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Six Ways to Improve Your Speed-of-Service at Your Truckstop

Posted in: Truckstop Business, Marketing & Retail, Operations

Professional drivers and consumers are increasingly pressed for time, and it isn’t just because they have somewhere to be. For Class 8 truck drivers, hours-of-service regulations and electronic logging devices strictly dictate how they must spend their time, and they have to get the most out of every minute. 

So, my question to independent truckstop and travel plaza operators is with all these changes that are taking place revolving around speed, what are we doing about it? Are you staffing to get customers in and out quickly? Are you laying the store out for speed? Are you designing the parking lot and fuel pumps to get trucks in and out faster? 

My nephew is a professional driver and he told me recently that he's began to stop at QuickTrip because no matter how busy they are, he is always in and out within 30 minutes for food, fuel and the restroom. That tells us so much about where the industry is heading.

Here are six areas where you can drive the speed-of-service at your location.

QuikTripTravelCenter-Weatherford, TX-APeekInsideJI.jpg

Having the right number of employees in the right locations can keep foot traffic moving inside the store. Pay attention to your peak periods and mine your data to verify your busiest times and staff accordingly.

Also, configure schedules so your staff members aren’t taking their lunch hours or breaks during your busiest times. 

Consider Your Timing
Grab-and-go is a hot item right now, especially given how much of a rush drivers are in. To ensure your programs are successful and meet your customers’ needs, think about when your staff is preparing your grab-and-go items and compare it to your peak periods.

I had one operator tell me that the location’s breakfast sandwich program was a bust. When we dug a little deeper, it turns out the morning rush started around 6:00 a.m., but the breakfast sandwiches weren’t put out until 8:00 a.m. No wonder they weren’t selling. You have to make sure your timing matches your customers’ timing.

Create Specials
You can use daily specials to draw customers in and help them move through fast. Consider a prepared dinner special that is quick on time on your busiest gas day where you normally have little or no food business and/or have pizzas and other grab-and-go item ready and waiting for tired hungry customers. They want to pump and go, but if you are prepared with food that does not hinder their drive to leave quickly, you may have a home run on your hands.

Meet Drivers at the Pump
More often than not, as we heard at NATSO Connect 2018, today’s drivers may only have time to pull in and fuel, so meeting them at the pumps with fresh food items can provide a valuable service while also driving sales.

Create a coffee cart to bring coffee and pastries in the morning or sandwiches around lunch or dinner time. 

Deliver to the Parking Lot
If trucks are sitting in our parking lots and they have a federal regulation requiring them to be there, are we looking for ways to help them maximize their time?

Consider delivering fuel to them similar to what Purple and Filld have done for passenger vehicles or food similar to GrubHub, DoorDash or UberEATS.

Investments in these types of services from large companies show us this is a trend worth paying attention to. McDonald’s rolled out delivery with UberEATS at 5,000 locations in the U.S. in 2017 and has said the service is driving sales. Earlier this year Yum Brands Inc. announced that it is buying a 3 percent stake in GrubHub for $200 million, making it one of the first fast-food companies to directly invest in a food-delivery service. Parked trucks are almost like having 80 to 90 homes right in your parking lot. Why aren’t you delivering to them?

Evaluate the Overall Layout
If you’re considering a renovation or a new build, think about the parking lot and fuel islands. Look at ways you can angle fuel islands or improve the flow of traffic to get trucks in and out quicker. 

No matter what approach you take, you have to move forward with speed-of-service being a top priority and create an experience for our core customers and even our car customers that want to get back on the road quicker. I truly believe we are going to see more and more professional drivers and trucking companies that choose where to stop based on how quickly they can get back on the road, and even five or ten minutes will make a different to today’s drivers.  

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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.