Midwestern powerhouse Kum & Go recently debuted a store prototype that underscores its new brand tagline, “Where & means more.” And when it comes to design, the “more” represents a food-forward, eco-friendly store with nods to the community.
CSP recently talked to Chris Jones, senior vice president of marketing for the West Des Moines, Iowa-based chain about how the new store template advances earlier models and enhances the customer experience.
Q: In recent months, Kum & Go has opened a number of new sites in Missouri, including in Joplin, where you lost two stores to a tornado in 2011. How are these new stores different from the prototype you rolled out about five years ago?
A: The store design prototype, dubbed the “Marketplace,” differs in a few key ways. First, at 6,200 square feet, it’s about 1,200 square feet larger than the previous “5K” design. The interior and exterior design has a fresh, contemporary feel to it, and the entire store celebrates our brand color: red. There are more windows to enable customers to see inside, and interior and exterior seating areas for customers to enjoy while getting a quick bite or grabbing coffee.
The forecourt canopy is unique and integrated more fully with the overall design elements, and the forecourt monument sign helps build awareness of our fresh-food program.
Q: The company’s Go Fresh Market has been a staple in recent years. How is your made-to-order foodservice program evolving?
A: We’ve recently amped up the food program at all of our stores that offer fresh-made food, with a particular focus on the Marketplace stores. Earlier this year, we rolled out new salads and our brand-new pizza recipe, and we’re seeing great success. We also offer made-to-order sandwiches and cafe-like pastries at Marketplace stores. To accommodate the increased focus on food, we’ve also renovated several stores to provide more options and a more open kitchen layout.
Q: Aside from foodservice, what are other notable differentiators?
A: Marketplace stores also feature:
- Clear aisles and easy-to-navigate zones.
- Seating inside and patio seating outside, with ceiling heaters for comfortable outdoor seating down to 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Complimentary Wi-Fi and charging stations for customers.
- Some of the stores include an expansive, 300-square-foot beer cave and growler station.
- Several of the stores feature an 8-foot ampersand sculpture to incorporate our brand, as well as add a touch of whimsy to the store visit experience.
Q: The new sites feature numerous architectural details, including vaulted ceilings and dividers to separate c-store fare from the sit-down dining. How did you arrive at this particular design?
A: We really wanted the feel to be clean and modern, yet approachable and easy to navigate. We paid attention to the overall experience of a customer visit and optimizing different kinds of visits. For those interested in a freshly prepared meal, the kitchen is inviting and open, and we offer seating away from the rest of the hustle and bustle of the store. For those who want to grab a quick drink or snack, we made the aisles wide and lowered the height of display units so it’s easy to get a 360-degree view of the store from the front entrance.
Architectural details such as the wooden board canopy over the seating area create warmth, and subway tile and marble-like counters add to a residential feel.
From the door handles to doughnuts to a suspended light fixture over the kitchen, the ampersand is used in many whimsical applications as a way to reinforce the brand promise of delivering more, as served up in our tagline, “Where & means more.”
Q: Kum & Go was one of the first stores in the country to embrace electric-vehicle charging stations. In addition, all of your new sites are LEED-certified. Are you appealing to a more environmentally aware customer base?
A: We do have a commitment to sustainability, and all of our newly built Marketplace stores are built to [U.S. Green Building Council] LEED standards. (The store featured here is currently being evaluated to achieve LEED certified status, which we anticipate in the coming months.) In fact, we have 108 stores in our network that have been LEED certified. Anecdotally, we’ve heard that customers appreciate our commitment to the environment, and appreciate the locations where we offer recycling inside and outside the store.
Q: How many stores do you plan to open between now and end of 2017, and will they all feature the new template?
A: We have aggressive plans to have 50 Marketplace stores built by the end of 2017. All of our new stores will be built with this prototype.