Spicewood, Texas-based Kwik Chek, which owns and operates 45 convenience stores in Texas and Oklahoma, has been proactive in its response to COVID-19. Among myriad changes, CEO Kevin Smartt said the top priority, from the start, has been keeping customers and employees safe.
“We immediately went to all of our employees, anybody that was a health risk, anybody who was not safe, felt safe, we didn’t require them to be at work,” he said. “We want to make sure, first and foremost, that our customers’ and our employees’ health and safety is taken care of.”
Early initiatives in stores include six-foot social distancing markers and sneeze guards at checkout, as well as stringent sanitization procedures and closing in-store seating.
Smartt said employees have responded overwhelmingly well to the situation. They want to be there, he said, to be working and helping the community. And customers notice.
“Our customers have been really appreciative that our team is doing what they’re doing, that they can still come to our stores and get essential items that are needed,” he said.
While fuel demand slows, inside sales have been steady. Smartt said Kwik Chek stores have been selling water and essential grocery items like milk and eggs as quickly as they can stock them. The chain offers some proprietary products including water, which he said has been especially helpful as customers stock up.
“I think it’s interesting that, prior to this pandemic, there was so much buzz around online shopping,” said Smartt. “But I think this proves that convenience stores are essential, truly, to communities — a bedrock of communities. They need a brick and mortar in times like this.”
Kwik Chek has also seen an increase in takeout orders and now offers both curbside pick-up and delivery, through DoorDash and other regional companies. In fact, Kwik Chek recently increased its delivery services in order to offer it in more locations. Smartt said he recognizes the cost barrier but sees greater advantages to offering delivery, including a way to compete with QSRs, particularly in the evening daypart.
In an additional effort to help those in in need, each Kwik Chek location now has an option for its customers to donate to United Way at checkout, which ensures the money goes directly back into those communities.
Overall, through this challenging time, Smartt said he’s proud, not only of the Kwik Chek team but of the entire industry.
“I think, in this time, everybody has really come together,” he said. “They’re working so hard and are so committed to everybody’s well-being. I’m super proud of our team and really, our industry — how our industry’s working hard to do the same thing, from all the stories I read here.”