Pilot Flying J: Improving In-Store Sales and Margins

Background

Pilot Flying J is North America’s largest travel center operator as well as the largest diesel fuel provider to truckers. Pilot Flying J operates truck stops, convenience stores, and quick-serve restaurants across the United States and Canada. Pilot Flying J has a longstanding commitment to improving the lives of America’s drivers through exceptional experiences and quality service.

In 2008, the company was facing decreasing sales and a declining market share. Despite attempting traditional convenience store testing methods, the company’s sales continued to drop. Pilot Flying J partnered with QualPro to increase in-store sales by reevaluating its in-store strategies in four main categories: coffee, candy, snacks, and drinks.

Approach

QualPro consultants assembled a team consisting of Pilot Flying J’s management, store managers, and hourly employees. Together, the team brainstormed improvement ideas designed to optimize in-store marketing strategies in the four categories. Our consultants helped the team narrow the list to ideas that were practical, fast, and cost-free. Some of these ideas included offering free newspapers with coffee purchases, hanging candy bars in the drink coolers, and creating various gas pump advertisement strategies.

QualPro designed the experiments for Pilot Flying J personnel to perform. A screening experiment revealed several ideas that had a significant impact and were worthy of further exploration. Some of these ideas included offering free pastries with coffee purchases on Wednesdays, offering bagged confections at two for $2, and doubling the amount of floor space dedicated to meat snacks. Experiments also found that the company’s pricey gas pump marketing strategies were ineffective and could be simplified — a tactic that would increase sales and decrease costs. After analyzing the results, our consultants created recommendations for Pilot Flying J to implement in order to increase in-store sales.

In accordance with our commitment to driving continuous improvement, our consultants worked closely with Pilot Flying J personnel to guide process changes and motivate project team members to exceed goals.

Results

After implementing QualPro’s recommendations, Pilot Flying J increased in-store sales by 4.2 percent. These changes resulted in a significant annual profit growth at a time when competitors experienced a decline in profit. The entire process greatly altered the way Pilot Flying J approached its in-store marketing strategies.