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Ten Ways to Convert More Truckstop Customers and Serve Them Faster

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

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

Ten Ways to Convert More Truckstop Customers and Serve Them Faster 
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In our industry speed is crucial, especially as we face increased competition from c-stores and restaurants that are vying for our customers. 

Increased Competition
New super c-stores are dotting the interstates with amazing grab-and-go food programs. Although they offer limited amenities and limited parking, they sell over-the-road diesel. They are also experts at moving customers in and out of the operations effectively and efficiently.

Some restaurants, such as Rudy’s BBQ Restaurant, have added gasoline as well as a handful of convenience food and drinks for customer to take with them after they had a delicious meal. Ruby Tuesday has partnered with Tesla to offer electric super charging stations, and some members are dealing with food trucks parking just outside of their place of business steering customers away from their food establishments.

We’re also competing for customers due to improved mileage requirements for vehicles. Customers don’t have to stop as often for fuel since truck and automobile manufacturers alike continue to improve fuel economy. Cars, SUV, vans and light trucks now push 30 miles-per-gallon on the highway. What’s more, in some areas fueling trucks are delivering fuel to customer’s front doors so they no longer need to go to the fuel. All of this means we have to work harder to make professional drivers and travelers want to stop at our locations.

(See Keeping an Eye on Tomorrow's Truckstop Competition for more.)

Improved Conversion Rates

Once people stop at our locations, we have to convert them to inside customers. Unfortunately, most of our locations have conversion rate issues.

Certainly our parking lots are full at night, but what percentage of those parking actually fueled and or purchased with us? Of the 500 cars that fueled with you today, how many of those customers actually came in and spent money rather than just using our restrooms?

What is your conversion rate with this customer? Is it north of 10 percent? For many, it is much less.

(See Ten Ways to Get Customers to Come Inside From the Fuel Islands for more.)

The Importance of Speed
So how do we turn these cost center situations into profit centers? How do we improve our conversion rates thus improving our net operating cost?

When you step back and look at all these changes and increased competition impacting our business universe, they are all about speed of activity/event and the ability to go longer and further, which in effect also increase efficiency and speed.

So what are truckstops and travel plazas supposed to do? Embrace speed! Embrace the need to be different because your customer is different and will continue to evolve.

Here are 10 actionable items you can do to improve the speed of your customers while increasing conversion rates.

  1. Build or lease out a coffee kiosk on your lot for OTR vehicles so drivers who just used your lot for parking may grab a coffee and a donut.

  2. Build or lease out a coffee kiosk on your lot for car customers so those not wanting to get out of the vehicle have an option.

  3. Reach out to GNC, Best Buy, Farmer’s Fridge, Caribou, Dunkin and other kiosk providers about placing their self-serve units in your mall area, and then let your customers know about it.

  4. Build a coffee and pastry cart that you roll out during morning diesel rush allowing drivers to get coffee and pastries while they fuel. This is especially wise if you have RFID fueling technology, thus making it so easy for the fueling customer to never come in. That means you need to bring the coffee and food to them.

  5. Have staff take orders from the fuel island either via tablet and or fuel island lane phone during your busiest afternoon times. Providing a simple menu with top items allow them to increase speed all the while improving conversion rates.

  6. Focus on multiple food service programs that align with your core customer. Robust hot and cold grab-and-go programs positioned in front combined with a quick-service and fast-casual restaurant (If you have a full-service restaurant).

  7. Position products that are often lost and or broken while traveling, such as sunglasses, audio, power to go, cellular chargers, in primary positions. Chips are nice to have up front, but cellular is even nicer.

  8. Utilize the power of your land to bring customers to your property. Consider an outdoor movie theater, pharmacy, emergency medical center, food truck park and pop-up stores, such as sportswear, a manicure and pedicure salon or a massage therapist. Stop accepting that your land mass has to be a cost center and turn it into a profit center instead.

  9. Eliminate trade-down opportunity purchases on and around your counter. Be smart about item placement, many times you have an item placed on your counter for X and that EXACT item in a different package for XX in line. Wise up, place the XX priced item on the counter and the X priced item, if you think you need it, in line.

  10. Develop a local delivery program for your food service programs, such as catering and home delivery. Food and retail operations are experimenting with it. Are you? And if not, why? If you are not looking at ways to increase the reason for people to come to you, you need to be looking at ways to bring the business to them.

Photo Credit: Chuck Fazio/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.