Brian Renaud knows a thing or two about fuel pricing, with years of experience both in convenience working for Sheetz for five years and aviation with American Airlines prior. As the director of retail fuel pricing and analytics, Renaud keeps an eye on ever-changing trends on the forecourt.

What’s new and exciting on the forecourt?
So much opportunity exists to offer more real-time, personalized fuel offers that will marry up much better to interactions and purchasing decisions our customers see in other channels. Along those lines, more seamless and integrated mobile payment options allow for a wealth of opportunities in the fuel category.

What do you love about your category?
I love the constant challenge of competing across such a diverse fuel retailer competitive set, trying to meet the ever-changing needs of our on-the-go customers. My goal is to turn everyone into a certifiable Sheetz freak.

What is the biggest frustration?
Our fuel business has so many variables, some of which are out of our control., for instance, bad winter weather patterns or pipeline disruptions. Our team does a lot of work getting as much of the “knowns” right to set ourselves up for success.

How did the pandemic change the forecourt?
COVID-19 has raised the stakes on amenities such as mobile payment, loyalty discounts, curbside pickup and our drive-thru business. The pandemic has created a thinner margin of error for mistakes and bad customer experiences. Lots of customers have had more time to really think about their trips and why they are shopping a particular brand.

What trends are you watching?
I’m always keeping an eye on short term demand trends. I’ve also noticed an appetite across the industry for an accurate version of fuel market share. Longer term, [I am] monitoring trends you might expect like the growth of electric vehicles and some trends that I’d like to plead the fifth on as its part of our Sheetz secret sauce.

What products performed well in the past year?
Overall diesel demand, both for semi-truck traffic as well as traditional auto-diesel, has remained fairly stable during COVID-19. Really, any grade other than traditional 87 regular has performed relatively well given the impact of COVID-19. We’re particularly excited about our continued expansion of our ethanol-free and unleaded 88 (E15) offering.

What are your goals for 2021?
My goal for 2021 is to position the Sheetz fuel retails pricing team in the best position for success as we move through what I hope is the tail of the COVID-19 crisis.

What are the biggest challenges?
Our industry is becoming more real-time in terms of price ingestion and responsiveness across markets. Price advantage gap durations are being compressed almost everywhere. The total customer value proposition and overall brand strength is becoming more important every day. Public street prices, in some ways, could become almost negligible.

What are you most looking forward to in 2021?
More travelers via our nation’s roadways. The combination of pent-up wanderlust demand with less desire for air travel in a tight shared space could lead to some better gallons performance across the nation as we get deeper into the calendar year.