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Learn from Other Operations with These Four Tips

Posted in: Truckstop Business, Marketing & Retail


Sometimes the best inspiration can come from seeing other businesses in action, and knowing what to look for can help operators make the most of a visit to a competitor or a similar business in another industry.

During The NATSO Food and Fuel Study Tour, July 18-20, attendees will have a chance to visit Sapp Brothers Peru and TA Morris as well Revival Food Hall and Eataly, which have been called two of the most innovative foodservice locations in the Windy City. Attendees can also take part in self-guided walking tour at some of the hottest quick-serv locations in Chicago’s loop area. (Learn more about the tour in Top Highlights of NATSO’s Food and Fuel Tour 2017.)

Whether operators are taking part in NATSO’s tour or visiting locations on their own, Ed Burcher, an industry leader and principal at Burcher Consulting, shared these tips to help operators dig deeper during behind-the-scenes looks at successful businesses in action. (See more from Burcher in Improve Your Food Operations with 7 Tips from Food and Fuel Study Study Tour Expert.)


Look at Locations with Different Lenses: As truckstop and travel plaza operators, it is likely those on the tour will look at the locations from a business perspective, but Burcher encourages them to also look at the locations simply as a customer. “Ask, what is the store saying to me as a person? Take off your functional hat and what you do for a living and look at it as a guest,” he said.


Take Pictures: It isn’t always easy to remember everything you see on a tour, so Burcher suggests attendees take pictures.


Leave Enough Time to Carefully Examine the Locations: You want to look at every single thing that is going on in a location, which can take time, Burcher said. The NATSO Food and Fuel Study Tour has coordinated behind-the-scenes tours at the travel plazas, Revival Food Hall and Eataly and attendees will have a chance to talk with management. During the self-guided walking tour, operators can travel at their own pace to take in the latest trends and see what makes the locations a success.


Get Into the Details: Burcher encourages attendees to look at even the smallest details, including the utensils and the chairs, and consider how they fit into the overall experience.  

Burcher will draw on his decades of experience within the c-store and foodservice industries and guide operators and truckstop and travel plaza operators during the NATSO Food and Fuel Study Tour.

Burcher spent 18 years at WaWa where he was responsible for developing the chain’s fresh food and foodservice offerings. He also served as the chief operating officer at Coen Markets where he implemented the Neighbours Store at Petro-Canada, as well as leading the foodservice components for their SuperStop convenience stores.

As the tour wraps up, he will guide operators through a de-brief session where they will review what they’ve seen and identify ways to adapt their findings to their own operations.

/// See the full schedule and register at Registration for the event is $1,000 for members and $1,500 for nonmembers. For more information, contact Darren Schulte, NATSO’s vice president of membership, at or (915) 526-5820 with questions.


Photo credit: Brittany Palmer/NATSO

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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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