Truckstop Restaurants Dish Out Opportunities to Suppliers

Professional drivers, the traveling public and locals alike all frequent the restaurants at the nation's truckstops and travel plazas. Restaurant sales within the truckstop industry are projected to reach $2.88 billion dollars in 20101, making them a prime profit center for operators and their suppliers.

To help industry suppliers better meet truckstop operators' needs and uncover new opportunities within this specific profit center, Highway Business Matters asked operators to share the details on the top challenges, opportunities and needs in their restaurants.
Dirk Binnema, owner of Planeview Travel Plaza, in Planeview, Wisc., believes the right atmosphere and superior service are the most important qualities in a restaurant. His goal is to give customers a great dining experience that will keep them loyal. "Getting them in the first time is relatively easy. Making them come back is a lot harder," Binnema said.

To boost business Binnema tries to offer unique products that get people talking. He does that each Wednesday with Dutch specials.
Walt Muralt, president of Muralt's Travel Plaza in Missoula, Mont., is constantly seeking out products and services that could add value to his restaurant. "That's the key to getting better, staying better than the competition and continuing to meet and exceed customer expectations," he said.
As with any business, restaurants face their share of challenges. Muralt said controlling food and labor costs while still providing a quality product and pleasant service remain the top issues his restaurant faces.

Binnema's biggest concern is hiring staff that can operate with little supervision. "Being 24/7 it is impossible to have management around the clock," he said.

To help ease his mind, Binnema installed security cameras throughout the location four years ago. The cameras have paid for themselves 10 times over, he said. "It keeps everybody more honest and I do sleep better at night," he said.
Customers aren't shy about letting restaurant operators know their likes and dislikes. Muralt said he hears from diners when he takes slow-moving or high-cost food items off the menu. Customers also complain about prices, which Muralt said have gone higher because all servers make $7.25 an hour in Montana, which does not have a tip credit.

1From a 2003 University of Maryland study which forecast 2010 restaurant sales as $2,886,792,000 for full service truckstops/truck repair centers and truck fuel stops.

{HBMHighway Business Matters is a brief semi-monthly newsletter created exclusively for companies that provide products or services to the truckstop and travel plaza industry. Highway Business Matters will keep you informed on trends, tactics, and tips to help you connect to the $65 billion truckstop and travel plaza industry. 

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Mindy Long's photo

Mindy Long

Before launching a full-time freelance career, Long edited NATSO's Stop Watch magazine. Prior to that Long worked as a staff reporter for Transport Topics, a weekly trade newspaper, covering freight transportation, fuel and environmental issues. In addition to covering the transportation sector, Long has written, reported and edited for a variety of media outlets. She was the Washington correspondent for WCAX-TV (CBS) in Burlington, Vt., a criminal court reporter in Chicago and a freelance copy editor for Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine in Washington D.C. Long hold a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in Evanston, Ill., and a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Westminster College in Salt Lake City.More
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Muralt’s Travel PlazaPlaneview Travel Plaza

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