For the 2023 edition of the Professional Driver Buying Behavior at Travel Centers Toolkit, NATSO Services asked hundreds of owner-operators, leased drivers and company drivers how often they fuel, rest and shop at travel centers during their work week, what brings them inside and their expectations around wait times, employee interaction, and food and loyalty preferences.
The survey revealed incredible opportunities to increase wallet share of existing customers, bring more buying customers inside and convert customer traffic into sales. This toolkit pairs the NATSO Services data with NATSO Operational Insights gleaned visiting more than 1,000 travel centers and Driver Insights collected by NATSO.
Here are the key findings:
- Every person who pulls into the parking lot is a prospect, and more stops mean more opportunities for sales. The highest percentage of respondents—26%—stop more than five times per week at truck stops and travel centers to fuel up.
- One of the first steps to calculating conversion rates is determining how often customers stop and when they come inside. Among drivers who stop five or more times per week for fuel, 59% purchase something five or more times per week, meaning there are significant opportunities to boost sales.
- More than half of all respondents—54%—said loyalty programs influenced their decision to make non-fuel purchases.
- Earning points on redeemable fuel purchases for non-fuel purchases was the most appealing or useful reward for 57% of all respondents.
- Cleanliness of showers and restrooms, loyalty programs and friendly staff are significant draws for drivers when choosing whether or not to go inside a travel center’s restaurant or store.
- Incremental sales in food or snacks or general merchandise are significant profit drivers, and there is an opportunity to influence an additional sale for most respondents. 81%, in fact, said they have gone inside a travel center store but left without purchasing food or beverages in the last month.
- Two-thirds of respondents said that both speed of service and personal interaction with staff are essential when shopping inside a travel center.
- Most drivers said they would be inclined to leave without making a purchase if they saw an average of five people in line.
- In fact, 13% said they would leave with just two people in line.
- A third of respondents said full-service, family-friendly style restaurants at travel centers were appealing when deciding where to stop for food during driving hours, which means two-thirds are looking for other dining options.
- Only 36% of respondents said they have been unable to find specific food items or cuisines at travel centers in the last month.
Survey and interviews commissioned by NATSO Services. NATSO Services is the for-profit arm of NATSO, the association for travel centers and truck stops. NATSO Services’ Travel Center Profit Drivers program connects travel center operators to vetted industry experts for custom assessments and actionable ideas to improve revenue and net operating costs. NATSO Services also partners with fiserv to deliver a cost-effective credit card processing solution that is fast, secure, and increases profit margin by streamlining unbranded payment processing.
Toolkit created by the NATSO Foundation. The NATSO Foundation is the research, education and public outreach subsidiary of NATSO Inc. The NATSO Foundation provides programs and products to strengthen travel centers’ ability to meet the traveling public’s needs through improved operational performance and business planning. The foundation is completely autonomous and relies solely on donations. Please consider a donation to the NATSO Foundation to enable the continued success of these programs. Donate to the NATSO Foundation here.
MEMBERS ONLY! In addition to our quantitative survey, NATSO members get exclusive access to our 2023 Travel Center Trends document. This comprehensive document combines quantitative results from our recent professional driver survey, qualitative insights from one-on-one interviews, and my observational insights from over 100 store visits annually. NATSO members can download the 2023 Travel Center Trends document here.
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