A Destination Spot for the Professional Truck Driver and the Local Community in Columbia, South Carolina

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This spring, TravelCenters of America (TA) opened a new Petro Stopping Center in Columbia, South Carolina. The 42,000-square-foot facility has eight diesel lanes, parking for 134 trucks, 10 showers, a CAT Scale, a Minute Mart convenience store, a very large game center, a t.v./movie room and a workout room.

In an effort to make a destination spot for the professional truck driver as well as the local community, it also has a Starbucks, a 16-lane bowling alley, 10 BP-branded gasoline lanes, a Quaker Steak and Lube restaurant and 315 car parking spots.

“This is the first time we’ve added so many car parking spots and the re­strooms are huge. There is one in the front of the facility and one by the bowling alley,” said Barry Richards, executive vice president for TA.

He added, “You don’t want to alienate your core business, but you can’t continue to play to such a small portion of the potential business.”

The truckstop has several inno­vative technology options, such as laundry facilities that text you when the loads are done. They also devel­oped a system that texts drivers when showers are ready. “We do run into a little bit of resistance from drivers that don’t want to give out their cell phone numbers, so we still have the normal monitors,” Richards said.

The location officially opened March 15. To spread the word about the new location, they sent out an­nouncements, including press releas­es and personal outreach from their fleet sales team, to all the fleets.

“We did scratch our chin a few times because we wanted to reach the local community because of all the great amenities,” Richards said.

Because the location is one mile from the University of South Caro­lina, they had the mascot come for the VIP launch party. They also in­vited the local Chamber of Com­merce. “The president was just stunned. He couldn’t believe how much action it was attracting,” Richards said.

In a number of TA’s sites, the company’s name might not be known, but its partners’ names are. “When you can incorporate some of those brands, you can let their name bring recognition,” Richards said.

Something they hadn’t necessarily encountered before was the need to create separate phone numbers for several of the profit centers. For ex­ample, people need to be able to eas­ily reach the bowling alley and the Quaker Steak and Lube restaurant.

The Quaker Steak and Lube res­taurant has seating for 276, includ­ing 38 patio seats. One of the walls in the restaurant has glass doors so you can see what is going on in the bowling alley. “It is an exciting place. The place just hops,” said Richards.

In the restaurant, servers walk around with iPads for table-side ordering. “We still have the tradi­tional service stations around the restaurant in addition to the iPads,” Richards explained.

The restaurant has a unique staff position—marketing and advertis­ing consultant. “We insist on one in each site,” Richards said, adding that those in the position spend half their time in the restaurant and half their time in the community. “The marketing consultant went around to the local businesses passing out her card. I must have seen her on three different TV shows.”

“The bowling alley is a first for us,” Richards said. TA hired a certi­fied bowling instructor, who is now on staff, to help set it up. They of­fer fun events, such as cosmic bowl­ing, and the Quaker Steak and Lube provides the food for the bowling alley. “It is like being in a night­club,” Richards said.

In the game room, there are banks of motorcycles customers can race together. There are also a couple of simulators, such as golf and basket­ball. “If you are a golf enthusiast but the weather isn’t cooperating, you can go in,” Richards shared.

Both the bowling alley and game room are available for parties. In the bowling alley, there is a giant screen where you can play your own video. The bowling alley also has partitions that can come down to create more of a private party experience. In the game room, party hosts can load up cards for their guest to use to play the games. During the first weekend, TA had ten parties booked.

Photo credit: TravelCenters of America



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