Gas station convenience stores that get it right


Major oil company filling stations are having their heads handed to them by well-run smaller companies that have re-imagined what a gas station convenience store should be.

I recently read an article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution  about Quik Trip (QT,) a chain that stretches from Arizona to Georgia, as far north as Iowa and throughout the Heartland.

QT was founded by a gentleman named Chester, who I had the pleasure to meet one time. Chester used to operate a run-of-the-mill dumpy convenience store with a few pumps out front. One day, he had a moment when he realized that what he was doing wasn’t working and he needed to rethink it.

What he rethought is now a powerhouse in so many markets across the country. The  AJC  reports QT sells one out of every three gallons of gas in Atlanta, and has turned major oil companies into 98-pound weaklings throughout the metro area.

Chester’s formula for success? Clean, well-lit spaces that are welcoming to women;  treating employees well in action and deed, not just word; selling gas at razor-thin margins and the merchandise inside at relatively decent prices; and having generally clean stores and bathrooms (my personal pet peeve).

Once Chester had those elements in place, QT boomed as a company. We’re talking about a privately held company that has sales of $8 billion annually, started by guy who had the right attitude and worked hard.

Too often in today’s world, people see business as a short-term advantage, with the goal being to eat somebody else and get away with it. You want to make real money over time? Provide real service to people with a good attitude, and create an opportunity for people to make a good living. That changes everything.

If you look at the convenience store gas station business, there are players around the country who have done this and kill the giant oil company filling stations every day. You have Kwik Trip (Midwest), Wawa and Sheetz, to name a few. The right attude and the right service makes them come out on top, not Big Oil.

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