Editor's note: Darren Schulte, NATSO vice president of membership, frequently visits NATSO members to review their locations and offers impactful merchandising and operations improvements. Contact Schulte at email@example.com or (915) 526-5820 to learn more about the costs and details of this service.
Paul Bhardwaj, CEO and founder of Golden Oil, which operates four truckstops and is in the process of building its fifth, has been in the truckstop industry for more than 30 years. During that time, he has seen amenities and driver preferences change, and the locations do a fantastic job of staying current and remaining relevant.
Changes in customer demands are most obvious in food service. “We used to have family restaurants in our locations. People would come in and have a meal,” Bhardwaj said, explaining that behavior has shifted over the past 10 years. “Nobody has time to sit down and have breakfast or lunch. They want fast. They want grab-and-go.”
Bhardwaj took out sit-down restaurants and put fast food in, and it has been very, very successful. “We put in national brands. We tried our own, it didn’t work very well because people want to know the name of where they are going,” he said.
In the Kenosha location, Golden Oil has a variety of food. “Maybe you want a DQ one day, then we have Subway, Chester Chicken and Cinnabon,” Bhardwaj said.
Another big hit at the location is the fresh squeezed orange juice. Customers can squeeze it themselves in Golden Oil’s juicer.
Fresh fruit and vegetables are a popular item, and Golden Oil prepares cut fruit and veggies in house. “You have to have the proper area and it has to be consistent. You can’t have it one day and not the next day,” Bhardwaj said.
Wisconsin cheese is a top seller, and Golden Oil has displays of the cheese in a 16-foot long cooler. The new building will have two 16-foot coolers.
Bhardwaj said beverages are changing every year and there are more offerings than ever. “You have to be selective. You just don’t have enough room to carry everything,” he said.
One thing that is interesting is that this is the first store I saw with a Coca-Cola and a Pepsi Freestyle Fountain Machine. Bhardwaj deserves a lot of credit for adding both rather than just one and giving customers of both brands an opportunity to enjoy the many possibility flavors of Pepsi and Coke.
All of the locations have doctors as well as salons. And, he has a bit coin ATM, which is a great idea.
The stores are incredibly clean, and Bhardwaj said clean bathrooms are probably the most important feature, especially for women. “Ladies are usually dictating where to stop. Bathrooms are very, very important,” he said, adding that Golden Oil replaces its restrooms every five to eight years to keep things looking fresh.
Bhardwaj loves the truckstop industry, and his enthusiasm for what he does shines through. “You have to have a passion. If you don’t have a passion, you’re wasting your time,” he said.
// Did you know most weeks can find Darren Schulte, NATSO's Vice President of Membership, visiting a NATSO member truckstop location, spending three to four days, using his merchandising and operations expertise to help them grow their business? Learn about NATSO’s Profitable Retail Review program here.
Photos Credit: Darren Schulte/NATSO
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