Now with a one-of–a kind coffee concept, the Tennessee-based c-store chain is blending the best of what convenience has to offer.
By David Bennett, Senior Editor
The Twice Daily brand name came from the concept of having a store with such compelling foodservice offers and a wide variety of traditional convenience store products that guests would want to visit its stores at least twice per day.
In terms of marketing strategies, that’s a lofty goal. However, if you talk to any Twice Daily representative, that’s the goal and they’re sticking to it. However, in the last two years, the convenience chain has been in motion to deliver a lot more to a growing customer base, including a unique coffee experience called White Bison.
Owned and operated by Nashville, Tenn.-based Tri Star Energy LLC, Twice Daily has been serving residents of Middle Tennessee communities since 2011. The company is unabashed in its intent to outperform competitors in its operational footprint, which includes 55-store locations in Tennessee and Kentucky.
“Our company vision is to be the Mid South’s premier convenience retailer providing a differentiated food and fuel experience that excites our guests and team members by delivering top tier performance every day on every site while leading in community support and involvement,” said Dawn Boulanger, vice president of marketing for Tri Star Energy.
On the surface, that seems like a tall order. But delivering a superior customer experience is the order of the day at Twice Daily.
Founded in 2000, Tri Star is a joint venture between the Parman Corp., Shell and Kimbro Oil Co., established in 1968.
WHAT AN IDEA
The first phase of Tri Star’s retail concept launched in August 2011 with the first three Twice Daily locations. Over the past six years, the retailer has made regular changes to its foodservice and dispensed beverage offers to match both consumer preferences and the latest trends, including healthier snacking options.
In the early going, the company developed a prototype with a “wow” factor in mind. Several design factors included a suspended “cloud” ceiling with recessed lighting directly over the foodservice area and a rich, brown woodgrain underneath. All the foodservice islands and counters have granite countertops and have curved rather than straight lines. Those stores still bring the “wow,” Boulanger said.
“The lighting and backlit ceiling soffits are also distinctive and differentiate our look from a traditional convenience store,” said Boulanger. “The design of the foodservice area differs from the design of the traditional convenience store area where products are merchandised with gondola shelving on a gray woodgrain floor. All Twice Daily stores offer a beer cave including a variety of 40 craft and specialty beer items to choose from.”
However, with the development of White Bison Coffee in late 2017, Twice Daily went back to the drawing board to create a shopping experience that’s singular to say the least. The new integrated site features a creative floor plan with the checkout in the middle of the store, a White Bison coffee shop on one side and a Twice Daily convenience operation on the other. Rather than have one long counter, the retailer is now using checkout pods.
The new store décor also offers fresh graphics and signage. Walk across the building to the spacious White Bison area, which features free Wi-Fi a large community table as well as individual seating space.
REFINING THE CONCEPT
On either side of the scale, it can be said that Tri Star is exceeding customer expectations. The design of the new integrated stores is spacious and welcoming, featuring all the standard Twice Daily foodservice offers—fresh doughnuts and pastries, a hot foods and roller grill island and a fresh deli case that features locally-sourced, handcrafted sandwiches, salads, wraps and breakfast items such as yogurt parfaits and fresh fruit.
“The only dispensed beverages offered in Twice Daily are fountain drinks,” said Boulanger. “White Bison Coffee offers an extensive line of specialty coffee drinks, including small batch pour-over coffee, cold brew, nitro and espresso beverages, as well as hot and iced teas and smoothies.”
Currently, there are eight integrated Twice Daily / White Bison locations offering coffee, convenience and fuel including recently-opened locations in the cities of Murfreesboro and Gallatin. Four of these sites include drive-through service where patrons can get their coffee on the go.
One integrated Twice Daily / White Bison location with no fuel operates in the 12 South neighborhood of Nashville.
Tri Star also operates a stand-alone White Bison coffee shop in the Nations community of Nashville. At 2,700 square feet, the shop, which has the same modern design features as White Bison in the integrated store locations, is plenty spacious for patrons to sit and relax in front of their smart devices. The shop also boasts a second-floor mezzanine seating area and an outdoor patio.
Customized coffee service, including the use of baristas, is helping White Bison meet the ever-growing demand for convenient coffee occasions. It’s an added benefit to the morning daypart as well as to the afternoon when guests are looking for a snack or caffeine pick-me-up, said Boulanger.
“White Bison Coffee is a new business model for our company—developed as a growth strategy. We wanted to continue to expand our food and beverage offer but in a way that was differentiated from our competition,” said Boulanger. “Data and research pointed to opportunities in beverage—specifically coffee, with consumption at an all-time high. We were very deliberate in the coffee we wanted to offer—partnering with an expert in the business, who goes to origin, buys direct from growers, roasts the beans and delivers to our stores. This heightened focus on coffee and the relationship with our coffee partner, helped us in making the decision.”
The strong emphasis on providing a quality product has earned White Bison growing attention from a curious clientele, resulting in a loyal following in the greater Nashville area, said Christine Garringer, director of operations for White Bison Coffee.
“Our product is good. It’s easy for us to say that, right. But we’ve had a lot of guest comments via social media and through Google Reviews that make those same statements,” said Garringer. “No one else in the industry is doing what we’re doing.”
The White Bison coffee shop has a sophisticated selection, featuring more premium products— freshly baked pastries and muffins, a breakfast menu with sandwiches and breakfast bowls, bistro snack boxes, sandwiches on artisan bread and unique salads made with items such as quinoa and noodles.
However, the future success of the fledgling White Bison brand will probably come down to beans.
By definition, specialty coffee refers to the whole process from farmer to cup using single-origin coffee. The journey specialty coffee travels from a planted seed to a customer’s cup can be long and complicated. Executives at Twice Daily and White Bison aren’t taking their foray into specialty coffee lightly. The source of White Bison coffee is based on the seasonality of the coffee. This is directly displayed in its offerings of single-origin coffees.
“Coffee is a seasonal product. Beans from different parts of the world are at peak freshness at different times of the year,” Garringer said. “To make sure customers are drinking the highest quality cup available, we source with our coffee partner for beans with this in mind. Rainy seasons trigger the flowering, and nine months later the ripe cherries are ready for harvest. Getting a coffee ready for export can take up to three months. Once exported, it is at its peak freshness.”
Of course, no work is done in a vacuum. The development of White Bison has incorporated a string of vested partners, starting with the coffee farmer who is growing the beans that go into the retailer’s product.“Great coffee starts with the producer whose family likely has spent generations perfecting their approach to farming the highest quality coffee possible, “said Garringer.
That string continues to the purchaser of the coffee beans and finally, the consumer.
“Specialty coffee exists through the dedication of the people who have made it their life’s work to continually make quality their highest priority,” said Garringer. “This is not the work of only one person in the life-cycle of a coffee bean. Specialty can only occur when all of those involved in the coffee value chain work in harmony and maintain focus on standards and excellence from start to finish.”
This also includes the roasting operation.
“Coffee must be closely monitored during the roasting process and scientific principles of heat transfer, thermodynamics and coffee chemistry must be applied to ensure the highest standard of quality and flavor come through in the final roasted bean,” Garringer said.
If the retail venture knows its beans, it also knows that its employees are the factors that will ultimately decide the success of not just White Bison, but Twice Daily.
As part of upgrading its staff, Twice Daily recently brought in Christy Cox as its new vice president of human resources.
Cox has brought a wealth of business competencies to Nashville, Tenn.-based Tri Star Energy, which includes the Twice Daily convenience chain. Before arriving at the Tennessee convenience chain, Cox spent 20 years at Logan’s Roadhouse restaurant chain, including a period as director of human resources there.
Just like other retail channels, the hunt for good employees to staff the chain’s growing operation has been constant work, though there are more company tools to use.
“In this war for talent, it is important to cast a wide net. Attracting new employees is anchored on sharing our employer brand through a new career website we launched in January 2018,” said Cox. “We know this is the first place candidates will go to learn about our company, so we provide candidates with an authentic view of who we are as a company and what we have to offer as an employer. We focus on the candidate experience, making it easier for them to apply for open positions. We did this by including a robust search bar to search and find the right location and position for each candidate as well as the ability to simply click to apply.”
Tri Star Energy gives each of their 1,200 team members the opportunity to advance their careers, learn meaningful skills and give back to their surrounding community, said Cox. It’s why Tri Star Energy was recognized recently as one of Nashville’s top workplaces across all businesses and retail channels.
“For team members, servant leadership, great benefits and career advancement are the key initiatives to creating a culture of employee value,” Cox said. “We offer our teams competitive benefits, tuition reimbursement and unique benefits to include a chaplain program, an employee assistance program and volunteer programs. Our managers have been recognized by their teams as true coaches that not only care about their concerns but are there to help them learn and grow.”