TravelCenters of America’s Ed Kuhn, president and CEO from 1992 to 2005, has died at age 80. Kuhn was also a chairman of the company from 2005 to 2007.
Kuhn was married for 57 years and had two children. After retiring, he spent his time traveling the world with his family and friends, playing board and card games and golfing.
In 1992, Kuhn began running the truck service side of TA, which was then called Truckstops of America. TA was set up as a separate company within Sohio and then bp Products North America Inc., where Kuhn worked on the retail side of the business.
- TravelCenters of America is No. 29 on CSP’s Top 40 update to the 2022 Top 202 ranking of U.S. convenience-store chains by company-owned store count. Watch for the updated list in June.
The Clipper Group, a private equity investment group that owned Truckstops of America since 1993, merged with the Unocal Corporation’s national auto and truck stop chain in Nashville, in 1997 and purchased Truckstops of America, which led to the new name, TravelCenters of America. Kuhn oversaw this endeavor.
“There were seven of us at TA who made financial investments in the company,” said Kuhn, according to TA. “We were on the telephone in my office, in the old bp building in downtown Cleveland, and we were doing transfer policies. We were figuring out how we all wanted to do it, and we got it done.”
When Kuhn started running Truckstops of America in March 1992, his objective was to get to know his people, listen to what they had to say, and let them do their jobs, said TA.
“Getting the right people in the right spots always takes some time and effort,” he said. “I made sure I surrounded myself with smart people, and we visited the sites because it was important for people to know the management team. And we wanted to make sure we had general managers at every site who could run the business. It was about getting everybody on the same track.”
A positive culture was important to Kuhn.
“I could tell if the general manager was a good general manager or not, based on the team members’ facial expressions. Culture is what it is all about.”
Earnings before interest, taxes and depreciation increased from about $20 million to $26 million during Kuhn’s first year with 38 sites.
One of Kuhn’s incentives to grow the business shows through in his initiation of a co-marketing program with Burns Bros. Travel Stops. If a driver went to Burns Bros. or TA, they could be part of a frequent user program, for gallons of fuel and other purchases.
Kuhn had another way to be inviting, said TA, by adding quick-service restaurant (QSR) brands to TA sites. Some of the first QSRs were Burger King, Popeyes Chicken & Biscuit, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.
Westlake, Ohio-based TA, a publicly traded, full-service travel center network, has 280 locations in 44 states and Canada, principally under the TA, Petro Stopping Centers and TA Express brands. Offerings include diesel and gasoline fuel, truck maintenance and repair, full-service and quick-service restaurants, travel stores, car and truck parking and other services. The company operates more than 600 full-service and quick-service restaurants and nine proprietary brands, including Iron Skillet and Country Pride.
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