Rainbo Oil Co., which operates the Kwik Stop convenience chain, is exploring various opportunities in 2016. With new store locations and a dynamic foodservice plan, the company has developed an enviable gem in its marketplace.
By David Bennett, Senior Editor
In the convenience store industry, there are plenty of chains that fly under the national radar, but are retail gems in their respective communities.
Rainbo Oil Co., which is based in Dubuque, Iowa, and operates 14 Kwik Stop convenience stores, has discovered its own pot of gold, in the form of a strong customer following.
The company’s two newest Iowa locations are different from traditional Kwik Stops. One store is 7,400 square feet with a drive-through. The location includes a 2,600-square-foot Fazoli’s dining area and a 3,800-square-foot c-store. Both sides share a laundry room as well an outdoor seating area. A dual bay car wash is being added soon.
The new stores are spacious inside, boasting fresh foods, produce and a wide variety of grab-and-go items. The c-store was designed with a heightened focus on healthier food and grocery items.
“Our Peosta location is in a sprawling community with no grocery store so the inside of the store is merchandised as a market, offering many items you would find in a grocery location,” said Jill Reimer, vice president of Rainbo.
Before Iowa native Herbert Hoover was elected president of the U.S. Rainbo Oil, established in 1923, was growing its company roots.
Bernard Fahey began his 45-year career as general manager and later as president of Rainbo Oil. At one time, Rainbo had seven service stations, the most in the city of Dubuque, Iowa. He built the first drive-through car wash in Dubuque on Dodge Street, the first self-service car wash on 20th Street, and the first convenience store in Dubuque in 1970.
Today, Paul Fahey, president of 514-employee Rainbo and the son of Bernard, is overseeing the expansion of Rainbo’s wholesale and retail divisions, including Kwik Stop’s growing footprint.
In the last few years, the company has developed co-branded concepts that offer patrons diverse foodservice options, including full-service dining in three of its locations. In 2014, the company incorporated a 90-seat Fazoli’s Italian restaurant as part the company’s expanded Kwik Stop format.
The dining space, which also includes drive-through service, offers customers freshly-prepared Italian entrees, pizza, oven-baked sandwiches and a variety of salads. At Rainbo’s second combination Kwik Stop/Fazoli’s location, the dining-in initiative increases the likelihood that the stores will appeal to all age groups.
The food options that Fazoli’s offers helps defeat the mindset that some people still hold regarding convenience store food offerings, Reimer explained.
The food is also “an alternative to burgers and fries. Our locations are in destination locations, meaning that when a guest decides to visit, there are multiple choices inside the site,” Reimer said. “Our goal is always to accommodate all choices and taste buds selection in that vehicle. One of the things we pride ourselves on is offering choice to all, we truly do pride ourselves in gearing everything we do and decide towards our guests.”
Kwik Stop is also using its coffee program as a means to bridge its c-store and restaurant services. In fact, drive-through will come to play a more prominent role in Kwik Stop stores during breakfast hours and other dayparts.
During the breakfast period, from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m., Kwik Stop store personnel will make use of the Fazoli’s drive-through window to operate what the company refers to as Kwik Café Express, which helps drive Kwik Stop’s loyalty program.
If the Rainbo organization values anything above all else, it’s people—both customers and the team.
“Our corporate culture has not changed but rather, has been enhanced by growing our team. The “family” in Rainbo will always be our culture,” Reimer said. “Led from the top down, our culture is about family first; work hard, play hard, keeping Christianity in all that we do and leading by example. When we hire the right people our culture is enhanced, not necessarily changed.”
Kwik Stop this year wanted to review some basics, honing the components of its retail operation—from employee training to improving the way it implements customer service.
“We are going to take some time in 2016 to ‘get back to the basics’ and make sure our environment truly lives our ‘Because We Kare’ message in all we do,” Reimer said.
What the company will also continue to do is strengthen relations in the communities in which it operates.
“Our owner is involved every day in all that we do and maintains a commitment to always striving to improve and stay ahead of the curve. I think our size shocks a lot of people once you dig in and understand what we, the entire company, are really all about,” Reimer said.