Great Ideas from Sapp Bros.

On September 16–17, 2015 more than 30 travel plaza and truckstop operators and NATSO Chairman’s Circle members came together in Omaha, Nebraska, for NATSO’s 2015 Domestic Study Tour. The two-day workshop provided NATSO members with an opportunity to tour best-in-class retail locations, gather ideas during presentations by successful truckstop operators, and network with other truckstop and travel plaza operators in attendance. September’s attendees toured and learned from Sapp Bros. Travel Center locations, Shoemaker’s Travel Plaza and Boss Shops truck service centers. What’s next? Wawa and Speedway! Following The NATSO Show 2016, the NATSO Foundation is offering a Post-Show Mini Domestic Study Tour, which will feature tours of Wawa and Speedway. As the editor of Stop Watch, I attended the tour to gather the locations’ best ideas to share with Stop Watch readers. The first day of the tour was spent at two Sapp Bros.’ locations, which I’ll share about in this issue’s member profile. While no stranger to the magazine or even the member profile department, Sapp Bros.’ had plenty of new ideas to share. Before we delve into the ideas, let’s set the scene.


Sapp Bros.’ History


In 1960, brothers Ray, Dean, Lee and Bill Sapp pooled their money and purchased a Ford car dealership in Ashland, Nebraska. Five years later, they purchased a GMC truck dealership in downtown Omaha and in 1966 they purchased 52 acres of ground at the juncture of I-80 and US Highway 50 in Omaha. Even with the opening of Interstate 80 three years away, the Sapp brothers realized the business potential of the nation’s largest super highway and decided to build a truckstop on the ground. They opened the first Sapp Bros.’ location on June 7, 1971, in Omaha, Nebraska. By 1978, a second truckstop had been constructed in Council Bluffs, and the company was on its way. More locations followed and today there are 16 travel centers located in eight states across the country from Pennsylvania to Utah, along I-80 and I-70, with a few sprinkled on Nebraska highways.


Ten Great Ideas From Sapp Bros.


CLEAN BATHROOMS. Sapp Bros. has a companywide strategy to have very clean and modern bathrooms. They have a button outside the restrooms to push if the bathroom is not in satisfactory condition. If a customer pushes the button, a light illuminates at the fuel desk. The women’s restrooms have bidets and there are TVs behind the mirrors in the men’s bathrooms.


WALK-THE-STORE CHECKLISTS. They extend this focus on cleanliness to the outside and inside of the store. They do this because women weigh in heavily to determine where families stop and cleanliness is a big factor in their decision. Fulfilling the brand promise of excellence in cleanliness costs a lot of money and takes a big commitment. The managers are required to the walk their store daily following their “Walk the Store” checklist. They take pictures of any problems and delegate out the issues. They find taking a picture is very helpful as it is hard to argue with a picture. Each month each location performs its own full “Walk the Store.” Every quarter management visits each location to do a “Walk the Store” and they give the stores a score. Those monthly scores are combined for a yearly contest. The winners receive a trophy and bonuses.


TELEDOC. Sapp Bros.’ health insurance plan covers Teledoc, which is a health insurance plan that let’s you book an appointment on the internet to have a doctor call you. The doctors can prescribe some things. The doctors are available 24 hours, seven days a week. It has been a huge savings for them.


LOYALTY PROGRAM. The company has a loyalty program for the drivers. Loyalty program participants receive a penny a gallon towards purchases in the store, restaurant and shop. They also award rewards for shop work. They administer the loyalty program using the PointstoPartners software.


PROFIT-SHARING PLAN. Sapp Bros. has a profit-sharing plan. They share profits with the employees, creating strong partners in their business. Also, most of their general managers are stockowners in the company, which means they own a piece of the company. Their employees are essentially working for themselves, which creates a strong sense of ownership.


BAG THEIR OWN ICE. They bought extra big ice machines and bagging machines so that they can sell their own ice rather than buying it. This allows them to aggressively price it, which then drives other retail business.


FREE STEAK. The shop offers a free steak with a full-service oil change. They make sure to advertise this with consistent messaging throughout the location. This has really driven up shop sales.


GRAB-N-GO. Sapp Bros. has invested in openair coolers and hot cases to showcase their grab-n-go items, including cold and hot sandwiches, pudding, Jell-o, salads and wraps. They believe offering a quality product made fresh is the selling point to make this profit center succeed. They also believe the placement of the hot cases and openair coolers is very important.


AGGRESSIVE EMPLOYEE SALARIES. With unemployment at 1.6 percent, competition for employees is tough. They did a wage analysis at their company to make sure they are paying above the competition.


EMPLOYEE REFERRALS. Lastly, Sapp Bros. has changed the way it recruits employees. They don’t advertise in papers or online. Instead they recruit using referrals. A large percentage of their hires are from referrals. They pay well for referrals. They think this is money better spent than an ad in the paper.

via Business Feeds

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