RaceTrac Petroleum in the last few years has topped itself, which leaves something for other convenience stores to aspire to.
By Jim Callahan
I was seriously wowed recently and I loved every minute of it, and thought I’d share the occasion with you.
On a beautiful night in historic Newnan, Ga., which is 30 minutes south of Atlanta, I stopped at a new RaceTrac convenience store just off Interstate 85, which goes far in enhancing the legend of the Carl Bolch family and company staff.
At times, I reference the “Super 7” convenience store chains—my own name for seven c-store chains nationwide that are head and shoulders above their competitors. In terms of a new and vastly improved look, functionality, great offerings, ease and efficiency, RaceTrac is definitely a Super 7 member, blowing almost everyone away. The most recent upgrades—tied to the company’s innovative 6,000-square-foot-store model—have happened under the tutelage of CEO Allison Moran and Bill Milam, RaceTrac president.
Arriving in Newnan, I didn’t have the time or the will to fight the maddening crowds and long, slow lines at Walmart. Filling in as a pit stop, however, RaceTrac had a comfortable flow of vehicle traffic as well as foot traffic. The Atlanta-based convenience store chain allowed me to abandon all fears and worries over time constraints.
The tables outside were filled with customers drinking iced lattes, smoothies, milk shakes and an incredible myriad of mouth-watering, ice cream sundae offerings, far too vast to describe.
I was invited to sit down and share a table by two female customers who, I soon found out, had just met each other some five minutes previously. So, similarly to what might occur at a busy airport restaurant, the comfort zone that RaceTrac has created has resulted in an atmosphere that brings people together.
It’s the first time I’ve experienced that in a convenience store—indeed a watershed moment for me, and the thought that emanated was: how very cool.
The ladies—much younger than me—were so gracious and comfortable that I probably stayed longer than I should have. One woman referred to the store as a “one-stop shopping experience.” Neither one knew I was a longtime retailer and now a writer, and I actually had no idea that an opportunity to write a column worthy of sharing would occur.
Before I left the store, I went in and shopped, both for the wine I had come for and to just walk the store to complete the experience.
I must tell you, my one- and two-store operators as well as those small- to medium-sized chains, to be afraid. Better yet, be inspired to visit a RaceTrac location near you, or another chain similar in nature. Make note of the speed and professionalism that seem to prevail at RaceTrac, exuded by the well-trained staff, which quickly moved the customer lines along.
If you have the chance, check out the cleanliness of the store, the impressiveness of the restrooms, the sight of the walk-in coolers, the scores of coffee/cappuccino and latte and frozen offerings available, not to mention the monster roller grill, fresh attractive grab-and-go food products, the flaky pastries and so on.
Honestly reflect on what you see and compare it to your current operation, conditions and offerings and use that self- image and information as an impetus to improve your store(s) in all ways possible.
As the old saying goes, “Rome was not built in a day,” and I don’t envision anyone calling in a renovation crew today to install a giant frozen yogurt bar. However, I would strongly encourage every reader that can to heed this advice to think about a plan to be more competitive in the future. Most of us likely will never be a Super 7 convenience store chain, but that’s fine.
SMALL IS NICE TOO
That’s because smaller companies have certain advantages that 500-store chains don’t. In small chains, customers can see the company president or owner on a regular basis. Many modest c-stores have a uniqueness, special charm and a place in the community that can’t be duplicated. We can all be proud and comforted by that.
Still let’s all work on improving and becoming even prouder as we build a stronger mouse trap for the future of our families and employees by using RaceTrac as a really smart guide.
Jim Callahan has more than 40 years of experience as a convenience store and petroleum marketer. His Convenience Store Solutions blog appears regularly on CSDecisions.com. He can be reached at (678)485-4773 or via e-mail at [email protected].