QuikTrip Halts Car Wash Venture

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QuikTrip Halts Car Wash Venture

By Mehgan Belanger

TULSA, Okla. -- After a lengthy test of the car wash business that reportedly performed well, QuikTrip Corp., a more than 500 unit convenience chain based here, will halt any expansion of the venture, and may sell the facilities.

"We wanted to take all the time we needed to look at it," company spokesman Mike Thornbrugh told CSNews Online. "The stores were good, profits were good and public perceptions were good, but we looked at it after a while and found we put the same dollars in [building] a car wash as a QuikTrip," he said, adding the c-store generates better return on investment.

QuikTrip will continue operating the three existing sites—two conveyor-style, brushless facilities that were built in 2006 and are located in Wichita, Okla., and one in the surrounding suburb of Glenpool, Okla., which started in 2004—but will entertain selling the operations if an offer presents itself, he said, adding the sites are near QuikTrip stores, but can be determined separate businesses.

The decision to stop the expansion of the venture was made about a year ago, and Thornbrugh said it was a simple business decision, one that was not based on the economy or local competition.

"Do we want more car washes, or more QuikTrips?" he asked. "We are really methodical. We watch and learn before we jump in, and we learned a lot from the car wash business. But the question is, where is the best return?"

While it is the end for the car washes, another QuikTrip business is gaining more ground.

"We are committed to fresh food. Committed means we are in the business," said Thornbrugh. "Will the products continue to expand? Of course."

Every QuikTrip store has now been remodeled to sell the fresh foods, which come from its recently built QT Kitchens commissaries. The commissaries are present in every market in which the chain operates, except Atlanta and Dallas, Thornbrigh explained. Atlanta will see a QT Kitchen come spring or summer 2009, and Dallas will follow shortly thereafter, he said.