Headquarters:Knoxville, Tenn.
No. of Stores:740
Rank:13
Rank Last Year:12
Website:http://www.pilotflyingj.com

Pilot Flying J was the center of a major private-equity play in the fall of 2017 when Warren Buffett and his Omaha, Neb.-based Berkshire Hathaway purchased a stake in the company for $2.76 billion. The deal will give Buffett control of the network by 2023.

The chain became the nation’s largest operator of truck stops and the largest seller of diesel fuel to over-the-road truckers after the merger of Pilot Travel Centers and Flying J in 2010. Catering to professional drivers and traveling motorists across the country, the company’s travel centers offer c-stores and a wide variety of well-known quick-service restaurants, most of which operate all day, along with amenities such as fueling stations, showers, Wi-Fi connectivity and ATMs.

In January 2017, the company doubled down on foodservice by hiring a restaurant-industry veteran as its new vice president of food innovation. Shannon Johnson came to Pilot Flying J after stints as chief food innovation officer for KFC and product innovation director for McDonald’s USA. The hire was intended to drive Pilot’s PJ Fresh Marketplace brand, modeled after a fast-casual positioning, with food options that include freshly made salads, fruit bowls, sandwiches, chicken wings, tacos, meatloaf entrees and roasted chicken dinners.

The focus is part of the company’s $485 million five-year modernization and expansion plan.

Source: Convenience Digital Resource Library, Technomic. For benchmarking purposes, store counts are year-end 2017.

Photo courtesy of Coolcaeser.