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Customers Take Center Stage at Food N Fuel Travel Center in Elwood

Posted in: Truckstop Travels

Editor's note: Darren Schulte, NATSO vice president of membership, frequently visits NATSO members to review their locations and offers impactful merchandising and operations improvements. Contact Schulte at dschulte@natso.com or (915) 526-5820 to learn more about the costs and details of this service.

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If you haven’t been to Food N Fuel in Elwood, Illinois, you’re missing out. The location is full of dozens of great ideas that add to the overall experience for local customers and professional drivers alike. 

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I am always stressing the importance of knowing your customer, and the Elwood location does a great job of that. Their typical customer is not a local customer per say, but very much warehouse workers in the area, so speed is critical as they are on set lunch breaks. Drivers who are moving freight from one warehouse to another love this place because of their ability to get in and out quickly. Even how the chairs and tables are laid out has to do with speed.

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At the same time, they are a family-friendly location and can meet the needs of anyone who stops.

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One of my favorite things at the location is its taco truck. The location leases out the space, and the taco truck is owned by a 28-year-old entrepreneur. He started out with one truck and now has mobile as well as stationary trucks. 

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This truck inside the Food N Fuel is an actual half of a real truck that he cut in pieces, brought in, welded and painted as a replica of his other food trucks. Business at the food truck is booming, and it is bringing in north of $100,000 in sales each month. It looks like Food N Fuel will continue to incorporate his taco truck into future designs.  

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The location has numerous food options including robust pizza, hot dog and roller grill programs. Plus, they’re putting tacos and burritos on their hot food stand and selling them as grab-and-go options. The location also features branded quick-service restaurants, which include a Dunkin Donuts, Vienna Hotdogs, Dickey’s Barbeque and Beggars Pizza. 

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On top of all of this, when you come into the location, you are immediately hit with speed, which we all know is crucial in our industry. 

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This is one of my favorite locations, and I encourage anyone driving by to stop in and see all that it has to over. 

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 /// Did you know most weeks can find Darren Schulte, NATSO's Vice President of Membership, visiting a NATSO member truckstop location, spending three to four days, using his merchandising and operations expertise to help them grow their business? Learn about NATSO’s Profitable Retail Review program here.

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Photos Credit: Darren Schulte/NATSO

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About the Author

Darren Schulte

Darren Schulte

Darren Schulte serves as Vice President of Membership at NATSO. In this role, he directs recruitment, retention and customer service for truckstop and travel plaza members. He is also responsible for developing NATSO products and programs, particularly those relating to education, research and training for truckstop and travel plaza operators.

Schulte also leads NATSO's Profitable Retail Review program. A Profitable Retail Review is a custom assessment of your truckstop, including recommendations for every aspect of your facility, from actionable ideas to improve revenue to tactical ways to improve your net operating costs. Learn about NATSO's Profitable Retail Review program here.

Schulte joined NATSO with nearly three decades of experience in truckstop and travel plaza operations and merchandising. Schulte has worked for: 

  • Love's Travel Stops and Country Stores,
  • HESS Corporation, 
  • Petro Stopping Centers, and
  • TSC Global/Barjan LLC.