Thinking Twice

Tri Star Energy encourages multiple daily visits with new store concept.

By  Steve Hostetter, CEO and COO

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With big-box competition intensifying and independents bottom-pricing on cigarettes, we at Tri Star Energy LLC knew we needed to change if we were going to compete and stay vibrant well into the 21st century.

Based in Nashville, we introduced anew business model to the middle Tennessee area recently, and we are proud to report impressive results.

Before I jump into the specifics, just a bit about our company and our landscape. We are a chain of 80 corporate units and 150 dealer locations. We saw hypermarketers and unbranded entries to the market beginning to chip away at gasoline and cigarette margins. Additionally, nearly 50% of cigarette carton sales in the state now go through independents, who as a class tend to rely only on price to drive unit sales, further increasing pressure on margins.

Upon deciding to make significant changes, Tri Star conducted surveys. We found customers at the time had a specific image of the company. While the image was the typical clean, well lit and friendly that all chains strive for, it wasn’t enough to guarantee long-term profits in the face of falling cigarette and gasoline margins in the market. Also, the company had never gotten high marks for any real foodservice presence.

As we now appreciate, foodservice has matured in recent years in the convenience industry, and Tri Star saw a great opportunity to benefit from the lessons of many others in the business and develop a model that would differentiate itself from all others in the market.

The goal was simple: create a fresh food environment where the guests control how much time they spend in the store, and which delivers four basic elements that would carry through the entire day. Those elements are fresh bakery, fresh hot beverages, refreshing cold beverages, and fresh hot and cold meals. The offers are always on the floor, ready to go. There is no waiting for your order to be created.

More than Once

Twice Daily is the brand-new store concentric Star recently introduced to the market. The name itself is an exhortation for guests to visit more than once each day. The design the guests experience upon entering produces the word “Wow!”most often, and the service is designed to be positioned “above the fray” of the normal convenience store.

To cement the service differential, a guest host/hostess greets everyone entering the store during the busy morning hours with a friendly “Welcome to Twice Daily!” The same host/hostess carefully watches all guests to determine if they need help navigating the significantly improved offers in the foodservice area of the store. The guest host/hostess offers samples throughout the morning, every day. Sampling in the early morning includes the store’s fresh biscuits and bakery items, and as lunch approaches, changes to the delicious flatbread, barbecue and chicken sandwiches the store offers.

The design of the store follows closely to successful elements used by upscale restaurants and grocery chains here in the United States and Europe. Pendant lighting, spot lighting and the use of LED around soffits and kick plates along the food counters give the store a more inviting and elegant look, which matches the quality of the products being served. The guest enters directly into the food area, where the guest host/hostess waits to greet him or her. The direction of the layout “flows” the guest to the bakery and coffee area first, then moves the guest along a new beverage layout that features anything a Mom, Dad or child might want. Next are the hot and cold sandwiches/salads/fruit and dessert cups and more, created by a local chef trained at the Le Cordon Bleu school in London.

TV Guides

The forecourt at Twice Daily features expansive fueling capacity with six, eight, 10 or more dispensers. The chain is mainly branded Shell, supporting the high-quality image of the store with the high quality of the Shell brand. Lastly, atop the pumps is the beginning of the digital “tractor beam” the company uses to draw guests to the inside of the store.

Pump top screens feature a local news station with sports, weather and news of the day. Twice Daily advertisements feature the new food area waiting inside. As the guest then approaches the store, a 40-inch screen to the left of the entry door continues the same highlight of the offer waiting inside. Immediately upon entering, a 20-inch screen mounted on the front of the cold deli case shows the guest how sandwiches, fruit and dessert cups are made. Above the coffee is another 40-inch screen featuring the different blends Twice Daily offers, and romanticizing where the beans originate and how they are processed. As the guest approaches the counter, he or she is once again treated to a digital screen hanging overhead, telling him or her one last time about the offers and showing news, weather and sports as they depart.

The response to Twice Daily has been overwhelming. Surveys conducted nine months after we opened the first locations show 23% of visitors are first timers, drawn through word of mouth from other satisfied guests, while 92% continue to say the food offerings and tremendous guest service are the reasons they continue to come back.

Early sales results are promising, and the company is rolling out the concept to every store over the next two years. The guests have spoken with their words and purchases. Twice Daily is here to stay.

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