Almost a decade ago, Johnson and Johnson Inc. began its chain of Busy Bee locations in Florida. “My granddaddy started it in the 30’s,” said Elizabeth Waring, president and CEO. “It became a corporation in the 50’s. My grandparents started adding c-stores one at a time. They were depression-era babies. My grandma didn’t want to borrow any money so my parents had to have a separate company to borrow money.”
Today, Busy Bee is headquartered in Madison, Florida, and includes two truckstops and 16 convenience stores located primarily in Florida. Busy Bee #14 in Jasper, Florida, has ten full-time employees and a leased Huddle House. Busy Bee #25 in Live Oaks, Florida, is a bustling 22,000 square feet. It boasts 90 full-time employees and a Burger King and Dunkin Donuts.
Talking to Waring and Melanie Wegner, director of brand development and operations, made it clear that the company continues to win awards in excellence because they are getting it all right, from the bathrooms to the offerings to staffing.
“Our trademark is our large, bee-tiful restrooms,” Wegner said, adding that the company makes sure to advertise the restrooms on billboards.
The men’s room has a TV in it and the woman’s room has big mirrors and real plants. Busy Bee also tries to make the restrooms a memorable experience by adding fun touches. “We do fun things, like adding targets to the urinals for target practice. They even have funny saying on them,” Waring said.
NATSO Vice President of Membership Darren Schulte said the restrooms are unbelievable. “They feature rich wood and beautiful counters. We all know travelers care about the restrooms, and these are a great way to draw in interstate travelers,” he said.
Originally, there weren’t any showers at Busy Bee #25, but after hearing from drivers, management knew it needed to add them. And of course, they went above and beyond by making the shower area a little haven for drivers. “It is right outside the fuel desk, there is a code to get in. There are TVs, cozy chairs and laundry facilities,” Wegner said.
Candy and Unique Offerings
On the way to the first-class bathrooms, shoppers can easily get sidetracked by some of Busy Bee’s unique offerings, such as the location’s extensive beef jerky offering. “We do a lot of sampling of beef jerky,” Waring said. “If you want a sample, the gals will let you try everything. You don’t want to get down the road ten miles and be unhappy.”
If the cover photo didn’t tip you off, one of the many things Busy Bee does well is in the candy category. Their strategy is to sell an abundance of candy offerings. This includes a wide variety of taffy flavors, hot-and-spicy candy and weird candy, such as sour earthworms.
Busy Bee is in the middle of revamping its candy program. “We went to the candy expo and saw a lot of great products,” shared Waring, adding that they plan to triple the amount of candy they sell.
They also have a large gift section filled with items ranging from home furnishing, such as handmade platters, to baby clothes. “You can get a bath balm, handmade jewelry or even the newest Kate Spade phone case,” Wegner said.
Super-Sized Amenity List
Another thing Busy Bee gets right is its laser focus on listening to driver needs. Based on that feedback, the company has added a long list of amenities, including dump stations, pay-at-the-pump for the truckers and hoses for drivers to clean their trucks.
They also added picnic areas for people to relax outside and recently added a giant generator. “During a hurricane, we are set up with a generator that will run the entire facility. It was a huge investment,” Wegner said.
In December, Busy Bee #25 added a Burger King. Busy Bee has a long history of partnering with Burger King beginning in the early 90’s when they were one of the first to partner with Burger King.
The truckstops are also pet friendly. They have special watering area on the side of the building, which includes fresh water for the pets and has little baggies everywhere. “We even sell unique pet things. It is such a big industry now. There are a lot of people that travel with pets,” Wegner explained.
All this attention to customer detail is paying off. “We want to make sure the truckers are having a good experience. The truckers had voted for our store two years in a row in the Trucker Path survey. It is an honor for us to be in it,” Waring said.
Busy Bee uses social media heavily to get information out quickly. “If the power was out before we got our generator, for example, we would let them know right away,” explained Wegner.
Staffing All This Great Stuff
“I believe our people make the difference. They are friendly and happy and they make sure to give a lot of attention to our guests,” Waring said. “We hire for that. We believe in hiring for happy. We hire a happy attitude.”
Waring said Wegner is “phenomenal” and called Marshall Beck, director of marketing, “extremely detailed.”
Staffing has been set up to meet specific needs, such as a staff person dedicated to maintenance and one for bathroom cleaning, but encourages cross functioning when necessary. “The staff members all work together, making sure to jump in across job function when necessary. It is so big, you need everyone to jump in,” Waring said.
Wegner, for example, said she works more on the operations on the day-to-day business but also works with the fuel on the equipment side.
The managers all work in tandem to make sure the truckstop is humming, coming together once a week to make sure they are all working together properly. “We actually have our manager meetings at the truckstop, so we can all see it and have a fresh set of eyes,” said Waring. “In fact, Marshall Beck, our director of marketing, has his office right there at the location,” she added.
More excellence is in the plans Busy Bee, led by Waring, who focuses on decisions about where the company is going. “We have fun figuring out where the company is heading,” she said.
In addition to even more candy, they are planning a propane station, more parking and to add another diesel lane in the immediate future.
Photo credit: Busy Bee
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