Right on Trac
How doing things The RaceTrac Way helped in the launch of newest prototype.
The convenience-store segment has changed immensely since 1934, the year my grandfather, Carl Bolch Sr., started our family business. RaceTrac has changed along with it. From that first Carl Bolch Trackside Station in St. Louis, we have grown into Georgia’s third-largest private company. We employ more than 5,000 team members across four states and operate more than 330 RaceTrac stores. Historically, our willingness to respond to market changes and trends has fueled our growth. RaceTrac was the first to introduce self-service gas in Georgia and Alabama, for example, and was among the early adopters of pay-at-the pump.
Today, our commitment to “The RaceTrac Way” drives us. We focus on our people and foster strong performers. We treat customers like guests. We attack challenges and celebrate wins with a fun-loving attitude. With “The RaceTrac Way” as our guide, we are better able to focus on our people, profits and guests, and make time for fun as well. We try not to take ourselves too seriously. How can you when you sell taquitos and beer?
A few years ago, for example, RaceTrac’s mission was “To Be the Convenience Store of Choice.” We still hold that vision, but the mission has changed. Today, if you ask any member of the RaceTrac family our purpose for being, he or she will reply, “To make people’s lives simpler and more enjoyable.” We believe if we live that mission by offering our guests an enjoyable experience, a great fresh-food offering and the retail items they need at a good value, this vision will become reality.
So what does it mean to make life simpler and more enjoyable? Well, it starts by putting our people first, the most important part of “The RaceTrac Way.” We consider our in-store and Store Support Center team members our No. 1 guests. They are the faces of RaceTrac, after all. We annually invest close to $1 million in employee scholarships and continuing education and have seen our investment pay off in improved employee satisfaction scores across the board. We foster an atmosphere of open and honest communication; team members are encouraged to hold leadership accountable to our core values every day. That mentality has earned RaceTrac top workplace honors from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (2011-2012), the South Florida Business Journal (2012) the Orlando Business Journal (2011), and the Dallas Business Journal (2010). And if you have visited one of our stores recently, you know that we gathered more than 100 reasons why our team members love working at RaceTrac.
Our mission also means unexpectedly delighting our guests in unique and meaningful ways. Our annual TracSide Stories publication is full of examples of our team members making a difference in people’s lives. It means listening closely to what guests tell us and responding with a sincere “How can we make this right?” when the situation warrants. It is making sure our new, premium coffee is “Brewed Fresh 24/7” every day and that we stock product geared to the local market when it makes sense.
RaceTrac’s commitment to making life simpler and more enjoyable is the reason why we partner with organizations whose core values align with ours. The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF) is one such group. RaceTrac guests helped us raise more than $230,000 for MJFF during April, National Parkinson’s Awareness Month. Our Community Partnership Managers regularly work with community organizations, schools and youth sports groups in each of our six markets so we can connect with the communities we serve in a meaningful way.
Building the RT6K
Our desire to make life simpler and more enjoyable played a large role in our most ambitious move to date toward becoming “The Convenience Store of Choice.” Beginning in 2009, we began brainstorming on how to elevate the c-store experience through store design. We talked to our guests and the experts, but our employees provided the most useful feedback. They told us our cash wrap could be placed better. They shared the stocking issues brought about by a lack of storage space in the back room. They suggested new equipment and new products. We took into consideration all the opportunities they identified as we drew up our plans.
We even went so far as to build a life-size mockup of the new prototype in a warehouse so we could “live” in it during the final stages of design. Various teams throughout the company visited and contributed feedback. Their input quickly showed us what looks good on paper does not always translate into simpler and more enjoyable in real life. They identified several opportunities for improvement, from how the proposed layout might affect labor efficiencies to how we might expand our fresh food offering. Our team members talked. We listened.
The result is the RaceTrac 6000 (RT6K), our game-changing new store design.
The RT6K is like nothing seen before in convenience retailing. It marries operational ease with aesthetic elements intended to enhance the communities in which we operate. Our stacked-stone exterior, for example, is more reminiscent of a fast-casual eatery than our heritage RaceTracs. The natural light and bright colors used inside make for a warm and inviting retail experience. The indoor and outdoor seating areas offered by the RT6K invite guests to stay and make RaceTrac their “third place” destination. And then there are the enhanced product offerings, including Swirl World, our proprietary, 24-hour frozen yogurt concept.
Swirl World is a great example of how our mission, vision and core values are the key ingredients for achieving our vision of being “The Convenience Store of Choice.” The concept came from our leadership team, was vetted and planned by our Special Projects group and effectively executed by our store teams. Stakeholders included people from teams throughout the company. It was truly the result of many people’s collective efforts. That is what makes me most proud. Today, you can walk into any one of our eight new RT6Ks and see how well that emphasis on teamwork paid off for RaceTrac, our employees and our guests. Try the Birthday Cake flavor. It’s a favorite.
“The RaceTrac Way” works because it is grounded in treating people well, giving them a voice and helping them grow. It inherently recognizes that we can have some fun along the way, which is exactly what we are doing. It’s an exciting and fun time at the Trac, and the RT6K is only the beginning.