WESTLAKE, Ohio -- In its recent third-quarter earnings call, travel-plaza retailer TravelCenters of America detailed its multilayered foodservice growth strategy, which is primarily focused on driving new customer traffic—particularly locals in search of convenient, quick-serve options.
“Changes in consumer preferences, particularly those related to fresh foods, are reshaping the c-store business,” CEO Tom O’Brien said during the Nov. 7 conference call. He outlined several ways in which the company is targeting a broader customer base, namely through shuttering full-service restaurants in favor of on-site quick-service restaurant brands. TA currently offers more than 500 full- and quick-service restaurant locations at its stores across 43 states.
“Basically what we're doing is rebranding lower-volume restaurants with brands that provide variety for our existing truck-driver customers and have more of a draw for local business,” said O’Brien.
“Over the past 24 months, we’ve converted the food branding in over 15% of our travel centers,” he said. “We believe the brands we've added not only increase the variety of food options available to our trucking customers, but also have greater potential to draw local customers.”
In addition to moving a number of full-service brands out of certain locations, O’Brien also pointed to the success of brand upgrades in specific locations. Rather than losing traction with truck drivers who may prefer a longer sit-down dining experience, TA kept a full-service option on-site yet opted for full-service brands that offered more menu variety and a more modern ambiance to draw local guests too.
“What we're doing in a very measured way is balancing; it's not just a shutdown of full-service restaurants. In some cases, it's a transfer or a rebranding of full-service restaurants into better full-service restaurants that add more variety,” said O’Brien. As an example, he cited the swap of Country Pride restaurants into Fuddruckers, Bob Evans and Black Bear Diner restaurants in various markets.
Based in Westlake, Ohio, TravelCenters of America is ranked No. 19 on CSP’s 2017 Top 202 list of convenience stores in the United States.