QuikTrip's Next Generation

10/4/2010

Prepared foods and dispensed beverages are at every turn in the retailer's new store design

Every day, QuikTrip customer Edward Lavigne makes a stop at the convenience chain's 15th Street and Denver Avenue store in Tulsa, Okla. But recently when he walked into his usual location, he stopped in his tracks and wondered if he had gone to the wrong address.

"I didn't recognize it as a QuikTrip. I thought I was in the wrong place because of how different everything looked," Lavigne recalled. "It really took me by surprise."

QuikTrip Corp. recently demolished its old store at 15th Street and Denver Avenue, and replaced it with a new one — and not just any new store, but one of the company's "next-generation" stores, which are far bigger in size and product offering than its other locations.

QuikTrip executives have said the new store design is based on years of asking customers what they would like to see, taking those thoughts and then determining what would work. In early August, Convenience Store News traveled to Tulsa to get a firsthand look at QuikTrip's new store design and talk with customers to gauge their reactions to the transformation. At the time, two of these next-generation stores were open for business in Tulsa, and a third was wrapping up construction in anticipation of opening by the end of the month.

Just driving up to the new stores, it is immediately apparent what QuikTrip's next generation is all about — foodservice. Every fuel island includes prominent signage promoting the retailer's new take-home dinner options, as well as its new specialty espresso beverages.

The stores' exterior further communicates this foodservice focus. The QT Kitchens logo hangs on either side of the building, while the front windows are adorned with images of a larger-than-life sandwich, wrap and salad on one side, and bakery items on the other.

Inside the stores, the new design certainly has a more upscale feel, but retains the essence of QuikTrip. Stainless-steel accents from its former store design are carried over to the new concept where they combine with modern lighting, large-tiled floors and a warmer color scheme.

Unlike its older stores where the checkout is positioned in the middle, the point-of-sale in the new stores backs against the front wall, so associates have a view of the entire sales floor.

The new design features four entrances: two in front and two on the sides. No matter which entrance a customer uses, they are greeted by a multitude of dispensed beverage options. Those coming in on the right find 10 smoothie varieties in flavors such as black cherry, horchata and melon berry; 12 Freezoni dispensers; and a 24-head fountain unit with flavor shots.

Those entering on the left come across an impressive array of 12 fresh-brewed iced teas — six sweetened, six unsweetened — in unique flavors such as black mango, pineapple papaya and tropical. Also incorporated into the section is an eight-head fountain that dispenses other noncarbonated beverages such as energy green tea, mango lemonade and cherry limeade. In contrast, when CSNews visited one of QuikTrip's older stores in Tulsa, it was offering only two fresh-brewed iced teas, six Freezoni varieties and four flavors of smoothies.

For customers seeking a self-serve coffee beverage, QuikTrip's new stores have an expansive self-serve coffee and cappuccino area consisting of eight brewed coffee varieties; four cappuccino/steamer machines; one frozen coffee dispenser; and one frozen cappuccino dispenser.

There are two "Flavor Centers" where customers can customize their drinks with various creamers or half-and-half. And for those who like something sweet to top off their beverages, whipped topping dispensers are available in both the hot and frozen beverage sections.

Customized beverages also take center stage in the form of QuikTrip's new specialty beverage bar, which is located in the back center of the stores. This can't-miss attraction, staffed by QuikTrip associates, is equipped with two "Specialty QT Drinks" touchscreen kiosks for ordering.

Lattes, cappuccinos, chai lattes and mochas are available both hot and cold, in caramel, chocolate, hazelnut, vanilla and sugar-free vanilla flavors. By presenting a more convenient and less-expensive alternative, QuikTrip executives have said its expansion into specialty coffees is meant to take aim at competitors such as Starbucks.

The bar also offers frozen treats including soft-serve ice cream and nonfat frozen yogurt, both of which start as a plain base and then get blended with whatever flavor combinations the customer requests. Possible "mixins" range from candy pieces and fruit purees to flavor syrups.

Two LCD video screens are situated on either side of the beverage bar, tempting shoppers with images of cream being swirled into coffee, and hot fudge being poured atop ice cream. Adding to the indulgence factor, QuikTrip built a large, glass bakery case into the beverage bar. The case still allows for self-service, but holds a wider array of treats than in its other stores.

Coolers flank both sides of the beverage bar and run along the entire length of the back wall, offering customers even more beverage options. To the left, there are 11 cooler doors, eight of which hold alcoholic beverages and two of which contain two-liters and 12-packs of soda. The other door holds gallon jugs and take-home packages of water.

On the right-hand side of the beverage bar, there are another 11 cooler doors stocked with packaged beverages, plus two doors devoted to ice cream and frozen novelties.

No Dinner, No Problem

Just as beverages are spread out throughout QuikTrip's next-generation stores, so are prepared foods — not surprising since the c-store operator has invested heavily in this area over the last few years. QT Kitchens sandwiches, salads and wraps are presented in multiple cold cases, as are the retailer's new single-serve and family-size entrées, and take-and-bake pizza.

The single-serve entrées range in price from $3.49 to $4.99, while family-size entrées are priced $9.99. Entrée choices include chicken stirfry, General Tso's chicken, chicken and cheese enchilada, and seven-layer cheese lasagna. Additionally, three varieties of take-and-bake pizza are available: four cheese for $7.99; pepperoni for $8.49; and deluxe for $8.99.

At the time CSNews visited the next-generation stores, QuikTrip was running a special where customers received a free two-liter of Coke with the purchase of any family-size entrée. Signage was featured prominently throughout the sites, boasting: "No Dinner? No Problem."

Despite the addition of these new foods, QuikTrip remains committed to the roller grill in a big way. The new stores have five large roller grills spinning with taquitos, cheeseburger rollers, hot dogs, corn dogs, buffalo chicken bites with cheese, and jalapeño smoked-cheddar sausages.

In addition to the usual fixings, the condiment bar at the new stores offers four special QuikTrip-branded sauces: Bistro Pepper, Smoked Barbeque, Ranch and Spicy Chipotle.

Many of the customers CSNews spoke to said they've tried the new food offerings and not only liked the taste of them, but felt they were a good value. In fact, Tulsa resident Alex General Berry III was enjoying the chicken and cheese enchilada meal at one of the four patio tables outside the 15th Street and Denver Avenue store when CSNews caught up with him.

He said he often purchases the individual entrées, heats them up in the store's microwave and then dines at one of the outdoor tables. He also likes QuikTrip's new soft-serve ice cream.

"Everything is good," Berry said. "And I like that I can spend time here."

Several customers also gave kudos to QuikTrip for the expansiveness of the new store design. Lavigne, a Tulsa resident, said he appreciates the open layout and "the greater variety of everything." He said he'll continue making this QuikTrip store his daily convenience stop.

"They did a really good job," Lavigne said.

For comments, please contact Linda Lisanti, Senior Editor, at [email protected]

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