Innovation is what keeps business moving forward, and new ideas can be the key to success. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, truckstop and travel plaza operators joined together to share their great ideas and learn the tips and tricks from their peers to improve operations at their locations. The sharing took place during the Great Ideas! for Independent Operators Workshop during The NATSO Show 2017, and operators tackled everything from food service to point-of-sale technology.
Here are just some of the great ideas that operators shared during the session.
Food Service: Operators said they’re having success with a wide variety of food options, including hard-boiled eggs, prepackaged cheese or sausage, specialty pizzas made in-house, empanadas, frozen yogurt and shake machines. One operator said the location’s employees select food specials and another said it is useful to get a certified food manager on site.
Parking: Operators often think of tractor-trailers when considering paid parking, but one operator realized large numbers of customers were leaving their personal vehicles parked at the location. So, the location started charging drivers to park their personal vehicles for an extended period of time.
Human Resources: For new hires, it is useful to focus on the five firsts: the first hour (make it great), the first day (find out how it went), the first paycheck (make sure it is done right) the first month and the first year (check in with the employees).
Potential Revenue Streams: One operator has added used books, which he purchases from a local library. Another rents space to trucking companies so they can recruit truck drivers.
Community Engagement: Being involved in the community is one of many ways operators are attracting customers. One location has loyalty programs for locals and one for drivers. Another hosts we-pump Wednesdays and not only lowers the price, but also pumps gas for the customers, which gives customers a chance to go in and shop. Another location sponsors sports teams and donates a percentage or tips to a charity. Yet another offers scholarships to keep a constant flow of young people stopping by.
Marketing: Social media, including Trip Advisor and Twitter, is helping operators connect with local customers. Facebook is the most popular social media people are seeing. Operators said they are also using billboards, but radio ads have been less effective as no one is sure what radio station people are listening to.
Technology: Operators agreed they have to stay current on technology to be effective. Some are using geofencing to publish specials or notify customers when they get near their location. One operator warned his peers that even if they aren’t using geofencing, they should make sure they’re not being geofenced by someone else. Operators also said they’re seeing drivers use the Park my Truck App and the Weigh my Truck App.
General Management: To grow staff, one operator is focusing on millennials and said the key is giving them the right tools for success, such as electronic onboarding and communication via text messages.
Human Resources: During the session operators agreed good employees are important for customer service. To help attract talent, operators said they create a single location for applications, offer digital recruiting, provide sign-on bonuses and ask employees for suggestions on new hires
Photo credit: Brittany Palmer/NATSO
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