The company is the result of a 2010 partnership between Pilot Travel Centers LLC and Flying J Inc. The organization can trace its roots back to the late 1950s, when James Haslam II opened the first Pilot in Gate City, Va. In the late 1960s, Jay Call launched Flying J Inc. with four gas stations in Utah. By the turn of the century, Pilot and Marathon Oil entered into an agreement to form Pilot Travel Centers in 2001, while Flying J and Shell Canada joined to create a network of travel plazas, fuel stops and cardlock fueling systems.
When Pilot Travel Centers and Flying J merged to form Pilot Flying J in 2010, it brought two of the best-known brands in the travel center industry together. In 2012, Pilot Flying J acquired Western Petroleum and Maxum Petroleum. In 2013, it formed Pilot Logistics Services. Today, Pilot Flying J features an expanded network of interstate travel centers and travel plazas across North America. Its focus is on superior customer service and enhancing food and service offerings for customers.
Pilot Flying J serves a variety of customers, including professional drivers, trucking companies, travelers passing through a town, local customers running in for a cup of coffee and RV customers. The company reaches out to customers in a number of ways, including social media, in-store signage, interstate billboards, email marketing and customer surveys.
The company is constantly working to meet and exceed the needs of customers through fast, friendly and convenient locations. It bills its coffee as “the best coffee on the interstate,” and its PJ Fresh Marketplace concept features an expanded variety of food options that are fresh, healthy and quick. Other amenities offered by the company include a variety of dining options, WiFi connectivity, 4,400 deluxe showers, 4,500 diesel fuel lanes offering DEF at the pump and 65,000 parking spaces for trucks.
“Our goal is always to exceed our customers’ expectations, and that’s why we recently have invested $100 million in remodeling our showers and restrooms and are expanding our PJ Fresh fast, casual dining offerings and locations to deliver more food variety,” Executive Vice President of Operations Ken Parent says. “We continue to offer our ‘best coffee on the interstate,’ and the variety of merchandise that we offer in our stores is in place because of what our customers have told us they need.”
Efforts to improve customer service and key investments in its locations have been major focal areas for Pilot Flying J recently. The company engaged in a multiyear, $50 million investment to renovate restrooms across its network.
“These upgrades are a great investment for all of our loyal customers,” Parent says. “The features will include new tile and finishes, low water consumption fixtures, hand dryers and LED lighting.”
Pilot Flying J also recently completed a major $50 million upgrade on its showers. Improvements include larger showers, improved lighting, Italian tile, more hooks to hang and store personal items; new shower gel; better ventilation; custom-designed benches for seating or to place personal belongings; softer, thicker and larger towels; and brand-new cloth bathmats.
Another important undertaking for Pilot Flying J is the PJ Fresh initiative. Pilot Flying J launched the new dining experience at select travel centers and travel plazas nationwide last year. Pilot Flying J currently has 10 PJ Fresh locations located in Georgia, Texas, Arkansas, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon, Colorado and Oklahoma, and plans to include the PJ Fresh concept all new locations moving forward.
“PJ Fresh Marketplace offers a variety of fresh, quality and affordable meals and snacks, including hot, home-style platters including meatloaf and roasted chicken, as well as fresh-made salads, pizza and a frozen yogurt bar at a few locations,” Parent says.
Thanks to its product and service offerings, Pilot Flying J believes it can continue to achieve its top priority, which is to make each driver’s day the best it can be. The company says it is always eager to hear from its customers about life on the road, and it remains committed to knowing customers better so it can best serve them.
“We enjoy talking with customers at our stores, on social media, at events and trade shows and whenever we have the opportunity,” Parent says. “Our primary consideration in planning new amenities is the feedback and requests we get from customers.”