Employees Fuel QuikTrip’s Success

QuikTrip Corp.,  the Oklahoma-based convenience retailer, opened for business in 1958 with a single store and second-hand furnishings. Today, the chain is made up of 532 convenience stores across nine states, all of them open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The privately-held, family-owned business has approximately 10,000 employees, who reportedly enjoy their jobs. For six years running, QuikTrip has been on Fortune magazine’s national list of “100 Best Companies to Work For.”

A lot has changed in the 17 years since QuikTrip was recognized as CSD’s Convenience Store Chain of the Year. Back then, management had no idea how fresh foods would transform the the convenience store industry and become an integral part of the industry’s day-to-day operations, according to Mike Thornbrugh, public relations manager for QuikTrip. “It’s no secret that we’re focused on the fresh food category,” he said, noting that the stores now offer Hotzi breakfast sandwiches every morning and Café QuikTrip sandwiches all day long.

Those proprietary products, as well as wraps, desserts and pastries, are prepared at local QT commissaries and bakeries and then transported to area stores so they will be fresh when customers need them. “Our newest commissary-bakery will soon start delivering to our Dallas-area stores,” Thornbrugh said.

Investing in Infrastructure
If QuikTrip locations seem to sparkle, that’s because the chain’s average store is only seven years old. Company officials have shuttered older, outdated stores almost as fast as they’ve built new ones. After a new store opens, QuikTrip invests more than $50,000 a year on extras like landscaping and maintenance to keep the site looking sharp.

Technology has brought about unexpected changes, as well. Currently, QuikTrip has a Web group of 150,000 subscribers who have volunteered to share their opinions about products and services. The company emails them an online survey each month, and those who participate receive a coupon for a free hot dog and a 32-ounce fountain drink. “We get to ask them questions about gasoline or fresh pastries,” said Thornbrugh. “They’re a great resource for us.”

QuikTrip stores began selling gasoline in the 1970s, and today it is an important part of the chain’s operation. More than 7,000 businesses are QuikTrip fleet customers, and every gallon of QuikTrip gasoline contains its proprietary IQ, a specially formulated additive that helps keep engines clean and running efficiently.

The company has long been involved in community activities and contributes 5% of its annual profits to local charities. For two decades, QuikTrip has participated in Safe Place, a program designed to help runaway, suicidal or abused youth. Each store serves as a non-threatening safe haven and is identified by a bright yellow and black diamond-shaped “Safe Place” sign. Store employees are trained to assist any young person who walks in the door seeking help. The company also provides financial support to the agencies that train Safe Place volunteers.

In 2008, retired QuikTrip founder Chester Cadieux released his first business book, From Lucky to Smart: Leadership Lessons from QuikTrip. Critics described it as a thoughtful, down-to-earth book that addresses a broad range of business decisions, including Cadieux’s philosophy that employees who serve the public are the heart of an organization.

Also in 2008, QuikTrip celebrated its 50th birthday—and its long history of success—by distributing 40,000 free tickets to an eight-hour concert/celebration in its home city of Tulsa that included performances by Leon Russell and Hanson.

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