Molo Cos. of Dubuque, Iowa, is winning customers with a recently unveiled cutting-edge design of its Big 10 Mart in Bettendorf, Iowa.
CSP recently chatted with Brian Matlock, vice president of marketing and retail operations, about Big 10’s new format, proprietary foodservice and goals for 2016 and beyond.
Q: Molo has a distinguished history in Iowa. Can you talk about the company’s roots and its evolution?
A: Molo Petroleum has been providing fuel and fuel-related services in Iowa and Illinois since 1870. Molo Co. was formed in 1927 to sell petroleum products. Our first c-store opened in Clinton, Iowa, in 1981, marking the beginning of Big 10 Mart. We now have 15 stores. The evolution into the convenience industry was a natural progression because it assisted in expanding our core business, which was supplying petroleum products.
Q: Tell us about your most recent c-store iteration, such as its square footage, key features, etc. How does it advance earlier templates, and how does it help distinguish Big 10 Mart from competitors?
A: We constantly challenge ourselves to keep up with the changing needs and expectations of our customers.
Let’s face it: The successful business model for a convenience store has changed. The days of being heavily reliant on fuel, beer and cigarettes as your main source of revenue is a death sentence. At Big 10 Mart, we clearly recognize this fact and have been proactive in diversifying our revenue streams by developing distinct points of differentiation in our offering. Our newest model is 4,200 square feet and is designed to give our customers a proprietary food and beverage experience as soon as they walk through our doors. Traditional c-store merchandise is pushed to the sides. Fresh food and beverages take center stage, and we’re excited about the ability to customize both to our customers’ preferences.
For all of our self-serve food products, we offer a free fresh condiment bar including shredded cheeses, fresh diced red onion, sweet relish, fresh jalapeños, sauerkraut, salsa and my favorite blend of giardiniera peppers. We also have 20 free condiment spreads and sauces. Our own signature secret sauce is made on site and has been a huge hit with our customers. Any of the items can be customized for no additional cost.
On the beverage side, we have an extensive free condiment bar that caters to both hot and cold beverages and allows our customers to be their own mixologists. We offer millions of custom flavor combinations. We look at the ability to customize as a distinct point of differentiation. The bottom line is that our customers love it.
Q: What were some of the considerations in rolling out your new concept? Were there other designs or concepts you were considering?
A: This model is what I term a limited-labor food model. Food is produced onsite fresh daily by our trained chef and then placed out for sale in a customer self-service environment. Labor dedicated to food production is limited, and most sales take place after the chef has gone home for the day.
Our next step is a proprietary MTO concept. We will offer items similar to our current offering, but also an expanded fresh menu to differentiate us in the market even further. I am passionate about the belief that customers want to see a person making their food with care, so this is a natural next step in our evolution.
Q: Tell us about your growth plans. How many sites are you planning for 2016? What about rebuilds?
A: I can’t go into specifics, but we do have a growth and remodel plan. Being a conservative family-owned business, we believe in gradual strategically smart and calculated growth.
Q: Who are Big 10’s target customers, and what are the drivers to draw them in?
A: We want to appeal to everyone, all shapes and sizes. However, our specific targeted customers are women and millennials. This is reflected in the time and research we did in developing our offering, the environmental design of the building and how we physically set the store flow. Based on customer feedback and the success of our site, we have clearly hit the mark.
Q: Are you incorporating a loyalty program or any other social media or digital features that will align with your newest prototype?
A: We are in development of a loyalty program that we hope to launch in late 2016. We believe that our current competitive environment dictates this as a necessity.