Sacramento 49er Travel Plaza Stands Out for Almost 40 Years

To make the Sacramento 49er Travel Plaza in Sacramento, Calif., stand out, President and General Manager Tristen Rust Griffith emphasizes her employees, seeks out innovation and focuses on the travel plaza’s bottom line.

As a woman in the industry, Griffith also stands out. “People get to know you easily when you are one of only a few female managers,” she said.

The Sacramento 49er Travel Plaza was built almost 40 years ago in 1972. Griffith’s parents, Terry and Bev Rust, bought the location in 1988. Today more than 600 truck drivers visit the Sacramento 49er Travel Plaza daily and utilize the full service shop, truck wash, Silver Skillet Restaurant, travel store and motel.

The Sacramento 49er is one of the few travel plazas that charge for parking. The lot has 275 parking spots, but, as Griffith explained, “Customers were upset we didn’t have enough parking for everyone.” Charging for the parking spots allows the spots to be available to those drivers who are utilizing the location. To encourage drivers to purchase fuel, free parking is provided when you purchase more than 75 gallons.

In addition to traditional parking spots, the real attractions in the parking lot are spaces with Shore power Truck Stop Electrification (TSE). TSE allows truck drivers to turn off their engines and plug into all-weather electrical and communication outlets during mandatory rest periods. This addition, which was free to the location, was funded by a grant. Griffith advised fellow operators considering Shore power TSE to “make sure the equipment is well barricaded.” She also advised locking the equipment and the parking spot. Forcing drivers to pick up a key ensures that a TSE consumer is utilizing the spot.

Another attraction at the location is the full-service shop. “As the economy went downhill, other shops in the area cut back their hours. We took the opportunity and added hours,” Griffith said. “It is open 24 hours and is state of the art.”

The location is supported by 100 full-time and 10 part-time staff members. A few times a month Griffith selects one of the employees’ names from a hat to take to lunch. This practice not only helps with employee retention, but it’s also a learning opportunity for Griffith. She told Stop Watch the conversations generate great ideas and give her an opportunity to hear employee concerns.

The location’s employees are supported by seven profit managers. At all times, one of the managers is deemed the “manager on duty” and can be called on his or her cell phone if there is a problem at any time.

This division of manager responsibility allows better support for the employees of the travel plaza and allows Griffith to work a more flexible schedule. A mother to a 9-month-old, Griffith currently works in the facility four days a week from8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Not only does it allow her more time with her son, but Griffith added, “It makes [me] more productive and allows for time to work on projects, like the accounting, at home.”

The seven managers meet twice a month. At the meetings, they share updates on their profit center. They also review the budget and contracts, which each manager maintains for their profit center. Not only is each manager held accountable to their budget forecast, but they are also given incentives to hit the budget numbers. The monthly review of budgets allows the board to get an accurate picture of their return.

In addition to providing updates, the meetings also give the managers a structured time to share ideas. For each meeting, they put the focus on one manager and his or her profit center. Griffith said, “These meetings are so valuable, and they’re fun too.”

The managers are encouraged to bring measurable ideas. Out of these meetings came the idea to provide coupons highlighting each profit center to each truck as they enter through the entrance gate.


This article originally ran in Stop Watch magazineStop Watch provides in-depth content to assist NATSO members in improving their travel plaza business operations and provides context on trends and news affecting the industry.

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Amy Toner's photo

Amy Toner

Toner markets NATSO products, services and meetings. She is the content editor of NATSO's core websites, Stop Watch magazine and Highway Business Matters biweekly articles. In addition, she provides creative services across all departments. Toner joined NATSO in 2006. Prior to joining the association, she served as director of membership services at an association for ambulatory surgery centers. Toner lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and son. More
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