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Sheetz Eyes Food-Only Sites to Fuel Urban Growth

PITTSBURGH — Already known for being a "convenience restaurant," Sheetz Inc. is making plans to go beyond the standard convenience store and gas station plan by opening food-only stores as it expands into urban markets, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Instead of relying on gas pumps to draw in customers, Sheetz will focus on higher margins food and beverages can bring.

"Our platform has obviously changed from a convenience store to more of a restaurant feel," Dave Woodley, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Sheetz, told the news outlet.

Putting effort into foodservice and the Sheetz Made-To-Order platform has been a factor in the Altoona, Pa.-based chain's store growth, which is now expected to reach 28 to 30 new stores annually, Woodley added.

Sheetz opened its first fuel-free grocery store and café concept March 3 at West Virginia University, as CSNews Online previously reported. A second is planned for State College, Pa., near Penn State University.

The food-only stores are designed for urban markets rather than universities in particular, Woodley said. The large lot size required for Sheetz stores with gas pumps is difficult to find in urban areas, making food-only stores a better choice for expanding into these areas.

While more such stores are planned, Sheetz doesn't have a specific number in mind as a goal. "I would say a number is hard to define for us because it will depend on getting the right site and in the right area," Woodley said. "It's taken us three years to get where we are with these two."

The chain most recently grew into North Carolina, but overall, it is growing relatively equally west, east and south of its current footprint, according to the report.

Sheetz operates 500 convenience stores in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Ohio, West Virginia and North Carolina.

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