Outstanding leadership, great stores, a distinguished brand and a commitment to treating your people with class and dignity deserves recognition, and CStore Decisions has been proud to shine a light on companies that meet these high standards for the past 32 years.
Over the past two years, Yesway, now headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, has transformed its retail image with a new store design, a thriving proprietary foodservice program and a growing private-label food and beverage brand. Combined with vibrant community outreach programs, Yesway boasts the exceptional leadership and customer service to which many other convenience store chains aspire.
In recognition of its hard work, dedication to convenience retailing and its firm commitment to employees and the communities it serves, CStore Decisions is honored to name Yesway as the 32nd annual Convenience Store Chain of the Year.
What makes Yesway special is that it continues to cement its presence as a retail leader by evolving to meet and exceed customers’ expectations, all while being one of the fastest-growing chains in the convenience store industry.
“We are honored to be named CStore Decisions’ 2021 Convenience Store Chain of the Year,” said Tom Trkla, chairman and CEO of Yesway. “It truly is a tribute to everyone on the Yesway team — from our senior management team whose collective hard work and dedication have proven critical to our being able to grow our portfolio, to our Yesway and Allsup’s store team members providing outstanding service to customers in the communities we serve every day. Each of them has helped us to become the exceptional convenience store retailer we have aspired to be.”
Yesway, by industry standards, is a relative newcomer as a retail brand, but from an experience and execution standpoint, it ranks right up there with the best the industry has to offer. The company burst onto the scene in 2015 as a chain focused on retail excellence and growth, and it hasn’t looked back.
With the acquisition of Clovis, N.M.-based Allsup’s in 2019, Yesway tripled its convenience store count. The company then raised $235 million of capital to invest in its raze-and-rebuild efforts to inprove stores.
Over the past 18 months, while dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, the chain pushed through numerous retail improvement projects, all while promoting its Hospitality Heroes program to recognize and honor the service and commitment of its essential worker team members on the front line, every day, in all of its stores.
“We are elated to receive such prestigious recognition from CStore Decisions, and our entire team will cherish this honor,” said Derek Gaskins, Yesway’s chief marketing officer. “This recognition shines brightly on all the hard work and dedication our team members display every day to build the Yesway brand. We are grateful to be recognized and inspired to continue to achieve growth.”
Building a Network
As of June 30, the chain operated 403 stores in nine states. Brookwood Financial Partners, a Boston-based private-equity firm, founded Yesway with the vision to significantly grow the brand. As it grows, the chain is also committed to strengthening its existing portfolio.
Beginning in mid-2019, the company started evaluating each store in its portfolio to identify older and smaller-format stores that could benefit from a larger format with an expanded fuel presence. The result was a raze-and-rebuild project at 27 locations, resulting in new 5,500-square-foot prototype stores in Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma.
In addition to the raze-and-rebuild program, the chain has commenced and completed the major remodeling of approximately 100 additional Yesway and Allsup’s stores in Texas and New Mexico.
The bright, spacious stores being built now represent state-of-the-art convenience retailing, offering food, fuel, a vast array of private-label products, competitive pricing and an award-winning loyalty program.
The company has assembled a strong leadership team to combine the winning elements of Allsup’s celebrated history with the exuberance of a hungry startup chain eager to take the industry by storm.
“We spent the better part of the past year integrating the Allsup’s chain into the Yesway chain — moving over 401k plans and establishing employee processes and procedures,” Trkla said. “We have established our new corporate headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, and have moved people over from Clovis, N.M., and down from Des Moines, Iowa, where we previously had Yesway’s corporate headquarters, and we are looking forward to the day when we can get all of our employees back into the office working together, post-pandemic.”
One area Yesway has looked to distinguish itself is through foodservice and snacking. The company has been growing its private-label product portfolio to include water, candy, baked goods, chips, beef jerky and many other categories. The expanded product catalog reinforces Yesway’s brand promise to provide its customers with a terrific shopping experience with national-brand-quality products at value-driven price points. These products are now available in all Yesway and Allsup’s stores in single and combo deals. Additionally, a portion of the sale of private-label items is used to fund community programs.
On the hot foods side, the company is investing heavily in its popular burrito program, which was a hallmark of the Allsup’s brand, and is diversifying the menu with fresh pizza and hot dog programs.
These products and the fuel program are supported by the award-winning Yesway Rewards program. Yesway Rewards helps the company generate a unique experience that engages customers and motivates them to visit its stores and pumps more frequently. Yesway leverages its loyalty program to run joint promotions with vendors and other supplier partners who often fund rewards. Yesway management believed that a loyalty program was a critical element to building relationships with its customers and differentiating this new brand from its competitors.
Recognizing the Team
Throughout last year and this year, as the pandemic raged on, Yesway promoted its Hospitality Heroes program at all Yesway and Allsup’s locations. Hospitality Heroes was created to recognize and honor the great service and commitment of its people working on the front line.
Dedicated staff at Yesway and Allsup’s who show compassion in their interactions with customers, adhere to company guidelines, remain positive under pressure, keep stores clean, resolve service issues, and, most importantly, wear masks while engaging with customers, are being recognized as Hospitality Heroes and rewarded personally and financially.
“We recognize that in order to live up to the promise of excellent customer service, we must work as a team. We must hold each other accountable and keep each other safe,” Trkla said. “Especially during these challenging times, the spirit of teamwork affects the lives of fellow coworkers, customers and, of course, our loved ones at home. That is why our exceptional Hospitality Heroes at Yesway and Allsup’s ‘mask up’ for country, community and family, every day.”
Yesway and Allsup’s customers can nominate deserving team members to be recognized as Hospitality Heroes through the company’s websites or via Twitter.
One of the biggest challenges that CEOs in this industry have faced over the past two years is determining how to best care for frontline employees through the pandemic. Yesway has devoted time and money to ensure it’s caring for its people.
“We have allocated over $150,000 so far in the first two Hospitality Heroes programs to individual members of our staff in the field, (and) that’s been very well-received,” Trkla said. “We are making sure that we are setting good examples in all of the states in which we operate, abiding by social distancing and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regulations, different state regulations, making our stores clean, spotless, so they’re an inviting place to come to, and making sure that we show our customers how much we care about their health and well-being by the examples that we set in the stores.”
Giving Back to Communities
As the steward of the Allsup’s brand and the growing Yesway brand, the company takes its role in the community very seriously and aims to make an impact in people’s lives beyond the walls of its stores.
“Supporting the communities in which we have stores is important to us and our corporate culture, as well as supporting our employees in those communities, which we view as one,” Trkla said. “We spend a lot of time and donate a lot of money to local causes. We’re currently doing raze and rebuilds, and every time we have a grand opening, as we have done this year in Texas and New Mexico, we donate $2,500 to the local school districts. In addition, we donated $50,000 last year to the Curry County, New Mexico, School District to support their Dolly Parton Imagination Library Program, which is also important to us. We also empower our district managers and store managers to make donations in their local communities. They have an allocation of monies that can be donated without any corporate approvals.”
Over the past year, Yesway has also stepped up to raise money for groups such as Operation Homefront, which supports Americans serving in our armed forces and first responders.
“It is very important to us to give back to certain causes that we feel strongly about, and one of the most important causes we see is taking care of active and retired military members and first responders,” Trkla said.
Yesway is a Silver Star donor to Operation Homefront, and Trkla sits on the organization’s executive committee.
“It is a phenomenal organization,” Trkla said. “Their mission, very simply, is to take care of military families, make sure they are taken care of, that they have good homes and that they are not at risk once they get out of the military. We have a lot of military and ex-military members who are part of our family, so it remains an organization that we will continue to support for years to come.”
As it has shown since 2015, Yesway is not only capable of rising to a challenge, it is skilled enough to exceed expectations with the deftness of an industry veteran. In six short years, the company has built a business that is rooted in retail, but emphasizes people and the communities it serves. This is always a winning a formula.
Yesway has earned a reputation as a company that strives for excellence and pushes the boundaries of innovation. For its commitment to convenience retailing, customers, the community and its team members, Yesway exemplifies the spirit of the Chain of the Year Award, and we are proud to recognize them with this coveted honor.