“That’s a tremendous amount of growth in a brand-new marketplace for QuikTrip; QuikTrip has never expanded that rapidly in a new market before,” Public and Governmental Affairs Manager Mike Thornbrugh says. “At a time when a lot of people weren’t doing anything because of the recession, we decided to be aggressive and open new stores.”
Food for Growth
In addition to opening new locations, QuikTrip is also expanding its presence in a retail category that is fairly new to the company: food. The company five years ago introduced QT Kitchens, its brand of fresh sandwiches, salads, wraps, donuts and pastries.
QuikTrip considered food the next natural area for service growth because the industry’s two traditional revenue generators – fuel and tobacco products – have either peaked or declined. “The fresh food offer is a new channel that we were methodical about entering and feel we have a chance to be successful at,” Thornbrugh says. “It took us a long time to get to where we were good at selling convenience items and gas, so it will take a while to perfect and expand the fresh food offer.”
QT Kitchens food is prepared fresh daily in commissaries in Tulsa; Kansas City, Mo.; Phoenix; Dallas and Atlanta, and shipped to stores through an in-house transportation network. Each commissary is led by a trained chef who develops recipes and has trained staff prepare the food using the freshest ingredients available.
The fresh food offers complement the stores’ existing snack and beverage selections. “We hope our customers will come to us if they need fuel, need something to eat or drink,” Thornbrugh adds. “We believe we have the fuel and the thirst part of the equation down pat, but we have a long way to go to gain the fresh food loyalty. And that side of the business offers a lot of potential growth for QuikTrip.”
In addition to giving QuikTrip a hold in a growing segment of the convenience store market, the introduction of QT Kitchens allows the company to offer its more than 14,000 employees the opportunity to advance their careers. The company’s growth in its food division and through new construction will allow it to offer employees division, corporate support and management positions.
“Our mission is to give every employee the opportunity to grow and succeed,” Thornbrugh says. “We’ve been fortunate in that, as we’ve experienced growth through the years. Our employees can look at what we’ve done on an operating level. Our store employees recognize that is not just a mantra, it’s truly how we operate.”
The company believes strongly in promoting from within and training employees to increase their skills. Much of its executive staff – including President and CEO Chet Cadieux – started their careers with QuikTrip as store clerks.
QuikTrip also pays employees salaries that are above the industry average and actively seeks their input. “We’re an upside-down pyramid – the majority of our ideas, thoughts and suggestions come from employees and not top management,” Thornbrugh says. “We listen to them because they’re the ones interfacing with our customers and they know what’s going on in our stores 24/7 better than we do.”
The company’s approach to its employees has earned it a spot on Forbes magazine’s list of “Best Companies to Work For” for the past 11 years.
“All the men and women who wear our red shirts are the face and voice of QuikTrip,” he adds. “Everything they do reflects on our company and its success.”