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Why Quality Food Matters for Gas Sales

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I drove out of the way to refuel my rental car in Minneapolis this morning.

Whenever I visit the Twin Cities, I make a point to stop at 36 Lyn Refuel Station. It’s a small, independently-owned convenience store that is known for a wide selection of local products and healthful snacks.

A selection of snacks from 36 Lyn

My favorite is the Holly Bar—which may possibly be the most delicious snack bar that I’ve ever encountered. But whether it’s coffee, jerky, fruit—or even hot sauce and condiments—36 Lyn offers quality products for everyone.

This is something I talked about yesterday in my presentation at the Upper Midwest Convenience Store and Energy Convention. Quality matters not just at the pump, but inside the store too. Good food is good for business.

And it turns out that there’s data to support this.

According to a new survey by the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), Americans are increasingly seeking out fueling locations based on the quality of the food. Although gas prices are still the primary determinant when deciding where to refuel, more customers are making that choice based upon what’s inside the store—just like I did this morning.

A few highlights from the survey:

  • 51% of American drivers say that gas price is the reason that they prefer a specific store or chain
  • 42% of those fueling up also went inside the store, a 7-point jump from two years ago
  • For those going inside, the most popular reasons were to pay for gas at the register (50%), buy a beverage (45%) or buy a snack (36%)
  • Overall, 8% say they bought a sandwich or meal, but that percentage jumped to 13% for younger consumers ages 18 to 34

This reinforces the fact that consumers are increasingly eating on-the-go and turning to convenience stores to meet their needs. In recent years, many stores have expanded their offerings to include healthful options, made-to-order meals, and high-quality coffee.

But how do consumers know where to go?

This looks like a store worth visiting

One of the most powerful signals of quality is a store or chain’s online presence. If you’re not on Google, as they say, are you even in business? Whether on Google or in the GasBuddy app, we know that ratings and reviews influence customers’ perceptions and decisions. According to a recent GasBuddy survey, three out of four GasBuddies find online ratings and reviews valuable, and 69% would not visit a station if it has fewer than three out of five stars on the app.

This feedback is important for retailers. As they increasingly aim to provide a better customer experience, the real-time feedback from ratings and reviews helps them know what’s working, what’s not, and where to focus their time and energy.

GasBuddy’s Business Pages is a powerful tool since it gives retailers access to this information in real-time—which they’ve never had before. It also gives retailers the opportunity to engage with customers in a new way. Seventy-two percent of GasBuddies would consider revisiting a store if a complaint was resolved quickly, and eight out of ten said they’d consider returning to a store if they received a personal response to their complaint. Business Pages makes this possible.

I encourage those who own or operate convenience stores to see what’s being said about them. Get on Google and the GasBuddy app. Not surprisingly for 36 Lyn, the feedback is overwhelmingly positive.

Analyst, Convenience Store and Retail Trends

Frank Beard is a passionate advocate for convenience stores who brings a wide range of experience to the GasBuddy team. His "30 Days of Gas Station Food" experiment has raised awareness of the fact that most — if not all — convenience stores have healthful options available. He's spoken at events like the 2016 NACS Show and the Partnership for a Healthier America's 2017 Summit, and he's a contributor to NACS Magazine and NACS Daily. Having visited more than 1,000 convenience stores in 24 states, Frank helps communicate the fact that convenience stores truly are the perfect pit stop.

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