CHICAGO -- As several high-profile chains have gained new owners or are in the process of changing hands, the list of the largest convenience-store chains has shifted. While CSP’s complete 2019 Top 202 list of the largest chains will be released in June, we offer this early look at the current top 40 based on store counts as of Dec. 31, 2018.
Perhaps the most notable store purchase in 2018 was Irving, Texas-based 7-Eleven’s completion of the acquisition of Sunoco’s more than 1,000 convenience stores. Although the deal did not close until January 2018, after CSP’s2018 Top 202 ranking cutoff date, the sale represented such a dramatic shift for the industry that we included the Sunoco units in 7-Eleven’s 2018 total. As such, 7-Eleven’s year-over-year store count growth from 2018 to 2019 has not increased as much as it might have otherwise, though the chain retains its No. 1 position.
Another effect of the Sunoco purchase was the creation of Frisco, Texas-based Cal’s Convenience, a chain spawned from more than 200 Stripes-branded c-stores not included in the deal between Sunoco and 7-Eleven. The acquisition of the Stripes stores was enough to place Cal’s in the 2019 Top 40 in its first year.
Other chains have exited the top 40 due to acquisitions, such as Cincinnati-based Kroger after its c-stores were sold to EG Group, now also based in Cincinnati. Also, EG Group acquired enough Minit Mart stores to stay in the top 10, pushing Westlake, Ohio-based TravelCenters of America further down the ranking.
Findlay, Ohio-based Marathon Petroleum (No. 3) completed its acquisition of Andeavor’s SuperAmerica stores, which are being rebranded as Speedway locations. Anderson, Ind.-based Ricker’s has fallen off the Top 202 following its sale to Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle Inc.; the stores are complementing existing GetGo locations (No. 27).
Here’s a look at the top 40 U.S. c-store chains by store count as they stand today …
1. 7-Eleven Inc.
No. of Stores: 9,200
2018 Ranking: No. 1
Rank at Beginning of 2019: No. 1
Headquarters: Irving, Texas
What’s New: 7-Eleven is among the world’s largest and most widely recognized and iconic retailers, both inside and outside the c-store channel. The company’s iconic Slurpee, Big Gulp soft drinks and fresh-made coffees have helped 7-Eleven grow throughout North America and in several countries overseas.
The company’s deal to purchase more than 1,000 stores from Philadelphia-based Sunoco closed in January 2018, and the company has continued to grow since.
In terms of in-store assortment, 7-Eleven convenience items range from cigarettes and magazines to sweet and salty snacks and beer and wine. 7-Eleven distinguishes itself from its competition with its many proprietary and private-label items. On the foodservice front, the chain rolled out its fresh initiative, adding more fresh food items across the chain. Technology, meanwhile, plays a major role in the brand’s evolution, including its 7Rewards loyalty app, a new BillPay app, third-party delivery and even a promotion involving drone delivery.
For management purposes, corporate and franchised North American stores are organized into geographical zones. 7-Eleven Hawaii also is a franchised area, which reports to Seven-Eleven Japan, not the U.S. franchise group in Irving, Texas. 7-Eleven Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Tokyo-based Seven & i Holdings Co., which is publicly traded on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.
2. Alimentation Couche-Tard
Chain: Circle K
2018 Ranking: No. 2
Rank at Beginning of 2019: No. 2
Headquarters: Laval, Quebec
What’s New: With roots north of the border in Canada, Alimentation Couche-Tard is the largest convenience-store operator in that country and has been vying for the No. 1 ranking in CSP’s annual count of U.S. c-stores for quite some time. Its North American network of Circle K stores consists of 15 business units, including 11 in the United States covering 48 states and the District of Columbia, and four in Canada covering all provinces (under the Mac’s and Couche-Tard flags). The publicly traded company also has a franchise division that oversees international units.
In June 2018, the chain began rebranding about 400 Corner Stores to Circle K, as part of a global brand initiative that it started in 2016. That Corner Stores acquisition came in 2016, when the chain negotiated the purchase of CST Brands Inc.
Circle K stores offer a wide variety of branded, proprietary and private-label items, as well as a recently revamped coffee program and its well-known Polar Pop fountain brand.
3. Speedway LLC
No. of Stores: 3,900
2018 Ranking: No. 3
Rank at Beginning of 2019: No. 3
Headquarters: Enon, Ohio
What’s New: Speedway LLC, based in Enon, Ohio, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Findlay, Ohio-based Marathon Petroleum Corp. In spring 2018, Marathon agreed to acquire San Antonio-based Andeavor, a $23.3 billion deal that brought Marathon 10 refineries and more than 1,000 company-operated stores, including the SuperAmerica chain. The retail platform now reaches from coast to coast. The deal closed in October 2018 and was not included in the count for the 2018 Top 202. Due to the purchase, Andeavor, which ranked No. 7 in 2018, is no longer part of CSP’s Top 202.
Speedway also closed on a deal to purchase Petr-All Petroleum Consulting Corp.’s 78 Express Mart c-stores in Nov. 2018.
A key hallmark of the Speedway brand is its Speedy Rewards loyalty program. Customers can earn points via purchases of both fuel and merchandise that can be redeemed for gift cards or free goods. The program also provides special offers on a free beverage or additional bonus points after a certain number of foodservice purchases.
4. Casey’s General Stores
Chain: Casey’s General Stores
No. of Stores: 2,097
2018 Ranking: No. 4
Rank at Beginning of 2019: No. 4
Headquarters: Ankeny, Iowa
What’s New: With almost 2,100 c-stores in the Midwest, Casey’s General Stores is a well-established chain of c-stores built on the premise that small towns are a good place to do business. This vision has led Casey’s to be a hub in many of the towns where it operates, acting as c-store, restaurant and community gathering place of choice. Casey’s offers a wide range of prepared foods and beverages in addition to the traditional selection of snacks, grocery items, retail goods and gasoline.
The hallmark of its in-store offerings is its expansive pizza program. Casey’s stalwart pizza program has evolved over the years to include delivery and online ordering. As of 2018, nearly 800 stores had pizza delivery.
5. Murphy USA Inc.
Chains: Murphy USA, Murphy Express
No. of Stores: 1,472
2018 Ranking: No. 5
Rank at Beginning of 2019: No. 5
Headquarters: El Dorado, Ark.
What’s New: Serving about 1.6 million customers per day, according to the company, Murphy USA operates 1,400 stores under the Murphy USA and Murphy Express banners. Murphy USA stations are typically located near a Walmart store, while Murphy Express stores are stand-alone gas stations and c-stores. Murphy USA stations tend to be smaller, kiosk-format stores, while Murphy Express stations tend to be larger, traditional convenience-store formats.
Murphy USA’s competitive advantage is its high-volume, low-cost operations at its kiosks, which are positioned in the marketplace as a destination for fuel and cigarettes, offering competitive pricing and speed of service.
6. GPM Investments LLC
Chains:Admiral, Apple Market, BreadBox, E-Z Mart, Fas Mart, Jiffi Stop, Jiffy Stop, Li’l Cricket, Next Door Store, 1-Stop, Roadrunner Markets, Scotchman, Shore Stop, Village Pantry and Young’s
No. of Stores: 1,392
2018 Ranking: No. 6
Rank at Beginning of 2019: No. 6
Headquarters: Richmond, Va.
What’s New: GPM Investments LLC became one of the largest privately owned companies in the convenience channel when it acquired 263 stores in the Southeast from VPS Convenience Group in 2013. Since that purchase, GPM has continued to grow through acquisition and sheds underperforming stores.
GPM operates under a portfolio of nearly a dozen store brands.
In 2017, GPM acquired the 273-store E-Z Mart chain based in Texarkana, Texas, from industry icon Sonja Hubbard and her family.
GPM’s Fas Mart brand features a notable foodservice offering, including fried chicken, panini sandwiches and fresh grab-and-go items.
7. BP America Inc.
No. of Stores: 1,015
2018 Ranking: No. 8
Rank at Beginning of 2019: No. 7
Headquarters: La Palma, Calif.
What’s New: BP America’s national convenience-store brand is ampm, a fully franchised banner that is a popular retail destination in West Coast markets. Its marketing is youthful and irreverent, targeting in large part millennials and Gen Zers.
In late 2018, BP announced a joint-venture partnership with a private-equity firm and purchased the 191-store Thorntons chain based in Louisville, Ky. The move marked a solid re-entry of the oil company into c-store retail. (Watch for a related story in the March issue of CSP magazine.)
A key focus for ampm is its food program, which includes coffee, bakery, fresh sandwiches and hot foods, along with an extensive condiment bar. On the dispensed side, the chain offers a large fountain program with up to 24 different flavors of soda and proprietary drinks. Stores have an open floor plan and many have open-air refrigerated cases to display fresh sandwiches, fruit and yogurt.
8. EG Group
Chain: Turkey Hill, Loaf ‘N Jug, Kwik Shop, Tom Thumb, Quik Stop
No. of Stores: 989
2018 Ranking: No. 10
Rank at Beginning of 2019: No. 8
What’s New: In only its second year on CSP’s Top 202, EG Group moves up two notches to No. 8. EG Group closed on its purchase of Kroger Co.’s 784 c-stores in April 2018. The international retailer, based in Blackburn, U.K., has continued to acquire U.S. chains since. The company also established its U.S. headquarters in Cincinnati after acquiring the Kroger c-stores.
Notably in 2018, EG Group acquired TravelCenters of America’s 225 stand-alone Minit Mart c-stores in September, further growing its U.S. store count.
EG Group was founded as Euro Garages in 2001 when it acquired a single gas station near Manchester, U.K. Euro Garages continued to acquire sites over the next decade until it was merged with European Forecourt Retail Group, with more than 1,100 sites split between Belgium and France, in 2014. The combined companies became EG Group.
9. Wawa Inc.
No. of Stores: 833
2018 Ranking: No. 9
Rank at Beginning of 2019: No. 9
Headquarters: Wawa, Pa.
What’s New: Wawa Inc. is one of the nation’s leading c-stores chains, particularly when it comes to foodservice. In addition to a slew of fresh foods and beverages, Wawa also sells a wide selection of private-label products such as bagged Wawa coffees, Wawa dairy products and Wawa teas.
10. ExtraMile Convenience Stores LLC (formerly Chevron Corp.)
No. of Stores: 830
2018 Ranking: No. 11
Rank at Beginning of 2019: No. 10
Headquarters: Pleasanton, Calif.
What’s New: As one of the few U.S. oil companies still committed to having a direct-operated retail network, Chevron Corp. opted to move forward by partnering with Meridian, Idaho-based Jacksons Food Stores in 2017, converting the oil company’s directly owned-and-operated ExtraMile stores into franchisees of a new joint-venture entity. Structured as a 50-50 business that’s split in ownership and governance, the new ExtraMile Convenience Stores LLC has its sights on growing the ExtraMile c-store brand within the existing Chevron- and Texaco-branded network and beyond. (See related story in the February issue of CSP magazine.)
Chevron-branded fuel products are sold in more than 8,000 retail locations in the United States, and the company supplies more than 2,500 gas stations in Southern and Eastern states with Texaco-branded fuel.
11. QuikTrip Corp.
No. of Stores: 787
2018 Ranking: No. 12
Rank at Beginning of 2019: No. 11
Headquarters: Tulsa, Okla.
What’s New: Last summer, QuikTrip continued its expansion into Texas. In October, the convenience-store chain opened its first store in San Antonio, after buying 18 lots in the area totaling at least $10 million. Between San Antonio and Austin, Texas, the chain plans to open about 100 stores.
In some of the chain’s current locations, QuikTrip has boosted security. In Wichita, Kan., and Tulsa, Okla., where the brand is based, the company responded to surges in property crime with armed, on-staff security professionals.
The corporation has also innovated its foodservice program with new offerings and ordering options. In February, QT began partnering with Uber Eats at four Tulsa locations. The retailer is also testing made-to-order sandwich counters at units in Oklahoma and Kansas. On the dispensed-beverage front, QuikTrip added cold-brew coffee to all its locations.
12. Pilot Flying J
Chain: Pilot Flying J
No. of Stores: 751
2018 Ranking: No. 13
Rank at Beginning of 2019: No. 12
Headquarters: Knoxville, Tenn.
What’s New: Last year, Pilot Flying J added a few dozen units to its network. And the chain does not intend to slow down in 2019. The company plans to add at least 20 new locations and spend up to $2 million per unit on facility upgrades for its established stores. Renovations will include new showers, employee break rooms, pumps and back-office systems. The company is also expanding its new open kitchen model, a design that makes foodservice workers a focal point of the store. At the beginning of 2018, PFJ launched its abbreviated format, Pilot Express. The company also recruited a new chief financial officer, Kevin Wills.
13. Kwik Trip Inc.
Chain: Kwik Trip
No. of Stores: 642
2018 Ranking: No. 14
Rank at Beginning of 2019: No. 13
Headquarters: La Crosse, Wis.
What’s New: In 2018, Kwik Trip added more than 60 stores. The growth is part of a $300 million expansion plan the retailer announced in November 2017. By some estimates, Kwik Trip owns about 15% of the convenience-store market in its home state, according to Wisconsin Public Radio. Maintaining that acceleration requires some serious scouting. "We try to evenly spread out our growth between our three-state market when the best opportunities arise," Hans Zietlow, director of real estate for Kwik Trip, told the Post Crescent. "In order to do that, we’re probably monitoring 200 sites at any given time to build 50 stores a year."
The company’s growth is spurred by an up to $21 million tax credit former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker promised the company in exchange for creating 300 local jobs over five years.
14. Sheetz Inc.
No. of Stores: 584
2018 Ranking: No. 15
Rank at Beginning of 2019: No. 14
Headquarters: Altoona, Pa.
What’s New: Sheetz headed into the new year with fresh leadership. Joe Sheetz remains CEO, while Executive Vice President of Operations Travis Sheetz has been promoted to president and chief operating officer. The retailer also continued its streak on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work for ranking, advancing 21 positions compared to 2017.
After successfully campaigning for looser retail liquor laws, Sheetz has spent the past year converting its soda caves into beer caves. As of November, the convenience-store chain was selling beer in 108 locations in Pennsylvania, according to Penn Live.
Sheetz is also testing a secret menu accessed via the chain’s touch-screen kiosks. The underground menu items include French Toast Stick Mess, Mac n’ Cheese Burger, Meat Ball Pizza Sandwich, Taco Quesadilla and the Grilled Cheese Spicy Chicken Sandwich, according to Trib Live.
15. Cumberland Farms
Chain: Cumberland Farms
No. of Stores: 562
2018 Ranking: No. 16
Rank at Beginning of 2019: No. 15
Headquarters: Westborough, Mass.
What’s New: Last year, Cumberland Farms continued to expand its more than 5,000-square-foot next-generation concept stores in the Eastern United States. With dozens of units upgraded to the new format, the company will continue to replace its units with next-generation stores.
In February 2018, the retailer launched a redesigned SmartPay Check-Link mobile app. Users earn 10 cents per gallon of gas and a free menu item for every 10 purchased. The loyalty program has helped customers save $100 million over the past five years, according to the company.
Over the past year, Cumberland Farms enhanced its forecourt and in-store offerings. The convenience-store chain introduced a 15% ethanol fuel blend in reformulated gasoline (RFG) markets.
16. RaceTrac Petroleum Inc.
No. of Stores: 518
2018 Ranking: No. 18
Rank at Beginning of 2019: No. 16
Note: Due to its different business model, RaceTrac Petroleum’s RaceWay store brand appears separately. See No. 29.
What’s New: In February 2018, RaceTrac revealed plans to open 30 or more convenience stores in the Nashville area by 2023, marking the chain’s first expansion into a new market in more than 15 years, the retailer said. Construction of the first RaceTrac c-store in Nashville is on track for completion by early 2020, the company said, with additional stores in the permitting phase of development in the Nashville metropolitan area.
Nine months after the Nashville expansion announcement, the chain opened its 500th convenience store in Hapeville, Ga. RaceTrac also opened three additional stores that same week in Lafayette, La.; Fellsmere, Fla.; and Brunswick, Ga.
17. Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores
Chains: Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores
No. of Stores: 482
2018 Ranking: No. 19
Rank at Beginning of 2019: No. 17
Headquarters: Oklahoma City
What’s New:Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores Inc. opened 35 new travel-stop locations and more than 2,900 new truck parking spaces in 2018. The company’s plans for 2019 include opening more than 40 new locations, which will bring its total store count to more than 500 sites nationwide.
Love’s prides itself on its numerous types of stores and services, all dedicated to “Clean Places, Friendly Faces,” including Country Stores, which are typical convenience stores; Travel Stops, which provide trucks and travelers with overnight parking, pay phones, driver rest areas, Pegasus Trans-Flo and trucking supplies and tire centers; a growing interstate hotel business; and storage facilities.
18. Kum & Go LC
Chain: Kum & Go
No. of Stores: 398
2018 Ranking: No. 20
Rank at Beginning of 2019: No. 18
Headquarters: Des Moines, Iowa
What’s New: In May 2018, Tanner Krause succeeded his father, Kyle Krause, as president of Kum & Go LC. Kyle transitioned to chairman and CEO. Three months later, CSP honored Kyle as its 2018 Retail Leader of the Year during a formal dinner in Las Vegas. In January 2019, the company hired TJ Freeborn as chief marketing officer.
19. United Pacific
Chains:We Got It, United Mart and My Goods Market
No. of Stores: 384
2018 Ranking: No. 21
Rank at Beginning of 2019: No. 19
Headquarters: Long Beach, Calif.
What’s New: In October 2018, United Pacific acquired 39 convenience-store properties from Macland Investments, an investment company with diversified gas-station, convenience-store and car-wash holdings and real-estate investments. The deal included seven car washes and five quick-service restaurants. This marked United Pacific’s first expansion of its retail footprint outside Southern California.
20. United Refining Co.
Chains: Kwik Fill, Red Apple Food Marts, Country Fair
No. of stores: 348
2018 Ranking: No. 22
Rank at Beginning of 2019: No. 20
Headquarters: Warren, Pa.
What’s New: United Refining is an independent refiner and marketer of petroleum products and the parent company of convenience stores in Pennsylvania and portions of Ohio and New York. The company operates gas stations, convenience stores, truckstops, restaurants and garages. The c-stores are branded Kwik Fill/Red Apple Food Marts and Country Fair. Each is a separate retail division, operated independently, with separate company headquarters and management staffs.
21. COPEC S.A./MAPCO Express
Chains: MAPCO Express, MAPCO Mart, Fast Food and Fuel, Favorite Markets, Delta Express, Discount Food Mart
No. of Stores: 345
2018 Ranking: No. 23
Rank at Beginning of 2019: No. 21
Headquarters: Brentwood, Tenn.
What’s New: Owned by COPEC, a South American retail company, MAPCO operates convenience stores under several banners, including MAPCO Express, MAPCO Mart, Fast Food and Fuel, Favorite Markets, Delta Express and Discount Food Mart. The stores offer a standard range of convenience items, including cigarettes, snacks, drinks and beer, as well as proprietary made-to-order meals. Some units also feature a branded quick-service restaurant partner. Most of the chain's stores are located on heavily trafficked intersections.
Store decor elements include state-of-the-art lighting, exposed ceilings, stone overlays and a color scheme of earth tones. Other interior features include oversized bathrooms, up to 18 cooler doors, a beer cave, fresh-food stations, coffee bars, touchscreen ordering terminals and interior seating areas. COPEC is one of the largest companies in Chile, operating in fuel and lubricants distribution and convenience stores. It acquired MAPCO from Delek U.S. Holdings in 2016.
22. Stewart’s Shops Corp.
Chain: Stewart’s Shops
No. of Stores: 335
2018 Ranking: 24
Rank at Beginning of 2019: No. 22
Headquarters: Ballston Spa, N.Y.
What’s New: With a history in dairy farming going back to 1917 and a legacy as a purveyor of award-winning ice cream, Stewart's Shops is an employee- and family-owned convenience-store chain based in Ballston Spa, N.Y. Employees own approximately 40% of the company through an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP).
The chain is known regionally in upstate New York and southern Vermont for its milk, ice cream, coffee, food to go, gasoline and other convenience items. The company has an extensive production, distribution and warehousing network that supplies its stores. As a result, the chain is unique in the number of products it produces in its own facilities, including 20-ounce "refresher" teas and dairy drinks. It also offers a private-label craft beer.
Stewart’s Shops frequently remodels its stores. It is also known for its record-setting Stewart's Holiday Match charity donation program.
23. Maverik Inc.
Number of Stores: 321
2018 Ranking: No. 27
Rank at Beginning of 2019: No. 23
Headquarters: Salt Lake City
What’s New: Maverik, which has sites in 11 states, expanded its store count in 2018 with its recent acquisition of four Best Stop convenience stores in Utah and Idaho.
Meanwhile, it became the latest c-store retailer to join the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA), a nonprofit that helps increase access to healthier food options. As part of its involvement with PHA, Maverik is working healthier packaged and made-to-order options into its offer and growing its selection of healthier dispensed and packaged beverages.
Also being taken to another level: Maverik’s famous Adventure Club loyalty program, which is now being managed by Paytronix. The chain will focus on custom promotions and one-to-one marketing in the months ahead.
24. Allsup’s Convenience Stores Inc.
Number of Stores: 317
2018 Ranking: No. 28
Rank at Beginning of 2019: No. 24
Headquarters: Clovis, N.M.
What’s New: Privately owned Allsup's convenience stores are located in small towns and along highways in New Mexico, West Texas and Oklahoma. Stores are open 24 hours a day. The chain offers a traditional selection of convenience items and fuels, but it differentiates itself with its variety of fresh food, which ranges from barbecue to corn dogs and chicken. It is also an early adopter of technology and frequently remodels stores to stay modern and improve the shopping experience.
In addition to the c-store chain, the Allsup’s family owns a petroleum jobbership, software development company, radio stations and world-champion cutting horse ranches in Texas and New Mexico.
25. Sunshine Gasoline Distributors
Number of Stores: 302
2018 Ranking: No. 29
Rank at Beginning of 2019: No. 25
Headquarters: Doral, Fla.
What’s New: Sunshine Gasoline Distributors Inc. operates a fuel distributorship network that serves more than 150 dealers representing the Chevron, Shell, Exxon, Mobil and Marathon brands. Most of the convenience stores are unbranded, and some are open 24 hours a day, while others close as early as 6 p.m. or are closed on Sunday. Some stores have outdoor eating areas.
26. Delek U.S./Alon
Chain: 7-Eleven licensee
Number of Stores: 295
2018 Ranking: No. 28
Rank at Beginning of 2019: No. 26
Headquarters: Brentwood, Tenn.
What’s New: In July 2018, Delek marked the one-year anniversary of its acquisition of Alon USA, the largest 7-Eleven licensee in the United States and operator of nearly 300 convenience stores that market motor fuels in central and West Texas and New Mexico.
Delek U.S. is a diversified downstream energy company with assets in petroleum refining, renewable fuels, asphalt, logistics, wholesale marketing operations and convenience-store retailing. The refining system consists of four locations.
27. Giant Eagle Convenience Division
Chain: GetGo, Ricker's
Number of Stores: 266
2018 Ranking: No. 40
Rank at Beginning of 2019: No. 27
What’s New: Giant Eagle's strategic acquisition of the Ricker's convenience-store chain in Indiana helped this division of the grocery-store chain jump 13 spots on the Top 202 list. The deal, which surprised many in the industry, added 56 stores in Indiana to the company's store count.
The retailer opened the first GetGo Cafe + Market in the Indianapolis area in October 2015. There are now seven GetGo locations in central Indiana. The Ricker’s acquisition provides Giant Eagle with additional scale in the Indiana market as well as opportunities to leverage the strength of both the GetGo and Ricker’s brands, it said.
Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle operates 175 corporate and 54 independently owned and operated supermarkets in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland and Indiana. It has approximately 220 GetGo c-stores in several states.
28. TravelCenters of America LLC
Chain: TravelCenters of America, TA Express
Number of Stores: 261
2018 Ranking: No. 17
Rank at Beginning of 2019: No. 28
Headquarters: Westlake, Ohio
What’s New: In December 2018, TravelCenters of America LLC (TA) completed the sale of its stand-alone Minit Mart convenience-store business to Blackburn, U.K.-based EG Group (No. 8) for an aggregate sale price of $330.8 million. The deal included Minit Mart’s 225 c-stores, one stand-alone restaurant, five parcels of land and certain related assets.
About a week after the deal was announced in September 2018, TA opened its first four travel centers under its new TA Express smaller-format brand. TA Express offers “smaller, more nimble facilities allowing drivers to fuel faster, fulfill basic travel needs and return to the road,” the company said.
29. RaceWay Stores
Number of Stores: 251
2018 Ranking: No. 33
Rank at Beginning of 2019: No. 29
What’s New: RaceWay operates as a franchisor with each location owned by parent company RaceTrac Petroleum Inc. (No. 16). RaceWay’s locations, which average 2,900 square feet, are spread across the southeast United States, from Texas to Maryland. Each store is modeled after and offers products reflecting the local culture around the unit. RaceTrac owns the site, the building and the gas facility. In the RaceWay network, operators pay a commission per gallon of gasoline sold, with inside inventory and sales being the responsibility of the operator. All the stores sell the company’s proprietary gasoline brand.
30. Anabi Oil
Chains: Rebel, Aisle 1 and others
Number of Stores: 247
2018 Ranking: No. 34
Rank at Beginning of 2019: No. 30
Headquarters: Upland, Calif.
What's New: Anabi Oil services Shell-branded retailers, supplying fuel and assisting operators with financing options, as well as offering guidance on facility improvements and upgrades, such as digital display signage and LED lighting. Anabi also offers operators support for merchandising, training, advertising and promotions.
The number of sites Anabi Oil manages or owns has remained steady in the past year at about 250, with most in California and others in Alaska and Nevada. As a fuel distributor, Anabi also delivers fuels to an additional approximately 100 sites.
The family-owned company buys and sells stations with existing c-stores, car washes and fast-food QSRs. It also has grown by building some new-to-industry locations. It acquired more than 50 Rebel outlets in and around Las Vegas in early 2016.
31. Jacksons Food Stores
Chain: Jacksons Food Stores
No. of Stores: 241
2018 Ranking: No. 36
Rank at Beginning of 2019: No. 31
Headquarters: Meridian, Idaho
What’s New: Parent company Jackson Oil operates a national chain of Jacksons Foods Stores that in 2017 announced it would enter into a joint-venture partnership with San Ramon, Calif.-based Chevron Corp. to franchise and grow the oil company’s ExtraMile c-store brand. Jacksons said it would rebrand about 60 of its own Jacksons c-stores (all its locations that are currently under a Chevron canopy) to ExtraMile (No. 10).
Jacksons Food Stores Inc., a private company, manages its own stores, while the new joint-venture entity, called ExtraMile Convenience Stores, will oversee its ExtraMile locations as a franchisor.
The company’s retail network includes a mix of c-stores, travel centers and car washes. Jackson Oil is a jobber for more than 800 dealer sites in nine western states, delivering fuel brands 76, Chevron, Conoco, Exxon, Mobil, Phillips 66, Shell and Texaco.
32. Landmark Industries
Number of Stores: 225
2018 Ranking: No. 38
Rank at Beginning of 2019: 32
What’s New: Landmark Industries is celebrating more than 30 years in business as a convenience-store operator and distributor of fuels. The Texas chain operates more than 200 Timewise stores in and around Austin and Houston. Stores feature Shell and Exxon fuels. The average store size is 2,800 to 3,600 square feet, but new locations built in recent years average 5,000 square feet. This allows the chain to add more high-margin items to the stores, including more foodservice options.
Landmark Industries also offers independent dealers and operators branding opportunities and assistance in site selection, site layout, equipment procurement, construction and other development-related issues.
33. Fikes Wholesale Inc.
Number of Stores: 218
2018 Ranking: No. 35
Rank at Beginning of 2019: No. 33
Headquarters: Temple, Texas
What’s New: After a few years of expanding, CEFCO has been selling stores that it says no longer fit the chain’s operating model. As of early January, nearly a dozen sites were under contract.
CEFCO is focusing on newer and larger stores, especially for expanded foodservice offerings. Most stores are in Texas, but CEFCO has expanded with ground-up stores in additional states. The chain operates in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas.
Over the years, the chain’s growth has been through acquisition, as well as new builds into new markets. The chain emphasizes it has brightly lit stores with clean restrooms and a wide variety of products. Weekly deals and coupons are offered to CEF CLUB members. CEFCO also operates some branded QSRs.
34. Meijer Gas Stations
Number of Stores: 214
2018 Ranking: No. 37
Rank at Beginning of 2019: No. 34
Headquarters: Grand Rapids, Mich.
What’s New: Meijer Gas Stations are part of the Meijer retail chain that also has big-box grocery outlets. The company’s 214 gas stations and convenience stores are open 24 hours a day. Last year’s ranking listed 235 stores, which included some of Meijer’s full-size grocery stores.
Meijer Gas Stations offer fuel as well as c-store services, including snacks, beverages and prepared food including fresh fruit cups and other grab-and-go items. Its convenience stores are often larger and appear more like a mini supermarket with greater-than-average numbers of cooler doors and shelf space. Its facilities are known for being well-lit and clean.
35. Cal’s Convenience Inc.
Chain: Stripes, Cal’s Convenience
Number of Stores: 208
2018 Ranking: N/A
Rank at Beginning of 2019: No. 35
Headquarters: Frisco, Texas
What’s New: Cal’s Convenience entered into a commission-agent agreement with Sunoco to own and operate 207 Stripes c-stores in April 2018. Jack Whitney, former vice president of retail operations for Sunoco and Stripes, is now president and CEO of Cal’s Convenience.
Whitney previously was vice president of store operations for CEFCO Convenience Stores (No. 33), Temple, Texas, and was a division vice president for The Pantry before it was acquired by Alimentation Couche-Tard (No. 2).
The stores are spread across West Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma. Through the commission-agent agreement, Stripes LLC has granted Cal’s a sublicense to use the Stripes and Laredo Taco Company brands, pursuant to Stripes’ license agreements with 7-Eleven Inc.
36. Royal Farms
Chain: Royal Farms
Number of Stores: 200
2018 Ranking: No. 43
Rank at Beginning of 2019: No. 36
What’s New: Royal Farms added 15 new stores in 2018, including opening its 200th location, expanding its reach in Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
37. Thorntons Inc.
Number of Stores: 191
2018 Ranking: No. 42
Rank at Beginning of 2019: No. 37
Headquarters: Louisville, Ky.
What’s New: Thorntons Inc. operates 191 convenience stores in Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee. In December, Thorntons was purchased by a joint venture of BP and ArcLight Capital Partners. The deal had yet to close at press time. The new owners have said they will retain the Thorntons retail and fuel brands, and that the joint-venture partnership will accelerate Thorntons growth and expand its footprint.
The chain’s fresh-food options include hot and cold selections for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Thorntons also offers a selection of hot and cold beverages, as well as produce and select grocery items.
38. United Dairy Farmers
Chain: United Dairy Farmers (UDF)
Number of Stores: 173
2018 Ranking: No. 46
Rank at Beginning of 2019: No. 38
Headquarters: Norwood, Ohio
What’s New: United Dairy Farmers (UDF) remodeled many of its stores in 2018, including a Columbus, Ohio, location that features a Barista Bar serving cold-brew and nitro coffees and is open 24/7.
39. QuickChek Corp.
Number of Stores: 157
2018 Ranking: No. 49
Rank at Beginning of 2019: No. 39
Headquarters: Whitehouse Station, N.J.
What’s New: Privately held QuickChek operates 157 convenience stores in New Jersey and New York, approximately 70 with fuel. While the chain once set itself apart by also operating pharmacies, the Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based company exited that business in 2018, transferring its customer prescription records to CVS Pharmacy.
The change, announced in November 2018, came on the heels of QuickChek introducing a new store design a year earlier. That store design was intended to better showcase the chain’s fresh food and beverage menu. The menu includes made-to-order breakfast items, fresh oven-toasted subs, sandwiches, wraps and salads and personalized hot and cold beverages.
Stores also feature touch-screen technology that enables customers to create subs, sandwiches, wraps and salads and personalized hot and cold beverages.
40. Hy-Vee Inc.
Chain: Hy-Vee Gas
Number of Stores: 152
2018 Ranking: No. 50
Rank at Beginning of 2019: No. 40
Headquarters: West Des Moines, Iowa
What’s New: Hy-Vee Inc. is one of the largest privately owned supermarket chains in the United States and is concentrated in the Midwest. The company also operates Hy-Vee Gas convenience stores with fuel in the parking lots of its grocery stores in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin. The adjacent c-stores and gas stations have been added as a strategy to meet more customer needs at a single location and capture more market share.
The company’s c-store growth is slow but consistent. In 2018, the company built seven c-stores. Also during the year, the chain played with several new store formats.
In July 2017, the chain opened an 8,800-square-foot c-store in Lakeview, Minn. It features a Starbucks with a drive-thru and a Market Grille, as well as produce, prepared meals and a meat department.
A Hy-Vee HealthMarket store opened in Des Moines, Iowa, on July 31, 2018. The 15,000-square-foot store emphasizes healthy living while still offering much of Hy-Vee's original store format products, including a full lineup of fresh produce, meat and seafood, dairy, frozen food and meal kits. It carries about 11,000 items.
And in December, the company opened its first Fast & Fresh small-format grocery store in Davenport, Iowa. The 10,000-square-foot site is a deviation from its usual 85,000-square-foot format, but it still managed to pack in features such as multiple foodservice stations, a Starbucks and full beer, wine and spirits offerings.