ROCKFORD, Ill. — Aiming for brand consistency across its network of travel centers, Road Ranger LLC has said goodbye to its original “country-themed” design and instead opted for modernization with the debut of a new store design that is now rolling out across the chain.
When Enex, a subsidiary of Chile-based Quiñenco SA, acquired Road Ranger in November 2018, it was as if the company purchased two separate entities. For starters, Road Ranger had travel center sites across the Midwest and in Texas, with no middle ground in between. On top of that, its sites in Illinois had not been remodeled and still featured Road Ranger’s old logo, while Texas new builds boasted a newer look and updated logo.
In its vision and planning, Enex decided to make brand consistency and customer experience its No. 1 priority moving forward. With that, CEO Marko Zaro challenged Ryan Arnold, Road Ranger’s vice president of marketing, with coming up with a new concept that would fit the travel center operator’s model no matter where a site was located geographically.
For the next eight to 12 months, Arnold worked with multiple departments to make this vision a reality. The efforts for a new design and layout culminated simultaneously as Road Ranger was in the midst of building its 40th location and its first Arkansas site. Located in Brinkley, the 15,000-square-foot travel center held a grand-opening celebration on June 15, 2020.
“The driving force behind everything we have done since the acquisition has been based on the customer and the experience we’re able to give them when they visit a Road Ranger,” Arnold told Convenience Store News. “The goal was to make sure everyone feels welcome when visiting a Road Ranger. We are trying to appeal to the soccer mom or family driving down the road just as much as the commuter and the professional four-wheel driver.”
Headquartered in Rockford, Road Ranger unified its Midwest and Texas operations with the Brinkley travel center. Located on Interstate 40, the site is seamlessly situated between a travel center that opened eight months prior in New Boston, Texas, and its 41st site in Marion, Ill. The three sites now connect the Road Ranger network, making it a full-service fleet.
As part of the redesign, the retailer upgraded all of its store fixtures and displays, moving to digital monitors above the coffee, fountain, food and cigarettes categories. It also incorporated neutral colors, LED lighting, white subway tile, and contemporary text and wayfinding.
“Upgrading all of our signage gives customers something fun and modern to look at while shopping, helps them explore new items, and promotes sales,” Arnold said. “Our category managers were instrumental in putting these elements together.”
Road Ranger also made significant improvements to its shopping area designated for professional drivers. Road Ranger Category Manager Eric Arnold put together a new modular merchandising system that is sleek, modern and easy to shop. The section now features LED lighting, new wayfinding graphics, and improved product lines.
Another important component of the new look and feel for Road Ranger was unifying its independent foodservice brands. The brands — including coffee (Mustang Ridge Coffee Co.), fountain drinks (Cold River Fountain) and a deli program (Roaring Fork Café) — are now streamlined under the R&R Kitchen label, which also encompasses a grab-and-go line.
The Brinkley site features two proprietary foodservice concepts as well:
- Dan’s Big Slice, which offers two slices from a 16-inch pizza for $6; and
- Tejas Taco Co., where all items are made from scratch daily, including taco shells that are pressed to order. Customers can make a taco plate with rice and beans, or order individual tacos.
According to Arnold, the Tejas Taco Co. program has been extremely successful, so the travel center operator is looking to expand it to some of its other sites.
Moving forward, Road Ranger’s goal is to bring all of its locations up to the same standard and feel as the Brinkley site, including high-rise signs, gas canopies, ID signs, interior and exterior images, and more.
“A lot of this work is underway or completed at a handful of stores,” Arnold told CSNews.
By the end of 2020, the retailer had completely remodeled five of its locations inside and out.
The company is looking at organic growth, too, with plans to expand by three to five new sites per year for the foreseeable future. The next three to five sites will be in Texas, aside from the Marion location, which opened Nov. 18, 2020. Road Ranger’s growth strategy is to expand east and west rather than north and south, the marketing executive said.