One of the most important decisions truckstop and travel center owners have to make during a remodel or new-build is where to place the transaction counters and whether or not a free-standing transaction counter makes sense.
There are several elements operators should consider when weighing their options.
Staffing Requirements: In this day and age, speed and the customer experience are critical to driving sales within the location. For many operators, it can be difficult to staff an individual point-of-sale location for success. Combine that with the fact that customers, in general, struggle to understand where to pay in almost every type of layout. If stand-alone options are not fully staffed, it creates customer frustration and a poor shopping experience. Also think about what happens if someone needs help at another point-of-sale location. Will it be too long of a walk for one cashier if he or she needs to do a diesel transaction and a gas transaction. I would not suggest any stand-alone transaction point of sale area within the location unless you are able to properly staff each point of sale position.
Visibility: Staff needs to be able to see the customer to service the customer. When determining where to put a counter, you want to make sure there is good visibility for customers as well as staff. This means avoiding a location that will leave staff with their backs to customers. You want to limit the number of site angles for staff so they can effectively serve the customer. Also, all gasoline is pretty much pre-pay these days so being able to see customers fueling does not have the same need and or impact as in years past, but you do want to be able to greet them as they enter and thank them as they depart.
Grab-and-Go Positioning: Data and NATSO-member feedback supports having fresh food and grab-and-go food programs as close to the entryway and or pay point as possible for key customers. Who makes up your key customer demographic is determined by what metric you feel is most important, such as the number of customers, the average non-fuel ticket, average overall ticket, basket size, etc. No matter who the customer is, they all universally share three major reasons from stopping at your location: they need to fuel, they need food or they need to use the restroom. It is often some combination of the three. They want to give you money, so make it easy for them to fuel, eat and use the restroom. Think about the flow through your location and these key factors when considering where to position your pay points.
Ease and Convenience: For the most part, blocking the flow and making customers walk around shelves and strategically placed gondola or displays limits the profitability and revenue potential of a store. This is not to say there are not exceptions, especially niche locations that are known as treasure hunts. However, our primary customer demographic, especially the professional drivers, are no longer shoppers. They are buyers. There is a distinct difference between the customer who "shops" your store by walking down every aisle and the customer who comes in to "buy" something and hit the road again as soon as possible. Only you know which type of customer who have. That is easily identified by observing customer purchase behavior three times a day over the course of a week. Understand that if you have a robust seasonal program you can see purchase behavior change during these time period especially customers looking to purchase seasonal holiday products for loved ones. Once you know if you have shoppers or buyers, think about how you can position your pay points to make it easy for the customer to checkout and leave the store.
Cost to Create: At some locations, the layout of the building itself may not always lend itself to a stand-along counter without having to spend staggering amounts of money. You’ll want to consider the overall cost and whether or not it brings a benefit.
I am always happy to discuss NATSO members’ specific needs and we have a great network of operators who willingly share their first-hand experiences. I encourage you to sign up for NATSO Solutions Group where you can post specific questions and obtain detailed feedback. (NATSO members should reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to join.)
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