Employees at Sapp Bros. Travel Centers’ 16 locations all adhere to the company’s mission—“to treat every customer as our guest by providing a clean environment, quality products and a commitment to excellent customer service,” said Sapp Bros. President Don Quinn.
It is that commitment that has made the company thrive for forty years and that will carry the company into the future, Quinn said.
“Those values will never go away and by focusing on that mission, we feel that we don’t have to be the 800-pound gorilla in the room. We believe there are a lot of customers out there who are willing to patronize us because we do things a little bit differently than some of our competitors do,” Quinn said.
Sapp Bros.’ first location opened on June 7, 1971, in Omaha, Neb., but the business venture involving Ray, Dean, Lee and Bill Sapp started years earlier. In 1960, the brothers pooled their money and purchased a Ford car dealership in Ashland, Neb. Five years later, they purchased a GMC truck dealership in downtown Omaha and in 1966 they purchased 52 acres of ground at the juncture of I-80 and US Highway 50 In Omaha.
Even with the opening of Interstate 80 three years away, the Sapp brothers realized the business potential of the nation’s largest super highway and decided to build a truckstop on the ground. By 1978, a second truckstop had been constructed in Council Bluffs, and the company was on its way. More locations followed and today there are 16 travel centers located in eight states across the country from Pennsylvania to Utah, along I-80 and I-70, with a few sprinkled on Nebraska highways.
From the beginning, the Sapp brothers worked hard to maintain a clean image at their truckstops, attracting families as well as professional drivers. The company focuses on treating customers as guests.
“The word ‘guest’ is more than just something on the surface,” Quinn said. “Every employee receives training on the five steps we take to treat the customer as a guest. We welcome them, take care of their needs, use their name if possible, thank them and invite them back.”
Employees are at the heart of Sapp’s operation, and the company has a lot of 30-year-plus employees, Quinn said, adding that he has worked for them for 25 years.
To help keep its 1,200 employees happy, Sapp Bros. offers profit sharing, paying a certain percentage back to its workers. “We have a 401(k) program and health insurance. We also encourage our general managers to own stock within the company. By doing so, they are not only working for Sapp Bros., they are working for themselves,” Quinn said.
Overall, Quinn told Stop Watch, the company’s success boils down to two things. “We focus on clean facilities and friendly service. If we do those right, we can affect our own outcome,” he said.
This article originally ran in Stop Watch magazine. Stop Watch provides in-depth content to assist NATSO members in improving their travel plaza business operations and provides context on trends and news affecting the industry.
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