Cash In at Dash In

Greater value, expanded choice drive new store concept.

By
Larry Bullis, Director of merchandising and marketing

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As a growing company in one the hottest convenience markets in the country, we know our stores have to be more consumerfriendly. They need better lighting, more and fresher food options, better coffee, increased environmental consciousness and a more cohesive forecourt and backcourt strategy that fully integrates our Dash In name.

We believe our newest stores, including this one in Stevensville, Md., move us into a new direction that will drive in-store profits, make both our fuel island and stores destinations, and allow us to compete against some of the most recognized independent chains in our industry.

Before I delve into our new store, first a bit about Dash In Food Stores. We opened our first store in 1979 and now operate 49 sites across Maryland, Delaware and Virginia, with plans to open or convert 12 to 15 stores annually over the next five years. We’re based in La Plata, Md., and are part of The Wills Group, a company that also fields more than 300 dealer sites in the tri-state area. The company expects to convert 10 to 12 dealer sites per year to Dash In. Now about the new stores. The color scheme is modern, with an earth-tone interior, brick exterior and a spacious fuel island that also includes diesel pumps—something we’re rather bullish on. And our partnership with Shell remains very strong and gives us the opportunity to partner with a premium, No. 1 trusted fuel brand.

Many of our newer sites feature car washes branded Splash In. Dash In’s new stores are eco-friendly, employing LED lighting at the gas canopies, exterior signage, parking lots and the price signs. They also use T-5 interior light fixtures. For the car washes, we use a water-reclamation system and environmentally friendly chemicals. Customers also have the option to use a credit card at the car wash for a fast shopping experience.

In addition to the aesthetics, there’s much to talk about inside the store. The interior is much more user-friendly, with expanded aisle space and a superior traffic flow. We’ve also expanded our foodservice options, highlighted by menu boards, open-air cases for fresh sandwiches, salads and fruit, state-ofthe- art Henny Penny hot held units with temperature and humidity control in each section, and two TurboChef ovens for fast and efficient cooking.

Driving Dash In

We want all customers to shop at Dash In. Today’s consumers are looking at how they can stretch their dollars. Our new prototype stores give us more flexibility to carry a wider selection of products in every category, while focusing on value propositions across all categories.

With that, we are trying to offer our customers greater value, while at the same time grow our volumes. Our No. 1-selling unit item in the store is a 44-ounce cold dispensed beverage. This is the third year in a row we have offered 99-cent “size doesn’t matter” deals on all cold dispensed beverages (fountain, iced tea and frozen). We make less gross profit at 99 cents, but we think it is extremely important to offer the customer strong value during tough economic times. Customers have many options for food and beverage combinations (for breakfast, lunch and dinner) at Dash In for less than $5.

We are a food destination, with many stores selling more than $2,000 a day in food. Dash In also has a strong forecourt and sells branded gasoline at all locations. Consumer insights clearly tell us that customers are looking for one-stop shopping. This is why we also try to offer a compelling value proposition at the fuel island, where motorists are rewarded at all of our locations on Thursdays with a special 5-cent-per-gallon discount.

Our Hope

As we continue to grow store count and our offering within our stores, we continue to think of our customers as neighbors. This is further underscored by our investment in the local communities. We encourage employees to volunteer their time for causes that will make a difference in our region. And we make it a point of pride that no customer of ours ever has less than 100% satisfaction.

All Dash In stores are distinctive, with great franchisees or managers. We have a true family atmosphere that extends from the corporate office to each location.

As a family business, we have deep roots in the communities we operate in and believe strongly in being good corporate citizens. This is evident by the full wall of awards that Dash In and parent company The Wills Group proudly displays at the corporate office. And it is found in the charitable causes we support: more than $1 million raised for MDA since 2001 to support of local projects; $100,000 raised for expansion of the Civista Medica Center in La Plata; and support of the College of Southern Maryland.

We’re proud to be a neighborhood store that tries to meet the needs of our customers and our community. 

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