribution groups, including UniPro, the world’s largest foodservice cooperative, produce co-op ProMark, and the Supply and Equipment Foodservice Alliance, give Cash-Wa hefty purchasing power and flexibility. Their network of warehouses feature modern temperature regulated cold storage units, and their state-of-the-art warehouse management system ensures speed and accuracy in the fulfillment process while maintaining strict inventory controls.
A Cash-Wa hallmark is their continued investments in technology on all fronts, from the back office to the fleet repair shop. An online portal and mobile app lets customers order on-demand, and makes viewing order history and invoices fast and straightforward. The company’s in-house software engineers deliver customized data, providing meaningful reporting tools to customers of all sizes. An online payment system adds yet another layer of convenience.
Cash-Wa also owns and operates their own truck fleet, equipped with cutting-edge satellite tracking technology to make sure deliveries are made as promised; each of the company’s truck and trailer shops feature a comprehensive service and repair program.
“We’re big enough to serve, but small enough to care,” company president Richard Byers said. “One of the big advantages we have as an independent is the ability to make decisions at the local level. If there’s a sudden need the customer has, we can be more agile and make those decisions quickly. Because we’re the only decision-maker, our customers don’t have to go through multiple layers of management.”
A significant challenge for independent distributors is the ability to serve multiple account types with widely varying needs. Capacity constraints can bedevil the nimblest of firms, but right-sizing is a Cash-Wa strength. The ability to anticipate and respond to trends is serving them well, especially as the restaurant and hospitality industry is navigating difficult territory as a result of the pandemic. While in-restaurant dining has declined steadily over the past few years, current conditions have caused independent restaurateurs to change course even more sharply of late.
“Some of the dining trends we’re seeing are in quick-service and quick casual right now,” Byers reported. “We’ll see these sectors continue to thrive for the foreseeable future until the pandemic has ceased. We're really optimistic that things will level out for those independent operators who may not be able to offer quick service or can't do third party delivery, or whatever the constraints may be. That’s where we come in, helping those independents to thrive during this tough time. Creativity gets people through the doors.”
It helps that Cash-Wa covers the convenience store segment, an unusual move for most broadline distributors. The “C-store” segment, Byers noted, has been more immune to constriction than has the hospitality industry as a whole. “Whereas restaurant business is down from 30 to 60% depending on geography, C-stores are about even or up a percent or 2, and grocery stores right now are up 14% nationally. We look at these times through a different lens, because an independent distributor may be able to mitigate some of that by picking up additional retail or convenience store segments.”
Cash-Wa is the regional distributor for one of the fastest growing convenience store restaurant concepts, Krispy Krunchy Chicken. “Comfort foods are becoming a bigger trend at C-stores and grocerants,” he said. Grocerants, free-standing, quick-serve restaurants either in or adjacent to grocery stores, are gaining popularity and boosting revenues.
The company prides itself on its enduring support for independent owner-operated restaurants and stores. “Our entrepreneurial mind set is what separates our culture from the cookie cutter corporation,” Byers stressed. “We want operators to know that we’re here to help, and that they are not out there by themselves. We do so much more than simply get products to the dock. We help our customers develop new programs, bring their ideas to reality, and give them what they need to succeed.”
Truly caring about others is paying off for Cash-Wa, which is on track to be one of the nation’s top 10 independent broadline distributors by the end of this year. “Given the climate we’re in, the level of competition throughout the country, and our 86-year history, it’s a very exciting time for us.”
In that spirit of caring, Byers’ thoughts shifted to the many independent owner operators fighting their way through today’s difficulties. “I want to encourage everyone to support independent restaurants and keep those revenues in their communities. Order food for takeout. And to restaurateurs, just know that you’re not alone. We’re here to help.”
Cash-Wa Distributing is the Largest Independent Broadline Distributor In The Midwest and Great Plains Region. Cash-Wa Distributing is a family-owned company in the Midwest and Great Plains region with an inventory of over 20,000 SKUs. Cash-Wa began in 1934 delivering candy to local grocery stores in Kearney, NE. The company has remained privately owned by the Henning family with second and third generation family members’ involvement. Tom Henning is currently leading the team as CEO. Cash-Wa Distributing offers three complete distribution centers in Kearney, Nebraska, Aberdeen, South Dakota, and Fargo, North Dakota.