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Replace an Unproductive Restaurant in Your Truckstop with One of These 15 Creative Offerings

Posted in: Truckstop Business, Darren's Great Ideas for Independent Operators, Marketing & Retail


Welcome to the newest post in our blog series, Darren’s Great Ideas! for Independent Operators

Replace an Unproductive Restaurant in Your Truckstop with One of These 15 Creative OfferingsIMG_4422.jpg

Over time, certain profit centers can fail to produce the same margins they once did. Many in our industry are experiencing this with sit-down restaurants. Priorities for both professional and passenger drivers’ have shifted what today’s consumers are seeking out.

For truckstop and travel plaza operators replacing an unproductive restaurant with another food option or service offering can bring a boost in sales. 

(You may want to revisit 12 Ideas For What To Do With That Tired Truck Lounge and 16 Ideas On How To Deal With Unproductive Inventory At Your Truckstop too.)

Here are 15 ideas for transforming space within your location. 

  • Add a smaller format fast casual restaurant that is seeing growth, such as Pho, Mexican or Mediterranean cuisine alongside your current offerings.

  • Replace the restaurant with a breakfast and lunch eatery, such as Panera Bread, Corner Bakery, IHOP, Cracker Barrel, Le Madeleine, etc.

  • Add an Applebee's or another sports-themed eatery to replace the restaurant.

  • Put in two or three different express versions of quick-serve restaurants, such as those in the airport, for example Chester's International.

  • Add a bakery that focuses on fresh crafted products. (Like the bakery at Clearwater Travel Plaza I wrote about recently or the bakery at Pine Cone Travel Plaza, which we wrote about in Stop Watch magazine.)

  • Create a food truck theme and build several fake truck faces with menus that support food you could create in the existing restaurant.

  • Create a candy shop.

  • Add an express massage offering, such as those that are offered in the airport.

  • Open a nail saloon with focus on foot and hand care. Drivers have problems with both.

  • Add in a tax or other financial service offering for drivers. Why not an H&R Block in a truckstop?

  • Add a pharmacy.

  • Replace the restaurant with a clinic for health tests for drivers and locals.

  • Create a space for a pop up store, with new exciting offerings that change frequently.

  • Open a small format local grocery store.

  • Get creative and consider a fresh popcorn factory, a craft beer offering that sells growlers or a tortilla factory with a bakery.

Photo Credit: Darren Schulte/NATSO

/// Read more Darren's Great Ideas for Independent Operators posts 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.