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Keep Customers Moving at Your Truckstop with Speedy Service

Posted in: Truckstop Business, Operations


Speed-of-service is a top factor for the majority of customers today at retail establishments, but especially at truckstops, travel plazas and c-stores.

There are several things operators can do to speed transactions and improve the flow of customers.

Focus on Layout
The interior and exterior design of the store is a critical element in getting customers in and out quickly. Think long and hard about how customers move throughout the location as well as the parking lot and fuel islands.

I think in today’s environment all operators should be considering self-checkout options and factoring them into a design. Even if you don’t install them right away, you want to lay the groundwork for the future.

In the parking lot, think about how many vehicles enter and exit your location. If you’re on a busy side street and have 30,000 cars a day passing you, you better be thinking of how quickly people can get in and out.

Since you are in the truck world, you have to remember that cars aren’t trucks. Trucks take a lot longer to get up to speed. Especially with hours-of-service and the electronic logging mandate, drivers can’t spend a lot of time to get in and out. I think site selection, which is already huge, is going to take on even greater importance. 

Consider the Size of the Location
When people are in a rush, they may want to limit how much walking they have to do to while also avoiding packed locations. Going forward, I think that stores with tremendous volumes may have a hard time driving people into their sites. While there are always exceptions, such as Buc-ee's in Texas, which has a cult following.

However, I already see a shift even at these popular spots. I drive by Buc-ee's locations in the morning and evening that aren’t as busy as they used to be. It could be that once you’ve walked through a Buc-ee's, you’ve been through a Buc-ee's. The novelty wears off. If your big and you’re fast, there is probably no issue, but always be sure to focus on the speed issue. 

Move People Along
I’ve talked before about the value that comes from getting folks away from crowded areas in the store.

For example, freeing up space around food offerings can attract customers, and one way to do this is moving condiments away from the main service counter. 

Some food retailers have taken this concept to the next level and are charging more for customers to stay and eat in-store. Stores that charge more to stay because they realize the cost of housing someone in your store. The lines and people lingering in the store start impact those people that move in and out fast.

Stock the Right Products
How busy the location is can dictate the best offerings to stock.

A super busy location may be better off avoiding made-to-order food but focusing on prepared food that is ready to go. Bean-to-cup coffee offerings are great, but they take time.

Think about how long it is taking that third or fourth person in line to get a cup of coffee. The same goes for fountain machines. Offering multiple ways to customize sodas is excellent, but it takes time for each customer to make his or her selection. That makes a difference for the person behind you or the next few people in line. That is when the time issue becomes a problem.

Also consider how long it takes to prepare items. McDonalds recently removed its Signature Crafted line of sandwiches, saying that it took too long to create the items. Speed of service is particularly important at the drive through where customers expect to move along quickly.


// NATSO is here to provide you with products and information to help you navigate all things truckstop and travel center related. These services include site visits to help drive profitability. Other offerings include assistance on new construction, remodels, and branded and unbranded contracts. Travel Center Profit Drivers is led by Darren Schulte and Don Quinn who combined have over 60 years of experience in the truckstop and travel center industry. Their goal is to assist and they are not driven to sell you something. This allows them to have your best interest at heart!

Please contact me at to discuss how our team can assist you. Learn more about a Travel Center Profit Toolbox here.


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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.