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Customize Your Metrics to Drive Performance at Your Truckstop

Posted in: Truckstop Business, Marketing & Retail


Metrics are a key component of gauging and improving performance, and truckstop and travel plaza operators often wonder what their stores should be doing based on a particular metric.

Don't Lose Sight of What Your Business is Doing
An example of an often used metric that I was just asked about by an industry consultant and an unrelated individual travel center is, “what should I expect in retail sales for every gallon of diesel pumped?"

Well, you have to be careful when applying industry metrics to your specific operations. You’re not always comparing apples to apples and you could be underestimating the capability of what your store could do. 

Rather than focusing on pre-created percentages or metrics, it is more important to understand what your number is instead of learning what someone else’s is. While metrics are important, you can’t lose sight of what it takes the run the business or what your business could be doing. 

Big Springs friendly cashier.jpg

Grow Your Own Numbers
Someone might say that for every diesel gallon you should generate 50 cents of inside sales, but I recently talked with a NATSO member in Michigan who was generating $2.65 of inside sales for every gallon of diesel pumped.

If 50 cents was the goal he was aiming for, he may never have reached $2. He wasn’t aware of what a good metric was. He just knew he wanted to generate the maximum number of retail dollars for every gallon of diesel pumped. 

It is more important to understand where you are in these metrics.

Figure out what your number is first and foremost, then start growing that number.

You could say you want an all in labor cost of 20% to run your business. Using that number may make sense for operations A or operation Y, but what if 20% only allows you to have one person behind the counter at all times?  It could be lines of frustration, dirt building upon dirt, out of stocks reigning supreme and no real chance of growing your long-term business.

Remember, a store with two counters will have different operational efficiencies and costs than stores with one counter.  


Have a Starting Point
I feel very strongly that the most important thing is that you only use “published” metrics as a starting point. If you’re below a metric, you’re goal should be to increase it. If you’re over the metric, then maybe you should use your number as the new metric, not the historical standard.  

You also want to keep things in perspective. Think about how busy a location pumping 3 million gallons a month and doing 20 cents of inside sales per gallon is compared to a location that pumps 1 million gallons a month and does 20 cents of inside sales per gallon. 

Using metrics will help you optimize your business and drive margins, but be sure to start with metrics that make the most sense for your business. When used correctly, they can help you create and meet your goals. 

Trail's Travel Center Food Court.JPG

Make It Easy For Folks to Give You Money
One more thing, remember that one of the best ways to improve performance is to make it easy for people to give you money.

When I’m in stores, I often ask owners to stand with me to see how easy we make it for people to give us money and to see how customers come into their establishments.

Are there people that fuel and never come in or fuel and come in and use the restroom and leave? What could you do to capture their interest and grow sales? How easy do we make it for them? That is what they are trying to do, give us money. Maybe we should get out of their way and allow them to do so.

/// Did you know most weeks you can find me visiting a NATSO member truckstop location, spending three to four days, using my merchandising and operations expertise to help them grow their business? 


Photos Credit: 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.