Americans Increasingly Choose Fueling Locations Based on Associated Quality of Food

A new national survey from NACS shows a growing trend of consumers seeking out high-quality food and beverages as part of their fueling experience.
March 29, 2017

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Americans are increasingly seeking out fueling locations based on the quality of the food associated with the gas station, according to new national survey results released today by NACS. While survey results show that gas price is still the primary determinant in selecting a station, an increasing percentage of consumers say that the quality of items inside the store dictates where they buy fuel. In fact, one in seven drivers (16%) say that the in-store offer is driving their fueling decision, a 5-point increase since 2015.

Overall, 51% of American drivers say that the gas price is the reason that they prefer a specific store or chain, a 6-point drop over the past two years. Because of the expanded food and beverage offer, fueling customers also are going inside the store more: 42% of those fueling up also went inside the store, a 7-point jump from two years ago. For those going inside, the most popular reasons were to pay for gas at the register (50%), buy a beverage (45%) or buy a snack (36%). More than one in five (22%) say they used the restroom. Overall, 8% say they bought a sandwich or meal, but that percentage jumped to 13% for younger consumers ages 18 to 34.

“The numbers clearly show the growing trend of consumers seeking out food and beverages as part of their fueling experience. While retailers know they need to aggressively compete on gas prices—67% of Americans say they will drive 5 minutes out of their way to save 5 cents per gallon—it also shows that there are other ways to compete for customers with a quality in-store offer,” said NACS Vice President of Strategic Industry Initiatives Jeff Lenard.

Gasoline demand in 2016 reached a record 9.32 million barrels per day, but only 33% of American drivers report that they drove more in 2016. For those who say they drove more, 41% cited their job as the main reason, as opposed to only 8% who cited gas prices.

Others findings from the survey results include:

  • 73% of fuel customers pay by debit (37%) or credit (36%) card. Debit cards are most popular with younger consumers ages 18-34 (45%).
  • Evening rush is the most popular time to purchase fuel (36%), significantly more than morning rush (22%).
  • Nearly half (46%) of consumers say they have gotten a discount for their fuel by using a loyalty card or app, and 23% have gotten a discount for paying by cash.
  • For those purchasing a sandwich or meal, 56% say they eat in their car, compared to 34% who eat it once they arrive at their destination and 10% who eat at tables in the store.
  • Drivers expect that gas prices will increase throughout 2017. They predict that prices will be $2.84 at year’s end, a 52-cent increase from prices on January 1.

The survey results were released today as part of the 2016 NACS Retail Fuels Report (www.nacsonline.com/gasprices), which examines conditions and trends that could impact gasoline prices. The online resource is annually published to help demystify the retail fueling industry by exploring, among other topics, how fuel is sold, how prices affect consumer sentiment, why prices historically increase in the spring and which new fuels are likely to gain traction in the marketplace. 

The survey was conducted online by Penn Schoen Berland; 1,114 U.S. adults who purchase fuel for a vehicle such as a car, truck or van at least once per month were surveyed January 4-6, 2017.

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