QuikTrip Takes Stock in Stocking Up

Published in CSP Daily News

Oklahoma-based chain ranks No. 1 in merchandising in CSP-Service Intelligence Mystery Shop

By  Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Content Development Coordinator

OAKBROOK TERRACE, Ill. & TULSA, Okla. -- Walk into a QuikTrip store anywhere in the United States and, at least according to the scientific sampling done in this year's annual CSP-Service Intelligence Mystery Shop survey, store shelves will be more than amply stocked with fresh-baked goods and hot, prepared foods.

That's part of what was revealed this year, as the Tulsa, Okla.-based chain ranked No. 2 overall and No. 1 in the subcategory of merchandising. Watch CSP Daily News this week or look for the August issue of CSP magazine to see what chain over 300 stores ranked No. 1 overall.

The survey--this year expanded to include chains of less than 150 stores (with those results to come this fall)--reviewed eight large regional and national chains, analyzing exterior and interior cleanliness, customer service, merchandising and employee appearance.

This year, the Fort Mill, S.C.-based Service Intelligence sent shoppers to the following chains: Casey's General Stores, Ankeny, Iowa; Circle K Great Lakes, Akron, Ohio; E-Z Mart Stores, Texarkana, Texas; Kwik Trip Inc., La Crosse, Wis.; MAPCO, Brentwood, Tenn.; QuikTrip, Tulsa, Okla.; RaceTrac Petroleum, Atlanta; and Sheetz, Altoona, Pa. Shoppers completed 80 to 110 visits per chain during eight weeks this past spring.

CSP Daily News spoke with QuikTrip's Mike Thornbrugh, manager of public and government affairs, to get insight into how the chain manages to excel in merchandising and other operational areas:

Q: Does it surprise you that QuikTrip did so well in our survey in the area of merchandising and stocking its shelves?

A: To us, it's common sense that every item be fully in stock. Out of stocks mean a disappointed customer. We've failed to meet his or her expectations.

Q: What's your secret?

A: First of all, we have systems in place for each store to constantly communicate with their distribution center in terms of how much is needed and when. It helps that we own and operate our own distribution systems throughout our markets. Hopefully, it gives us an advantage that we don't have to wait on anybody else.

The other big part is our people. QuikTrip pays beyond hourly wages and average salaries. And since we emphasize merchandising and presentation in the store, our people get bonuses tied to that.

Q: Operationally, what's QuikTrip's philosophy?

A: Our philosophy is to make everything identical in product and the way the store looks. Whether you're in Charlotte or Phoenix or Wichita, we push for consistency, especially with products. It's a big deal for us at QuikTrip. We make sure with the systems we have in place that there is a constant flow. Much of it is automated, so we know per shift what items were sold and how many. So with our QT Kitchen program, we know how many items were sold, how many are needed and how many are delivered.

Q: A piece of this has got to be that well-known QuikTrip culture. Tell us about that.

A: With culture, you have to step back and realize it goes to the beginning with hiring and training. It's not magic. For us, especially with regards to customer service and operations, there are two things you cannot teach: How to be outgoing and multi-tasking. We can teach you the QuikTrip culture, but you have to have those qualities first. After that, it's constantly communicating and training throughout the person's career.

We also like to offer our people a vision. Everyone has mottos or creeds, but at QuikTrip, our purpose is to give employees the opportunity to grow and succeed. You should see how many people advance and grow from the store level. We say if they work hard and think smart, they can do anything.

Q: Part of the emphasis on store operations and cleanliness in particular is foodservice. Can you comment on that?

A: Foodservice has made us smarter. There's a lot of training and a lot of expectations that we didn't have but do now. People can get food-borne illnesses, so it's all about cleanliness. You have to have those steps in place, you have to execute and check it. We've gotten pretty good at it.

Q: Looking forward, how do you see things changing?

A: We don't see much changing in terms of our basic function. For our customers, their expectation is to get in and get out as quickly as possible. If we can merchandise and have the items available that allow them to continue to do that, the opportunity for growth is good. And if we can make them smile and provide a store that's properly laid out, then we'll do well.

[Editor's Note: CSP Daily News will name the chain with the overall No. 1 ranking for more than 300 stores in the coming days, with a feature revealing the study results in the August issue of CSP magazine. Click here to read the first part of this series, "RaceTrac Cleans Up."]

By Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Content Development Coordinator
View More Articles By Angel Abcede