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NATSO Blog: June 2017

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Cimarron Travel Center’s Welcoming Atmosphere Attracts Guests

Posted in: Truckstop Travels

Cimarron Travel Center in Billings, Oklahoma, is a welcoming location, and its guests aren’t shy about sharing how much they love the stop. I’ve never seen more people submit pictures on the Google Maps site. Guests are especially excited about the location’s dog park and leave comments letting everyone know how great it is.

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NATSO Members Cater to Those with a Sweet Tooth

Posted in: Truckstop Travels

Professional drivers and four-wheel customers alike are often looking for a sweet treat when they stop, and NATSO members across the country offer a wide variety of desserts.

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Human Resources Question of the Month: We Dropped Under 50 Employees, Does FMLA Still Apply?

Posted in: Truckstop Business, Human Resources

Today Federated Insurance is sharing one of our “HR Questions of the Month” regarding employment-related practices liability issues.

Question: Our company recently made some changes, and we no longer have more than 50 employees. How do we handle our prior FMLA obligations (50 or more employees)? Do we have to wait a certain time period before we no longer are required to provide FMLA leave?

Response: Yes, if an employer drops below the 50-employee threshold typically required for Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) coverage, indeed there is a certain time period that an employer must wait before it ceases being a covered employer for purposes of the Act. The employer will need to comply with its obligations under the FMLA as to any eligible employees, until such time as it is no longer a covered employer...

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Chicago’s History as a Food-Trend Leader

Posted in: Truckstop Business, Marketing & Retail

Chicago has a long history of being on the cutting edge of food trends, and NATSO members can get an in-depth, guided look at some of today’s hottest food locations during the NATSO Food and Fuel Tour in Chicago July 18-20.

Today’s trends might take off like these six classic food offerings that were once little-known but up-and-coming offerings within the Windy City.

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Five Answers to Biodiesel Questions from Food and Fuel Study Tour Expert

Posted in: Truckstop Business, Biodiesel

Operators are turning to biodiesel to grow their business and increase margins, but the fuel often comes with questions. During a recent webinar, Grow Your Business with Biodiesel Blended Fuel, Jon Scharingson, executive director, sales and marketing for Renewable Energy Group, and David Fialkov, vice president of government relations at NATSO, shared their insight into the financial, performance and environmental benefits of biodiesel and provided answers to operators who are investigating biodiesel.

Operators looking to learn more about biodiesel should attend NATSO's Food and Fuel Study Tour that will take place July 18-20 in Chicago. The tour will include a visit to an REG biodiesel plant and truckstops that offer biodiesel on July 19.

“We’re going to do a deep dive on biodiesel blending economics, including talking about the value of RINs, how to trade RINs and what companies are out there to assist you,” Scharingson said.

The tour will also show biodiesel equipment and cover fuel specifications. On July 20 operators will visit food service disruptors not in the truckstop industry.

Here are five things operators wanted to know:

Q: What are the issues with putting B10 or B20 into an underground storage tank that has never had biodiesel?

A: Scharingson said operators that have a good tank maintenance program in place and regularly clean and inspect tanks shouldn’t have a problem putting B5 to B20 blends in an existing tank. “You’d likely want to clean your filters more frequently at first because the solvency properties of biodiesel are going to clean up some of that gunk that just formed over time,” he said.

Scharingson added that operators should start with a B5 blend for a few weeks before moving to a B15 or B20 blend. “The more biodiesel you have in there the quicker the solvency properties are going to take effect,” he said...

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Explore the Latest Foodservice Trend During Food and Fuel Study Tour: Food Halls

Posted in: Truckstop Business, Marketing & Retail

Food halls—modern-day food courts with high-end, quality food offerings—are continuing to grow throughout the country as today’s consumers gravitate towards fast, fresh meals as well as an overall dining experience. Food halls go beyond food and many offer a retail experience, artisan products and communal dining under one roof.

“Food halls also reflect the way more Americans are eating these days, allowing for people to sample a lot of different items (a la small plates) in one place,” The Washington Post reported. “They encapsulate the move away from fine dining to casual eating, as well as the growing interest in street food.”

Some food halls are focused on a single ethnic category, such as Italian, while others pull together options from local chefs. Two of the most popular food halls are Eataly and Revival Food Hall, both located in Chicago. The NATSO Foundation will be offering truckstop and travel plaza operators an in-depth look at both locations as part of the NATSO Food and Fuel Study Tour, July 18-20.

Revival Food Hall, a massive, 24,000-square-foot marketplace, is an all-local dining concept spotlighting the best of Chicago’s acclaimed culinary scene under one roof. The location opened in 2016 and has 15 fast-casual stalls featuring many of Chicago’s favorite neighborhood restaurants in a grab-and-go setting. There are also a handful of all-new concepts debuting from several acclaimed Chicago chefs.

During the tour, Marisa Kruse, general manager of Revival Food Hall, will share her insight into the location’s operations. Next attendees will tour Revival Food Hall guided by Darren Schutle, NATSO’s vice president of membership, and Ed Burcher, an industry leader and principal at Burcher Consulting. Attendees will receive gift certificates to use to see the customer experience.

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Customers Take Time to Explore Mitten’s Travel Center

Posted in: Truckstop Travels

Mitten’s Travel Center, an independent TA franchise location in Oakley, Kansas, is finding ways to make people wander, which is no small task when so many truckstop and travel plaza customers are rushing in to grab snacks, pick up essentials, visit the restroom and get back on the road. Customers may plan just to pop in for a minute, but they get drawn in once they stop.

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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.

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.

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When To Buy Blended Biodiesel And When To Blend Yourself from Food and Fuel Study Study Tour Expert

Posted in: Fuel and Trucking, Biodiesel

To blend or not to blend? That is the question many fuel retailers, including travel center operators, ask themselves when they make the decision to add biodiesel to their fuel offerings.

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Each location needs to weigh its individual circumstances. But there is information that can help you make that decision.

Let’s take these one at a time.

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Improve Your Food Operations with 7 Tips from Food and Fuel Study Study Tour Expert

Posted in: Truckstop Business, Marketing & Retail

Ed Burcher, an industry leader and principle at Burcher Consulting, has spent decades in the c-store and foodservice industries, including WaWa and Coen Markets where he implemented the Neighbours Store at Petro-Canada. He continues to work in the industry today.

Burcher will share his expertise and guide attendees during The NATSO Food and Fuel Study Tour, July 18-20 in Chicago. The NATSO Foundation has handcrafted a customized tour to give operators a behind-the-scenes look into a biodiesel plant, successful travel plaza locations and some of the hottest foodservice locations in Chicago.

Today he shares these tips for operators looking to improve their food offerings.

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