Food sales at truckstops and travel plazas are a crucial profit center as well as a prime way to draw in travelers. We all know that both professional and passenger drivers like trusted names, and the right quick-service restaurant can also be a way to stand out. I encourage operators to look at the QSRs that are already along their routes and try something different. If you have the same food offerings as everyone else, you will be forced to compete on the price of fuel, but food can make you a destination.
Here are six ways to encourage drivers to stop at your location:
Invest in an up-and-coming franchise: Well-known name brands do garner attention, but having the same offerings one exit down from someone else doesn’t necessarily make your store a go-to stop. Trying something new, even if it is in the same genre, can attract attention. Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500 list can help operators explore new trends in food service. This year’s list includes sandwich makers such as Firehouse Subs, Jersey Mike’s and McAlister’s Deli.
Offer a signature item: Sometimes the right item can make you stand out. Herb Hargraves of Cash Magic offers a French toast sandwich. During The NATSO Show 2016, Brian Couch of Donna’s Travel Plaza said the company has had great luck selling chicken gizzards and was going through 200 to 300 pounds a week.
Create a unique, local experience: Giordano’s in Chicago engages its customers through stories. Giordano’s was founded in Chicago’s South Side by Italian immigrants in 1974, and everyone on staff can tell the story of the restaurant’s beginnings. Today it has 51 restaurants in the Greater Chicago area, Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Minnesota, Michigan and Nevada, plus it ships food to all 50 states. During the Food and Fuel Study Tour in Chicago, attendees visited Giordano’s, which also does an amazing job of telling the story of iconic Chicago deep dish pizza and highlights its location with memorabilia from local sports teams, the Cubs and Bulls. Everything in the location feels authentic.
Create customizable offerings: Demand for immediate, consumable, made-as-you-want-it foods is growing, and giving customers new ways to make their food their own can encourage them to choose your location over someone else’s. Think about topping bars or beverage stations that can allow your customers to personalize their order.
Go healthy: Healthy offerings are a continuing trend. Pret a Manger inspired attendees on the NATSO Food and Fuel Study Tour with its emphasis on cleaner eating. Pret offers ingredient lists devoid of artificial flavors and preservatives and has seen increased consumer interest in meat-free products.
Pret has had 14% growth in the U.S., in part, because of its breakfast offerings, which are strong.
Change it Up: Another stop on the Food and Fuel Study Tour, Freshii, has created a reason for customers to come back by changing its menu every 70 days. The company goes around the world to find local food concepts that are popular then brings them back so there is always something new.
The dynamic dining experience also allows the company to stay current on new trends.
/// Did you know most weeks you can find me visiting a NATSO member truckstop location, spending three to four days, using my merchandising and operations expertise to help them grow their business? I periodically share about those great retailers I visit here on the blog. Read more Truckstop Travels here.
Photos Credit: Ed Burcher
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