New travel center model offers broader platform for potential franchisees.
TravelCenters of America LLC, operator of the TA and Petro Stopping Centers travel center brands, will be able to provide its customer base more wide-ranging service with its new TA Express model, expected to officially launch by the end of 2018.
Barry Richards, president and chief operating officer of TravelCenters, told Convenience Store Decisions Tuesday that the company is now scouting locations that will suitable to site the company’s prototype model. He explained TA Express will offer the retailer more geographic flexibility as well as a more appealing calling card for potential franchisees
The Westlake, Ohio-based retailer also operates the Minit Mart convenience store brand.
“We can do ground up, but 20-25 acre parcels are becoming scarcer and scarcer that are convenient to the interstate,” said Richards. “So, we felt there was demand for more locations because we had those requests from customers—from fleets—but there are some holes in our network.”
A typical tract for a TravelCenters site occupies 24 acres and when developed provides parking for about 200 trucks. Most locations include a full truck repair center, usually a full-service restaurant, one or two quick service restaurants (QSR), fresh ‘to-go’ meal selections, showers; a driver’s lounge, a laundry and other amenities.
The TA Express model would likely encompass 10-15 acres, with a 9,000-square-foot center, which is about half of a normal building footprint. Parking space would accommodate approximately 100 trucks.
Even with the smaller TA Express model, patrons shouldn’t expect anything less in terms of the services they have come to expect from TravelCenters.
“Our reduced-size offering will be equal to most known travel center operations that are out there today,” said Richards.
Depending on the layout, the model might not be able to fit a full-size restaurant, said Richards. Rather, the TA Express model can chose from a multiple QSRs that TravelCenters operates at its various locations including Burger King, Dunkin’ Donuts and Tim Hortons. TA currently offers more than 500 full- and quick-service restaurant locations at its stores across 43 states.
TA Express sites also will increase the number of fueling options for professional drivers and will accept the same fuel programs and payment methods as traditional TA and Petro locations. In addition, professional drivers in TravelCenters’ UltraONE Program will be able to earn and redeem points at TA Express locations.
Also, the introduction of the new TA Express platform should help breathe new life into the company’s franchise program because of the flexibility to add potential locations into the entire TravelCenters network, providing an advantage to franchisees as well, said Richards.
Of 179 TA sites, 14 are franchises. Of the 77 locations that are part of the Petro portfolio, 13 are franchises. A division that has operated for 40 years, the company’s franchise platform is set to grow, offering seamless advantages for both TravelCenters and its franchisees, Richards said.
“We have some great operators out there flying our flag,” said Richards. “But, we have the capability to do a lot more. It’s a great way to grow the brand.”
TravelCenters is currently reviewing potential looking parcels now and expects to have at least one TA Express location up and running by the end of 2018. Richards said while densely populated areas such as Dallas, Houston and Chicago are feasible options, locations that the retailer will assess will include reasonable proximity to freeways and good distribution points.