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NATSO Listens: How to Set-up Your Fuel Desk

Posted in: Truckstop Business, Marketing & Retail, Operations


One of NATSO’s primary roles is to deliver solutions to members’ challenges. Every day members tap into the expertise of NATSO’s staff for answers to some of their most pressing questions. We’ll be periodically sharing those questions and answers here on NATSO’s blog so that all readers can benefit. Have a question you’d like answered? Post it in the comments or email it to We’d love to tackle it. - AT

NATSO Listens: How to Set-up Your Fuel Desk 

Question: Our redesigned truckstop will have a shared transaction counter with one end dedicated to professional drivers. From your experience, can you provide a few key considerations for the layout of this area?


  1. Take a minute to walk in the shoes of your customer. Is the transaction counter end chosen for professional drivers in a logical placement? I would also keep in mind how customers waiting in line to pay will impact flow throughout the store as well as into the store. The deeper you can push the transaction counter back so it is out of the way of the shopping experience, the stronger the return sales traditionally.

  2. I would STRONGLY suggest that you have a hot box placed between the registers. The hot box should be able to be seen by all paying customers and is best situated separating the the registers. (See more advice on grab and go food here, here, here, here and here.)

  3. You may consider having a cold box reach-in positioned below the hot box. Many locations are having great success with this. Use separate units as locations using combo units have reported a lot of problems.

  4. Be mindful of the growth of e-cigarettes. They are quickly on their way to a billion dollars in sales. If the government gets involved and begins to tax these, you may end up having to place them in a different location and/or follow the same rules that exist for traditional cigs. (Read more about the e-cigarette market at truckstops here.)

  5. I would encourage you to think long and hard about what types of merchandise you want around your counter, now and in the future. For example, you may want lit displays, so be sure power is easily available. You may want to peg product, so make sure slat wall is available. Similarly, maybe you will want to place items on shelves. Make sure you have slat wall that can also have shelving easily installed and uninstalled.

  6. When deciding on the number of items you want placed on your counter, keep front of mind the amount of junk that ends up on counters. Create no more than 8 "positions" for future items like candy, lighters, etc. Keep the counter as free as possible, but do not cut yourself short and think you will never have junkie counters. It happens so do create room for programs but keep it as realistically tight as possible.

  7. Create room for storage behind the counter as under the counter storage usually just becomes junk.

  8. Be sure you have room for a drop safe or a more modern updated safe that counts bills, helps perform shift changes, etc.

  9. Remember that you may one day have automated tills and self-service tills for customers. With those advancements in mind, make sure the approach to the counter is easy for ALL future customers and all future pay points.

  10. Of course, be sure to meet the American with Disabilities (ADA) requirements. (Read our blog series on the Top 20 ADA Compliance Issues Seen in Truckstops and Travel Plazas here.)

  11. Ensure that it is easy for people to use electronic wallets at the counter. This will only grow. While you may not have the equipment currently to handle these types of transactions, there will be a time when a large percentage of all our location transactions are coming from some sort of mobile payment or something we have yet to imagine at this point in time. (Read more about mobile wallets and ACH payments.)

  12. If you plan to use ANY self check in systems such as customer transaction counters, shower programs, vendor, certificate redemption, etc., keep in mind WHERE this will eventually go. Will they be on the counter or on the retail floor?

Photo Credit: Ira Wexler/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.