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NATSO Blog: Darren's Great Ideas for Independent Operators

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Getting Your Truckstop Noticed on Google Maps

Posted in: Truckstop Business, Darren's Great Ideas for Independent Operators, Marketing & Retail

Not long ago, I started uploading photos of the NATSO member locations I visit to Google Maps, and today those photos have gotten more than 1 million views! Adding photos to Google Maps is one way to shape the first impression your customers see when they search for your location specifically or simply a place to stop.

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Replace an Unproductive Restaurant in Your Truckstop with One of These 15 Creative Offerings

Posted in: Truckstop Business, Darren's Great Ideas for Independent Operators, Marketing & Retail

Over time, certain profit centers can fail to produce the same margins they once did. Many in our industry are experiencing this with sit-down restaurants. Priorities for both professional and passenger drivers’ have shifted what today’s consumers are seeking out.

For truckstop and travel plaza operators replacing an unproductive restaurant with another food option or service offering can bring a boost in sales.

Here are 15 ideas for transforming space within your location.

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Four Ways to Make the Most of End Caps at Your Truckstop

Posted in: Truckstop Business, Darren's Great Ideas for Independent Operators, Marketing & Retail

End caps are prime real estate within a truckstop and they need to say “Bam, buy me!”

To maximize the effectiveness of end caps, make sure they:

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How to See Your Truckstop with Fresh Eyes

Posted in: Truckstop Business, Darren's Great Ideas for Independent Operators, Marketing & Retail

We all know that curb appeal is important, and now new surveys show that two thirds of customers will not come into your operation if the curb appeal is not positive and inviting.

But often times, we need to look at our locations with fresh eyes and see our operation in the same way a customer does.

The next time you pull into your truckstop or travel plaza, pretend you’re a customer stopping for the first time. Take a good look at your location for these things.

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Seven Tips for Selling at Your Truckstop's Transaction Counter

Posted in: Truckstop Business, Darren's Great Ideas for Independent Operators, Marketing & Retail

Your transaction counter is one of the most important touch points that you have in your operation.

It is frequently the first and last thing your customers see upon entering and leaving your operation. It is valuable and every single truckstop and travel plaza should treat it as premium space.

Here are seven thoughts to consider when choosing what to put in that space.

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Ten Ways to Convert More Truckstop Customers and Serve Them Faster

Posted in: Truckstop Business, Darren's Great Ideas for Independent Operators, Marketing & Retail

In our industry speed is crucial, especially as we face increased competition from c-stores and restaurants that are vying for our customers.

New super c-stores are dotting the interstates with amazing grab-and-go food programs. Although they offer limited amenities and limited parking, they sell over-the-road diesel. They are also experts at moving customers in and out of the operations effectively and efficiently.

So how do we turn these cost center situations into profit centers? How do we improve our conversion rates thus improving our net operating cost?

When you step back and look at all these changes and increased competition impacting our business universe, they are all about speed of activity/event and the ability to go longer and further, which in effect also increase efficiency and speed.

So what are truckstops and travel plazas supposed to do?

Embrace speed! Embrace the need to be different because your customer is different and will continue to evolve.

Here are 10 actionable items you can do to improve the speed of your customers while increasing conversion rates.

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Reducing Risks at the Fuel Island at Your Truckstop

Posted in: Truckstop Business, Darren's Great Ideas for Independent Operators, Operations

The flammable nature of fuels make fire a top concern among operators, but there are a number of steps locations and employees can take to reduce the risk of a fire occurring or to avoid making a situation worse a fire if a fire starts.

As a best practice, operators should ensure all employees know the where fire extinguishers are located. They should also be know how to utilize the emergency shutdown button that will stop fuel from flowing through the pumps are located. They also need to prevent people from smoking near the fuel islands, during loading and unloading operations and within twenty-five feet of bulk trucks and transports.

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Drive Extra Retail Sales at Your Truckstop on a Tax Free Day

Posted in: Truckstop Business, Darren's Great Ideas for Independent Operators, Marketing & Retail

As retailers it is important to have a holiday and seasonal retail/promotional program and participate in national holidays, which can be a sales driver. We often forget that our core customer and others who spend the majority of their time on our nation’s interstates and highways are starved for time when it comes to purchasing items for their loved ones gifts for that special occasion and or holiday.

In my past, a robust holiday, one-day sale, summer drive and tax-free retail/promotional program all played a role in driving incredible retail sales through the coffers. Sales folks still today would have a hard time believing it had they not experienced it themselves. And, by the way, did I say tax-free day?

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Ten Questions for Your Own Domestic Study Tour

Posted in: Truckstop Business, Darren's Great Ideas for Independent Operators, Marketing & Retail

Learning from your peers is a great opportunity for operators to find new ideas to help improve the performance of their businesses.

NATSO has hosted a number of Domestic Study Tours that combine tours of premier retail locations and networking opportunities with other innovative operators. The 2016 NATSO Domestic Study Tour will take place in September 14 – 15 at Fairfield BP, Lee Hi Travel Plaza and White's Travel Plaza near Lexington, Virginia. (These tours always sell out. I would encourage you to register soon as the feedback has been phenomenal.)

For the ultimate study tour experience, I encourage you to join us. But, you can also craft your own mini study tour by keeping your eyes out for certain things every time you enter a competitor’s location. You could even pick a day to visit a handful of locations and compare their operations while searching for your own great ideas.

Here are 10 sets of questions to ask yourself during your own, mini study tour.

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How to Categorize Your Truckstop’s Merchandise and Increase Your Turns

Posted in: Truckstop Business, Darren's Great Ideas for Independent Operators, Marketing & Retail

Here is some of my basic truckstop merchandise advice: categorize your merchandise carefully and pay attention to how fast it turns.

First, let’s chat categories.

Breaking your merchandise down into categories at a minimum is critical to understanding why, when, how and what your merchandising is doing. And if you have the resources, breaking it down further to sub categories will help you further understand your merchandise.

Detailed sales tracking helps good retailers learn more about their customers and their customers’ buying habits....

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