How to Set Your Truckstop's Coolers

Cooler space is a valuable commodity in truckstops and travel plazas. The number of products that can fill the cooler are increasing. Today we’re seeing a wider variety of sodas, juices and energy drinks and a growing grab-and-go food segment.


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

How to Set Your Truckstop's Coolers

Cooler space is a valuable commodity in truckstops and travel plazas. The number of products that can fill the cooler are increasing. Today we’re seeing a wider variety of flavored craft sodas, new age flavored waters, juices and energy drinks and a growing grab-and-go food segment.

Know Your Customer
As I often say, it is imperative to know who your customer is before under taking any changes to current sets. This is particularly important for the success of your cooler. If a particular demographic makes up the largest percentage of your paying customers, focus on them. Do not assume you know your customer. Instead, get out there and ensure you do.

Understand Your Data
When it comes to the beverages you offer, turn to your data to see which products are actually selling the best. Also look at the number of different products you have within the same category and ask yourself how many different sizes of sodas, for example, you need. Consider undertaking a category reset just to tighten up your offerings and possibly free up some much-needed cooler space. Ask multiple vendor partners to supply you with your own purchase and reorder data as well as local, regional, and national data to help you determine a more accurate mix of product offerings. Traditional categories like soda are declining in many areas of the country, yet Hecho in Mexican sodas with real cane sugar are growing. Similarly, nostalgic-flavored sales of sodas like orange cream, cream soda, root beer, and cherry soda are growing. 

Stocking And Maintaining Come At A Cost And Must Be Done Well
Always keep in mind that stocking and maintaining your coolers takes time and effort, which come at a cost. While it is nice to have selection beyond comprehension in your coolers, it may be the worst choice from a return on investment if it is not done properly. For example, consistently being out of Coke, Pepsi, Mt. Dew, Monster, Gatorade, etc. just so you can make room for the latest and greatest products does not make financial sense unless they are moving at the same rate as your top sellers. AND if they are, it is time for a larger cooler.

Departmentalize Your Cooler
Within the beverage segment, you can also consider departmentalizing your cooler and grouping like product together, regardless of vendor. Remember how big retailers have taught us to shop­ – even though Nike sells shoes and clothes, we do not go to Walmart’s shoe department to find Nike clothes. Your location and your products/departments, albeit smaller, should be laid out with this in mind.

Make Cooler Space for Grab-and-Go Foods
Customers are buying grab-n-go foods at a much greater rate than eating at traditional sit down restaurants, and truckstop and travel plaza operators are in the perfect position to capitalize on the trend. To grow your share of grab-and-go sales, make space in your current equipment or add a reach-in cooler to expand healthy fare, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, deviled eggs and salads. Cheeses, parfaits and yogurts are also popular grab-and-go products. You can also place healthy fare in reach-in coolers near the deli and coffee and fountain offerings.

Add Reach-In Coolers
To help increase sales, you can add reach-in coolers throughout the location. Many operators are now having incredible sales with reach-in floor merchandisers selling everything above — as referenced above from traditional meats and cheeses to vegetables like cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce. In fact, I recommend moving traditional frozen products like breakfast burritos, egg rolls, chimichangas and traditional burritos out of the cooler and placing them in merchandisers within eye sight of the transaction counters. Move your ice cream as well. All the data I have seen in my past has always supported ice cream floor merchandisers outselling freezer door ice cream significantly.

Partner Gondolas With Coolers 
Cooler space isn’t just about the coolers. Male customers, who make up the vast majority of our customers do not like shopping, are buyers.  The more difficult you make it for us to buy what we want, the less likely we are to spend. To help boost sales, ensure every gondola facing the cooler has either salty, nut or seed and place staples, such as bread and condiments, near the cooler containing meats and cheeses and milk. Look at your product offerings and think about which items you can group together to increase the overall ticket while also creating convenience for your customers. 


/// Read more Darren's Great Ideas for Independent Operators posts here.  



Join the conversation! What changes have you made to your cooler lately? What is working for you? What has changed in the past five years?

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