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refreshment solutions

Refreshment Solutions

Refreshment Solutions

Refreshment Solutions

Marc Whitener, named the 2014 NAMA Industry Person of the Year and the 2007 Automatic Merchandiser Operator of the Year is CEO of Refreshment Solutions, LLC in Norco, Louisiana. Marc and his team of 100 employees manage nearly 40 routes every day and use Seed Cloud™ to make them a winning team.


On the morning of August 29th, 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana. It was one of the biggest and costliest natural disasters ever recorded in the United States. Marc and his team had first-hand experience. “Katrina changed our world. Luckily we were able to recover and weren’t as devastated as some of our competitors were. When it hit, everybody evacuated and about 45 employees dispersed throughout the country.”

Committed to his employees and his customers, Whitener insisted on getting the business back up and running as quickly as possible. “On the Tuesday after Katrina, the day the flooding started, we had a conference call with 38 of our employees and assigned 15 people, including myself, to come back and get things running again. We were up and functional on the Thursday after the storm. At that point we had 1,800 machines in the market. Of those, over 1,000 had to be completely refurbished or replaced. Most of them had three to four feet of water inside for several weeks. It was a very difficult time for us.”


Whitener and his team understood what people needed during this time of crisis and were able to adapt quickly. “We figured out a way to cope and started to deliver goods to our larger industrial customers. We delivered stuff we usually wouldn’t deal with: Things like lettuce, tomatoes, water, chairs, bread – anything they needed. Many of those places were housing families on their premises and needed supplies. The bigger guys – Sysco, Coke, just couldn’t get to them. We did this for about three months which helped sustain our company. The one thing that I learned, and I never want to go through it again, as it was a horrible, horrible experience, was that for a very short amount of time, the playing field was level. It didn’t matter how much money you had, who you were, or who you knew, it only mattered what you could do.”

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Marc says they’ve gotten tougher due to the trying times. “I think we’re a stronger organization. Any individual who experienced the hurricane went through a life-changing event. I’m not looking for sympathy, because that’s been played out a lot. You really can’t understand what it was all about unless you lived through it and you were here. There’s such a feeling of helplessness and total loss.”


One of Marc’s philosophies is that within his organization, people matter the most. “We believe the difference maker in our industry is the personnel. Vending is not rocket science. I go to forums where operators try to find the magic formula for merchandising the machines. If you’re my competitor, it’s not very hard for you to duplicate what I’m doing – you just have to wait until I figure it out, follow my trucks, and copy it. But what’s the sustainable point of difference between us? It’s a motivated, educated, and committed personnel team. We have that today, and if our competitors start forming a good team tomorrow, and we continue to focus on our team, they will never be able to catch us. We commit a lot of resources to mentoring, education, and hiring the best. We want to be the workplace of choice both for our region and to our industry.”


Knowing this, Marc focuses a lot on personal development for employees using a simple mantra. “This is my personal belief: I don’t believe that people get out of bed and say, ‘I really want to be a failure today.’ I think that people want to be part of something bigger than themselves, create some type of greater good, be part of a successful team, and most of all, they want to be successful and contribute. Our challenge is to get individuals in roles where they can play to their strengths, not focus on their weaknesses. We have to do a very good job of communicating what their role is, what our mission is, and how the successful execution of their role contributes to the success of the organization. We work on that everyday and we’re committed to that model.””

Marc continues on about what he believes is a vending company’s true purpose. “Vending is about distribution. We believe that we should model ourselves after FedEx and UPS. We don’t believe the most efficient model is to ask the route driver to route his own routes, and to decide what he is going to deliver to what locations that day. Those are things that distract him from being as productive as he could be. If you look at FedEx, they don’t ask the driver, “where would you like to go today, and where would you like to leave these packages?’”


An important part of helping the drivers to be as productive as possible is to simplify their jobs. With Seed Cloud’s real-time pre-kitting, dynamic scheduling, and machine alerts, drivers can focus on being more productive. “The drivers fulfill the most significant function in our company. Everything else in the organization is here to support the drivers – when we lose sight of that, we fail. We want to refine and simplify their role so that they can spend as much time as possible focused on providing the basic function of distribution. The critical success factor is whether or not we have the product that they want, when they want it.”

“That’s what the driver’s function should be – get the product there when the customers want it, as they want it. That’s where Cantaloupe steps in. That gives us a real sustainable point of difference in the industry. And the guys at Cantaloupe understand that.”


Dynamic scheduling is an idea that many operators don’t believe until they see it working with their own eyes. “We’re looking at every level of efficiency. Cantaloupe said that Seed Cloud could route the routes for us. At first we were hesitant to give up ownership of that process. Then I said, ‘if you can do that, it’s a true home run.’ Our route managers spend an inordinate amount of time routing the routes. Instead, we’d really like to have them working with our route drivers, and more importantly, having them work with our customer base to understand what they want, and to inform our customers what we do for them. We did a test to see if seed® could do what Cantaloupe said it could do: Could we get accurate information, pre-kitting, and dynamic routes? So far we’ve been nothing but happy.”

“It’s clear to us that Seed Cloud works. We believe it, we see it, and most importantly, the guys at Cantaloupe have done what they said they’d do. They’ve stood by us every step of the way, and when we’ve had a bottleneck or a problem, they’ve spent quality time, even at the senior management level, to figure it out.”


Marc delves into why seed® helps with driver productivity, and ultimately what that means for his organization. “Here’s what happens. The driver goes to the location, counts what’s in the machine, keys it into the computer, prints the pick list, goes to the truck, pulls the order, goes back, fills the machine, collects the machine, and goes to the next machine. Now with seed®, they go into the location, have a pre-kitted order, load the machine, collect the machine, and go onto the next machine. seed® divides in half the time it takes to key in the machine, to pull the order, and to walk back and forth two more times. We also think we can, minimally, eliminate 50% of our routes. If you consolidate half of your routes – how much more powerful does that get?”

Staying true to his mantra, the savings are reinvested back into the organization and its individuals. “We want to invest most of the labor savings back into the personnel team. We’re going to pay the drivers more, route managers more, senior managers more, add bonus programs, whatever. So you ask, ‘where do you get the return?’ I’ll tell you where – if those guys get more productive, we’ll have more top-line sales. More importantly than that, don’t we get a return on the fact that we don’t have half the trucks on the road?”


Marc then discussed the personal rewards of using Seed Cloud. “The most rewarding part, from a personal standpoint, is seeing the success and the enjoyment that Josh Thomas, the head of IT, gets from it. A teacher by trade, we brought him on to do some mentoring within the company, but has really grown into his role of owning the seed® processes. He’s very excited about it. The gratification that came from the first route driver, as he was very reluctant about it initially, was very motivating. In the beginning he was threatened by it – but we told him that we would make him more efficient. He could make more money, we could make more money as a company, and we could reinvest the money into our company and our personnel. Now he loves it.”

“It’s refreshing for us to work with a company with the type of vision and commitment to making things work, and understanding how they can and should work, that Cantaloupe has. We don’t see any other companies willing to do that. Not at that level.”