New Market Force study anoints QT the top rated c-store chain for cleanliness, friendliness and food quality.
By Erin Rigik, associate editor.
QuikTrip, with 662 stores in 11 states, was voted the most popular convenience store chain, according to a new study by Market Force Information, beating out 7,600 study participants. Convenience store chains Wawa, RaceTrac, Speedway and Arco/ampm followed close behind.
The study was designed to determine which c-store chains consumers frequent the most, as well as the reasons behind that customer preference.
“I think this is a validation that a lot of the things we believe in and do are recognized and appreciated, so obviously it feels very good,” said Mike Thornbrugh, manager of public and government affairs for Tulsa, Okla.-based QuikTrip.
The study found consumers place a high value on the customer experience—from appearance to amenities. When asked what they like most about their favorite convenience store chain, cleanliness was named more than any other factor. Friendly service ranked second, amenities ranked third, coffee quality was fourth and great service was fifth.
Thornbrugh attributes QT’s success to its dedicated employees. “That’s what QT is. We think our employees are the best in the business,” he told CSD. “Our employees consistently offer great service every day and they make it look flawless and easy.”
While training is an important component of the chain’s success, it starts with hiring properly, Thornbrugh noted. “There are certain things we look for in our employees. One is that you are really outgoing and two is that you’re able to multitask. These are qualities that we can’t teach—you either have that ability or you don’t,” he said, “But what we can do is teach QT’s culture, and you don’t just teach it once, you continue the training throughout the lifespan of that employee.”
QT wasn’t the only chain that had positive results in the Market Force study. Wawa received accolades for the quality of its coffee, while RaceTrac performed consistently well in all of the categories, securing a third-place spot in four of the six areas. Speedway, Exxon Mobil and Casey’s General Store also outperformed many of the other chains studied in these key categories.
When Market Force considered food and product attributes, QuikTrip and Wawa ranked first and second in nearly every category, with Wawa only dropping in promotions. Speedway took the top spot in promotions with 36%, followed by QuikTrip with 35%, RaceTrac with 26% and Wawa with 22%.
QuikTrip was the leader in merchandise selection (48%) and in merchandise prices (35%). It slightly edged out Wawa in food quality and fell second to Wawa in food selection.
According to the study, being a favorite brand among consumers can make all the difference, as more than a quarter of shoppers said they would drive by a competing c-store to visit their preferred c-store brand. In fact, 17% said that they always choose their favorite brand over other competition, even when the competitor’s price is a little lower. Specifically, the study found that 48% of survey respondents would drive past a competitor to shop at QuikTrip, 46% for Wawa, 35% for Speedway, 34% for RaceTrac and 28% for Arco/ampm.
“I think the industry continues improving. Operators are building better stores and merchandising smarter,” Thornbrugh said. “Overall, the industry will continue to evolve and if you’re not willing to change, you’re not going to be around very long.”
The survey was conducted in April 2013 across the U.S. and Canada. The 7,633 respondents reflected a broad spectrum of income levels, with 60% reporting household incomes of more than $50,000 a year. Respondents’ ages ranged from 18 to over 65.
Approximately 52% were men, 48% were women, and nearly half have children at home.