Editor's note: Darren Schulte, NATSO vice president of membership, frequently visits NATSO members to review their locations and offers impactful merchandising and operations improvements. Contact Schulte at email@example.com or (915) 526-5820 to learn more about the costs and details of this service.
Those of us within the truckstop and travel plaza industry know competition is increasing, and we need to find creative, effective ways to increase foot traffic and attract customers.
There is so much we can learn from those around us, and I regularly post about my visits with NATSO members on this blog, but I also want to introduce you to six businesses that are finding new solutions to provide the convenience, expertise or experience that customers desire.
Their solutions could give you new insights into your operations.
Eataly in Chicago
Eataly in Chicago is an amazing Italian marketplace that features fresh food, restaurants, food counters, bars, groceries and a cooking school within 65,000 square feet of space. Customers come here for an experience, and it doesn’t disappoint. Chicago Magazine called Eataly a “glorious, infuriating and very tasty circus.”
Rather than having food options grouped together in a food court, each restaurant has its own character. The sheer size and number of selections at Eataly can be overwhelming, so the location offers a team of Eataly ambassadors that will guide visitors on their journey.
In July, NATSO members can take part in the NATSO Food and Fuel Study Tour, which will visit Eataly as well as other food service disruptors throughout Chicago. Foods I’ve seen. Customers can sip on a glass of wine or beer while shopping, and the location has a tap room with 24 beers to choose from, including local options.
Click the blue banner below to learn more about NATSO's July Food annd Fuel Study Tour.
El Paso Whole Foods
The El Paso Whole Foods also serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and offers cooking classes. It also focuses on the community and features a number of local products. "We're really just a reflection of the community. We're here to serve the community. We're showing lots of community interest, and we have lots of community involvement as well as over 25 local people who are representing their products in the store," said Mark Heins, a team leader at the store. This location is making shopping an event. Are there ways you can build a better shopping experience in your location?
The Whole Foods Market that recently opened in El Paso is a departure from the traditional Whole Foods I’ve seen. Customers can sip on a glass of wine or beer while shopping, and the location has a tap room with 24 beers to choose from, including local options. The El Paso Whole Foods also serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and offers cooking classes. It also focuses on the community and features a number of local products. "We're really just a reflection of the community. We're here to serve the community. We're showing lots of community interest, and we have lots of community involvement as well as over 25 local people who are representing their products in the store," said Mark Heins, a team leader at the store. This location is making shopping an event. Are there ways you can build a better shopping experience in your location?
Hy-Vee, a Midwestern supermarket chain, has opened a new, 36,000-square-foot location in Des Moines that showcases a wide variety of groceries, drinks and restaurant-style foods. Interestingly, the store has more restaurants than groceries with seven food-service offerings, and food options include a Long Island deli, hibachi, Tex-Mex, and charcuterie meats and cheeses.
The location also has bread making, smoothies, classic sodas and cold beer growler stations. It features more fresh foods and perishables than center-store food and offers a pharmacy as well a department focused on bath and beauty products.
For added convenience, it offers a "click and collect" option in which shoppers can order online and pick up their groceries from lockers outside the store. This article in the Des Moines Register has a lot of great details on the location, and the broadcast station KCCI captured the grand opening, so you can see the store in action. Grab-and-go is a growing profit center for our locations. Are there regional favorites you could add in that would make your locations stand out?
Lidl, a German grocery chain, has been working for more than a year to bring its stores to the United States. Described as a Trader Joe's meets Harris Teeter, the store will focus on locally sourced products and private labels and its layout is designed to give customer’s convenience. “The current model includes just six aisles, a store layout that executives hope is conducive to easy navigation and flow,” the Washington Post reported. Lidl currently operates 10,000 stores in 27 countries and has plans to open 100 stores on the East Coast of the United States. Our industry is already known for convenience, but maybe you can get an idea or two from Lidl’s use of signage and its approach to customer service.
Fahrenheit Café in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, is one of several businesses that have found a new way to make going out for ice cream a unique experience. The café offers rolled ice cream, which is a new twist on the old classic and a growing trend in the food world. The traditional Thai street food involves creamy custard and toppings that are poured onto an icy cold plate. Everything is mixed together, then the concoction is then flattened, rolled and served. Even if rolled ice cream isn’t your thing, its success can get you thinking about ways to reinvent some of our best-loved foods, which could help you create a loyal following and boost sales.
Truly independent hardware stores are a rare bread in today’s retail world, but Corydon Hardware in Winnipeg, Manitoba, has kept its doors open since the 1940s. The owner, Rob Benson, said the store experienced turbulent economic times when Home Depot opened nearby. "We were looking around, going from aisle to aisle, thinking, ‘So this is the devil we’ve been hearing about,’" he said. But personalized service and expertise brought customers back and has kept the store going. “We offer personalized service and experience,” Benson said. Benson is fielding questions about which tools to use and how to stop cabinets from slamming, but what are your areas of expertise? What knowledge and service can you provide to customers that they can’t get anywhere else?
Do you have a location that has inspired your operations? Share it with us in the comments below.
/// Did you know most weeks you can find me visiting a NATSO member truckstop location, spending three to four days, using my merchandising and operations expertise to help them grow their business? I periodically share about those great retailers I visit here on the blog. Read more Truckstop Travels here.
Photo Credit: Darren Schulte/NATSO
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