Statoil turns to food and turns out an inviting, robust new store
LAS VEGAS -- In what Ina Strand called a "change in strategic agenda," Statoil Fuel & Retail has set its sights squarely on food.
Strand, executive vice president of market development for the Norwegian company, outlined in the 2012 NACS Show session "Global Foodservice Marketplace" in Las Vegas how the retailer, now part of Laval, Quebec-based Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc., was drawn to the high margins associated with foodservice.
It was 14 months ago that the company decided it wanted to expand beyond its image as a big oil company, even though "foodservice is not exactly our core business."
"Fuel is still the most important reason customers come to us," Strand said. "But now food is the second reason."
Of the three store "clusters" in the Statoil network--highway, urban and countryside--the company saw the most potential for the new concept in the highway sites. "We decided to focus on our highway customer and their needs," Strand said. All types of customers, whether they be truckers or sales folks, have the same needs when they stop: They want to stretch their legs, use the restroom, get a snack, maybe let the kids run around a bit.
The store spotlighted in Strand's presentation, located in Minnesund, Norway, is a modern, sleek building with an open facade. Big windows at the front of the store are meant to invite drivers inside to examine the store's offerings. Apparent in the Minnesund location are the five key items that Statoil included in its new foodservice-friendly format:
*A chef hired for each store to focus on hot and cold food items, for all three day-parts.
- A children's play area.
- A self-service food section, including a food make line.
- Seating area for 30, including real plates and cutlery so customers can "eat a proper meal with a knife and fork."
- A "serious upgrade" of restroom facilities.
The new format takes less of the focus off car-related activities, which meant getting rid of car washes, Strand said. "We took away the car wash to make room for the experience customers told us they wanted on the highway," she said. High-volume stores are serving more than 250 cups of coffee and more than 950 items from the food line per day, she said.
The Minnesund location also has an electric vehicle charging station and an environmentally friendly windshield washer fluid dispenser. A road sign directing drivers to the new store has an almost ludicrous number of logos--30--bragging about all the services and products it offers.
Since the store opened in January of this year, customer reaction--and profits--have been overwhelmingly positive, she said. Women specifically have told store managers and research teams that they like the new stores "a lot better."
"If you get it right," Strand said, "[foodservice] is really rewarding."