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Stan Sheetz Opens Up: From Technology to Hummus

ALTOONA, Pa. -- Sheetz Inc. President and CEO Stan Sheetz recently spoke with on a range of topics from the latest use of technology at the convenience store retailer and why he doesn't want managers counting money, to what he does when he stops at a Sheetz location.

Here's the highlights of what he had to say:

In 2000, you were very excited about the touch screen to order sandwiches. What technologies are you excited about now?
Sheetz: We're in the process of working on an app for the iPhone. It would tell the customer where the closest Sheetz location is, the price of gas, and God forbid, market something to them. Potentially, it would allow them to order a sandwich so it's waiting when they drive up. Although you probably shouldn't do all this when you're driving.

What else are you doing with wireless?
Sheetz: Wireless has really opened up all kinds of possibilities. The last thing I read is that maybe 12 percent of the market is a smart phone. That's not anywhere near the majority of phones, but the way technology is moving, it could be universal by May.

Do you have drive thrus?
Sheetz: We keep screwing around with drive thrus. We have three drive thrus -- one is really great, one really sucks and one's in the middle. So I don't know any more than when I started.

How else is technology helping your business?
Sheetz: It's all about taking out the human element. We have automatic replenishment on 99 percent of what we sell, so you scan something, and it goes in the order for the next day, and humans don't have to look at it. That way, the humans can do the most difficult part of the job, which is dealing with other humans. We also are trying something new with counting money. You have the highest-paid person in the store, the manager, counting money. Last estimate I saw, it cost us $3 million a year to count the money. So we're using that money to justify the cost of a new safe. When you get a $20 bill, you put it in the safe -- like you'd insert it in a vending machine -- and the bank will immediately give us credit for the deposit of $20. And every other day a guy takes a can of money from the safe and puts an empty can in there, so we don't have to handle the money, which can be a real plain. Plus, it's dirty.

What's your biggest seller?
Sheetz: Mountain Dew 20-ounce. We sell approximately 1,000 beverages per store per day. We might sell 80 Mountain Dews a day, but there are 399 other beverage selections.

Ten years from now, what does Sheetz look like?
Sheetz: I hope I'm retired then. What kind of fuel will America be running on then? That could affect the business. If I have to sell electricity for people who want to plug in their Winnebago, that's a new business. I gotta buy electricity wholesale, and that makes it complicated.

When you talk to customers, what do they say they want?
Sheetz: When we talk to people, they say they want more Sheetz stores. I take that as a compliment. I think a lot of customers don't know what they want until we give it to them. I want more health food in the stores. We have a complete line of health food. Our menu is so big. We have salads, packaged fruit, grapes, cheeses, hummus.

You have hummus?
Sheetz: Yes! Hummus would be right up your alley. We put all that stuff in because people say their want it. But we sell more doughnuts.

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