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Human Library Spotlight: Building a Brand and Boosting Sales Through Design

Posted in: Truckstop Business

At The NATSO Show, NATSO has tapped into leading industry experts for an interactive, one-on-one learning Human Library full of industry experts with decades of experience.

The experts are on loan to conference attendees for customized learning experiences operators can tailor to their own objectives.

This week on NATSO's blog we will meet this year's Human Library experts. Today we get to know Michael Lawshe, chief executive officer of Paragon Solutions.

// Update, meet all of the Human Library experts at the links below:

Human Library Spotlight: Building a Brand and Boosting Sales Through Design

The right design can help operators build a brand, boost sales or increase energy efficiency. But design is about more than making something look pretty, according to Michael Lawshe, chief executive officer of Paragon Solutions. “It is about making it functional first and then looking at how you can reflect what you’ve done through the design and graphics,” he said.

During The NATSO Show, Lawshe will meet with operators face-to-face to discuss the opportunities that exist within each of their locations. He sat down with NATSO to discuss some of the trends he is seeing and how truckstop and travel plaza operators can use them to their advantage.

Q. Can you tell us where you are seeing the most growth?
A. I see the traditional gondola areas getting less and less productive and food service and cooler areas getting more percentage of sales. Grab-and-go food offerings continue to grow. Operators can address the grab-and-go component with open coolers and a revised offering of not only traditional sandwiches and salads, but fruits and veggies and juices. Operators can also think about how grab-and-go can go beyond the full meal for in-between meals. Operators can also look at the cold- and hot-dispensed beverage categories and think about how they are competing with their peers.

Food service is about jumping in and trying something new. Be interesting. Be innovative. Be different with a purpose. Rather than just being as good as your immediate competition, lift the bar. You can be the same as everybody else, but then you’re only going to get a piece of the market. You have to carve out a new market. The great businesses are always freshening, always introducing something or introducing a new flavor.

To build the grab-and-go segment, operators first need to look at their food offering and decide what will work best. Then they can bring in some fresh colors and logos that reflect this is new, modern and fresh.

Q. How do you help operators uncover where the opportunities exist within their locations?
A. When I meet with operators for the first time, I try to look at each category and re-envision what that category can be. Sometimes you can’t fit all of the ideas back into the shell, so you have to look at where you want to spend your money and where you’ll get the best bang for your buck. Let’s say if we can do anything this is what we would do and then bring it back to reality. Sometimes it is just the functional blocking and tackling the areas you have. Sometimes it is saying this area isn’t producing, so how about if we repurpose this area into something else.

Q. What can operators do to help them discover which offerings will be the most successful?
A. To merchandise properly you have to have an understanding of how the demographics and your customers’ needs have changed. If we haven’t changed with them, then we’re behind the times. Understanding the customer's mind a little bit more is always a good idea. Take time to talk with your customers. Dig into your financial statements—they are a gold mine of data. By using data and the right data, you can look at where there are missing pieces. Also, look at industry data and give yourself a report card of how you compare and break it down by category. Look at national data and regionalize. When you find what is missing, that is your guide.

//During face-to-face meetings with operators at the Human Library at The NATSO Show, Lawshe can help operators uncover opportunities within their locations, ways to build a brand and how to increase efficiency through design. 

Operators planning to meet with Lawshe should bring photos of the areas they plan to discuss, a copy of their overall layout design and financial statement.

To reserve a time to meet with Lawshe and all of the Human Library experts, travel plaza operators should contact Kimberly Roberts at or (703) 739-8573.

The NATSO Show 2015 Human Library is sponsored by: 

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About the Author

Amy Toner

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.

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