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Grand Opening: Customers Become Neighbors in New Dash In Concept Store (Slideshow)

Local scenery and upgraded foodservice define c-store chain's "Village" direction

As part of The Wills Group Inc., Dash In convenience stores are driven by a commitment to seeing customers as neighbors and treating them as welcome guests.

Just as we would prepare to welcome a neighbor into our homes, we have always made sure the “house” is clean, the food is ready and the “furniture” is arranged for a great experience when our customers arrive. This mindset has reached its highest level of refinement in the Village template we’ve applied to the newest locations in our family of 65 stores across Maryland, Delaware and Virginia.

The new Village locations are some of our biggest stores, with a footprint ranging from 2,800 to 5,600 square feet. The venues provide an open, welcoming feel and a more intuitive browsing experience. In the Village concept, we’ve set aside the traditional aisle arrangement of merchandise in favor of a more inviting segmentation by pods or “villages” that cluster items within the store.

Our stores are designed to provide busy commuters a moment of hospitable refreshment. With rich wood fixtures, granite countertops and wood-grain floor tiles, the store interiors convey a modern and contemporary feel. To accentuate our connection to the neighborhood and make the experience even more personal, we have adorned the walls with a “film strip” of recognizable local scenery and historical images.

An Elevated Experience

In this warm setting, we take our guests’ experience up another notch with food choices and presentations they wouldn’t expect to see in a convenience-store setting. The typical “roller food” experience has been upgraded to a double-sided, self-serve grill bar featuring a variety of gourmet breads, toppings, sausages, brats and all-beef hot dogs.

This, however, is just a warm-up for the centerpiece of our food offerings: our Craveable line of sandwiches and salads.

This chef-driven menu features premium meats and gourmet ingredients, combined with savory sauces and spreads custom-made for Dash In by a top culinary company, hired to develop an elevated food program. Having grown accustomed to the “triangle” sandwiches in other stores, customers are thrilled to find artisan sandwiches such as our El Cubano, which folds slow-cooked pulled pork, smoked ham, Swiss cheese, dill pickles, caramelized onions and mojo aioli into a ciabatta roll. Our breakfast sandwiches, made with fresh-cracked eggs, are available all day. If they’re in a hurry, customers can always opt for one of our grab-and-go salads or sandwiches that are made fresh daily in the store.

The homey atmosphere of our store design extends into our restrooms, where airport-style facilities feature granite double vanities and touch-free controls for faucets and hand dryers. The result is a clean, open and modern environment that eliminates the stigma of c-store restrooms and maximizes our guests’ comfort.

To further enhance the shopping experience, we have placed digital kiosks throughout the store, enabling guests to customize their Craveable food items and order standard fare such as hamburgers and chicken wings. Coupled with other digital display monitors, these convenient, informative screens reduce confusion, minimize paper signage and allow us to emphasize features and deals that will enhance each visitor’s experience. (Located away from our cash-wrap station, the self-service lottery machine keeps the checkout moving so our guests can get back on the road quickly.)

Having taken an inside-out approach to store design, we have also emphasized the fuel islands, which are well-lit and convenient. Our fuel offering includes our own private-label Dash In Fuels and partnerships with major branded suppliers. All locations offer high-speed diesel and E10 fuel.

Knowing Our Guests

To cultivate a more localized understanding of our customers, we conducted a series of focus groups in 2013 as a way to identify their unique profile and needs. Insights we gained from that effort, combined with extensive market research into c-store trends, have not only influenced the layout of our stores but also upgraded the amenities we offer.

Our typical guest is a busy commuter on the go from home to work and back who appreciates a clean, fast and friendly experience. Our guests value the information on our digital monitors and kiosks and the convenience of a car wash that accepts credit-card payments. They have also responded well to self-serve automated outdoor ice machines that allow customers in a hurry to pay with cash or credit, then bag their own ice without having to come inside the store.

With all due respect to c-stores offering the traditional spray-only car wash, our Splash In Eco car wash goes one better by offering a five-brush soft-touch system and Simoniz-brand chemistry that cleans well in five minutes or less. The Best wash includes Rain-X Complete Surface Protectant, a triple-foam bath and 90 seconds of dry time. As a side benefit, the wash is eco-friendly, using chemicals in recycled containers, reclaimed water and energy-efficient LED lighting.

We’re proud of bringing the Village store concept to life. It is a tangible representation of the values that have driven our parent company during its 90-year history. The new location here in Frederick County, Md., is the fifth in our Village line, and one that already is exceeding customers’ expectations. 

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