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QT Kitchens Exceeds Expectations

When QuikTrip President and CEO Chet Cadieux was asked during a session at the recent NACS Show what one idea changed his business, he pointed to the company's decision to get into the foodservice business. "We try not to take on a whole lot of new stuff. We try to do a few things really well, and food is that for us now," he said.

Nearly four years since launching QT Kitchens, it appears QuikTrip can do foodservice well. The venture is performing ahead of expectations, according to Mike Thornbrugh, public relations manager for the Tulsa, Okla.-based convenience store operator.

QuikTrip currently has five QT Kitchens commissaries in operation in Tulsa, Kansas City, Atlanta, Phoenix and Dallas, which serve all nine of its markets. The Kansas City facility services the Wichita, Kan.; St. Louis; Des Moines; and Omaha markets, which do not have their own QT Kitchens. No additional commissaries are in the works at this time, he said.

Fresh products are delivered from the commissaries to all 534 QuikTrip locations daily. On any given day at the chain's stores, Thornbrugh said in excess of 50 products are being offered under the QT Kitchens brand, including fresh deli sandwiches, salads, doughnuts, muffins and fruit cups. The retailer continues to experiment with new offerings.

As with all aspects of its business, QuikTrip is never satisfied.

"We keep getting more proficient in all aspects [of QT Kitchens]: the quality of the products, marketing, transportation and the presentation," Thornbrugh explained. "We keep learning from [our] prior mistakes. With each new QT Kitchens we open, QuikTrip has taken the opportunity to focus and plan what we can do better."

In fact, the retailer is now working on a new, larger store design expected to debut in its hometown of Tulsa this spring. The new store will be roughly 20 percent larger than existing stores and feature a wider selection of prepared foods, according to recent media reports. There will be more varieties of sandwiches, hot dogs and egg rolls, and even potential in the future for items such as fried chicken, the reports stated.

QuikTrip plans to use these new locations as a testing ground for future convenience stores.

"Hopefully, the new test stores will answer many of our questions -- one being the opportunity to slowly expand our fresh food offer," said Thornbrugh, noting QuikTrip is a very patient and methodical company.

Cadieux has said his hope is that 20 years from now, QuikTrip will be as good at selling food as it is at selling gasoline -- a feat that took roughly 30 years to master.

So far, it seems the chain is well on its way to making this a reality.
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