It is a disruptive time in the fuel business, but NATSO’s The Truck Stops Here podcast is packed with critical analysis on what to expect as well as ideas to propel your travel center business into the future. Pull up, grab the fuel nozzle and get ready to fuel up. NATSO’s podcast is available on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher. Visit www.natso.com/podcast for links for each podcast service.
Operational changes brought on by Covid-19 are changing the way companies do business, today as well as into the future. Many of those changes can be found in the way locations utilize their parking lot.
NATSO’s podcast, The Truck Stops Here, sat down with Darren Schulte, NATSO’s vice president of membership, to learn more about how operators can make the most of their space.
Question: Curbside delivery has become more important during COVID-19. Do you have any recommendations for implementing curbside delivery either now or in the future?
Darren: “If your whole store is opening and operating at a reduced capacity right now, those additional labor hours today that you’re using to take care of the curbside may not be there and you may need to hire more people to keep up with the demand. If you’re doing curbside delivery, think about when your store is fully operational and how are you going to be able to manage that.
It is a terrible situation we’re all in, but in some ways, there are some blessings in that we can perfect delivery, we can perfect delivery while trucks are fueling, we can perfect that now by analyzing and looking at the processes we’re using to do that today.”
Question: Do you think using Uber Eats and Door Dash is a good idea long term?
Darren: “I do, especially for those locations that have really good local communities. We’ve heard from some of our members they’re doing $60-$100 a day in Door Dash, and those are new customers. One of our members has done a phenomenal job in the Michigan area servicing a car factory pre-COVID-19.
If you have the wherewithal, be looking at your own systems or apps to allow customers to order. Even before COVID-19 there were customers that wanted this and there especially will be post Covid-19. There will be customers who are not comfortable with coming in the store and will want their food delivered.
I’ll also give you an example, here in El Paso, Texas, we are under lockdown but not a complete lockdown, so we could still go to restaurants to pick up food. My favorite restaurant did not have curbside pickup prior to COVID-19, and it always had a wait. Now, because they did offer their curbside pickup, I will probably eat there more often but probably won’t eat inside each time. Before they were forcing me to wait for 30 to 45 minutes or an hour. I was willing to do that because I wanted to eat there, but, now that I know they can do curbside delivery, if they take that away, I will probably be pretty dissatisfied.
Also, if you’ve started it, Uber Eats and Door Dash and are having success, I would highly recommend you don’t eliminate it. You’ve set up a certain number of customers who have gotten used to that and people will be disappointed if you remove it.”
Question: Are there any parking lot innovations truckstops and travel centers should be looking at in order to make more money?
Darren: “I do think when you look at the size of our parking lots, there are a lot of members in certain parts of the country whose parking lots aren’t full. I know that a lot of our members’ lots are overflowed, but there are plenty of times I’ve been at locations where the parking lot isn’t full. It makes me believe are there ways to embrace that space differently. Can you put in ice and water vending machines? Can you put in drive-through coffee kiosks? Can you take part of the parking lot and turn it into a pharmacy or a medical facility? Maybe there is an opportunity to embrace food trucks. Those members who have tried food trucks and put them on their lots have had good things to say about them.
This will be even more important as length-of-haul changes. Prior to COVID-19, trucks were driving fewer miles and were home more frequently. I think you have to start thinking about how you get a truck driver to come back over on the weekend and spend money with you. A lot of us may not do a lot of diesel business on the weekend but that can be our busiest time.”
// These are just a few of the questions covered in the episode. Listen to this episode above or at:
Get more great insights from NATSO’s podcasts at https://www.natso.com/podcast.
Be a Podcast Guest: Want to be a guest on the show? Fill out the form here.
Be a The Truckstops Here Podcast Sponsor! Reach the ears of truckstop and travel center owners through sponsorship of the podcast. We’ll help sponsors record a message for podcast listeners, so that you message is heard in every podcast for two months as a sponsor. Reach out to Amy Toner, NATSO’s vice president, publishing and digital content, at (703) 739-8570 or firstname.lastname@example.org to be a sponsor of the show.
Subscribe to Updates
NATSO provides a breadth of information created to strengthen travel plazas’ ability to meet the needs of the travelling public in an age of disruption. This includes knowledge filled blog posts, articles and publications. If you would like to receive a digest of blog post and articles directly in your inbox, please provide your name, email and the frequency of the updates you want to receive the email digest.