Clean—and Kwik—Trips

The Wisconsin family-owned c-store chain shared how it bet its future on restroom and fuel line cleanliness.

July 02, 2021

Kwik Trip Convenience Store

LA CROSSE, Wis.—In 2002, officials at Kwik Trip had an epiphany—the goal to success centered around an extra clean restroom and fuel lines, said Carl Rick, Kwik Trip training manager, at this week’s BizTimes Family & Closely Held Business Summit, BizTimes reports.

“If people are going to eat in a convenience store, which has been the butt of a joke for as long as convenience stores have been around, we have to be clean. There’s just no two ways about it,” said Rick, who is a third-generation member of the Zietlow family, the sole owners of the more than 770-unit chain.

Kwik Trip has plans to remodel 10 stores and open 40 new locations this year. During the next five years, the chain will expand by 40 to 50 new builds annually. Kwik Trip was featured in the 2019 Ideas 2 Go video series.

The company takes bathroom cleanliness so seriously that it posts an 800 number for customers to call if the restroom is messy. Kwik Trip President and CEO Don Zietlow returns every phone call. “Two weeks ago, we had nearly 10 million guests visit our stores over the course of the week. We had eight bathroom complaints and [Don] called them all back on Friday morning,” Rick said.

Bathroom cleanliness is a must for convenience stores looking to win trips and boost basket spend. Kwik Trip clenched the No. 1 spot in USA Today’s latest Best Gas Station Brand list in 2020, and having clean restrooms is a key criteria to win.

Another core strategy for Kwik Trip growth is employee loyalty. Rick said the company refers to employees as co-workers. Its 30,000 team members can participate in a 40% profit-sharing program, which has given staff nearly a billion dollars in shared revenue since its 1989 debut.

“Our co-workers are our most important asset,” Rick said. “They’re not just our greatest expense in labor, but they’re our biggest expense in profit.”

The retailer was honored with a Glassdoor Employees’ Choice Award for being among the Best Places to Work in 2021.

As discussed in the Convenience Matters podcast episode “Good Jobs Strategy”, convenience stores across the nation have found that a positive job experience for not only benefits employees but also consumers. For resources to help your team invest in your employees, check out “Calculate the Value of Employee Investment” in NACS Magazine.

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