Kudos to Houston!

An inside look at the Greater Houston Retailers Cooperative Association’s c-store brand.

February 16, 2024

Late in 2023, the Greater Houston Retailers Cooperative Association’s (GHRA) launched its Kudos concept store—a gas station, c-store, and kitchen designed around three key elements: a community center that celebrates local heroes such as firefighters and teachers (and gives them their kudos); a high-quality food and beverage program; and customer outreach.

Now, GHRA has one Kudos store open, another set to debut in early 2024, and several others on the horizon.

While a number of factors led to Kudos’ launch, the idea was largely born from the association’s desire to set itself apart in a crowded Houston market.

“One of the things about the c-store industry is, we share pretty much wildly. We dare you to emulate, right? We’re not shy about saying this is what we do and how we do it and good luck trying to do what we do. It’s all about the secret sauce. And so we look at: How do we lean in on loyalty, how do we lean in on technology, how do we scale a brand into the face of the consumer and win the hearts and minds and wallets.”

That secret sauce?

As Trout said, “Everybody sells sodas and chips and gum and mints. So how do we differentiate ourselves? It’s our service, it’s our community-mindedness, and it’s our food service platforms.”

He added that GHRA is aware it needs to focus more on Millennials and Gen Zers, and “understanding what’s important to the consumers is a big angle for connecting with that.”

The Kudos concept started with the idea of a base protein—chicken—although it has rapidly grown from there. It now includes breakfast items (biscuits and tacos); wraps and salads; and bakery items. The menu was developed with the help of a California-based organization, and at GHRA, the recipes are crafted under the watchful eye of its chef, “Captain” Glenn Cates. The Kudos concept has expanded to include a full-service espresso bar, and GHRA plans to offer a line of private-label sweets and snacks from local artisans.

Trout said GHRA has “leaned on some industry experts to help formulate” the concept, and it continues to shift and adapt as the association learns more about Kudos and its customers.

Naveed Ali, who is set to open the second Kudos store in New Carney, Texas, said that the Kudos food concept is similar to what QSRs carry and that it offers options for all three meals.

Ali said, “Similar to QSRs, people are driving through and don’t have to come out of their car. But they still have their food. They still have the fuel. [If they want to come into the store to] get their other stuff, they can.”

He’s excited for the store’s grand opening because it’s a chance for him to invite community members and see them inside.

“Kudos is all about appreciating everyone,” he said.

Read more about GHRA and the Kudos concept stores in the February issue of NACS Magazine.