Hit-n-Run Food Stores Prepares for the Future

Brenton Investment Corp. is set to build a new prototype design as it sets its sights on growth through new builds.

By Erin Rigik, Associate Editor.

With 11 years under its belt and 13 successful convenience stores throughout southern Louisiana, Brenton Investment Corp. is ready to grow its fleet of Hit-n-Run Food Stores beginning with a bigger, better prototype store set to debut in 2012.

But Hit-n-Run isn’t stopping there. In conjunction with the new look, the chain is turning its attention to expanding its proprietary deli program with an improved menu and is adding more QSR co-branded locations to meet customer demand for on-the-go foods.

Brenton Investment Corp. got its start in 2000, when founder Brent Mouton, a veteran of the c-store industry since 1986, decided to venture out on his own. He began Hit-n-Run with just one store in Louisiana and grew the company steadily through acquisitions over the next 11 years. Today, all 13 stores are anchored by either Chevron or Shell gasolines in the forecourt. Most already offer foodservice—either via the proprietary deli brand or QSR partner—and the stores that don’t yet have a foodservice program, soon will.

 “Today we are focused on customer service, foodservice and improving inside margins,” said Mouton.

Before the year is out, Hit-n-Run is set to complete the remodel of two existing properties and will have added two new Subway restaurants for a grand total of three Subway locations. In addition to Subway, the chain leases property from a McDonald’s at one location and to a  Wendy’s at another c-store site. “Foodservice is extremely important to us and we are aggressively trying to improve in this area,” Mouton noted.

A New Look
In 2012, Brenton Investment Corp. plans to debut its new prototype location, revamping an older site in Lafayette, La., through a raze and rebuild.

“We are basically taking a store built in 1987 and rebuilding it. It has been a good store, and it’s a busy store but, as you can guess, over 24 years it’s showing its age,” Mouton said.

Currently, the store measures about 2,200 square feet and has four multiple product dispensers (MPDs). During the rebuild, the store will expand by 1,500 square feet, boosting the location’s footprint to 3,700 square feet and including a total of eight MPDs.

“When you look at our stores today, our average stores size is around 2,000 square feet, and that’s not enough space to do what we need to do. Some of our bigger stores currently measure 2,500 or 2,600 square feet, but that’s still just not enough room to be competitive with areas like foodservice,” Mouton said.

During the renovations, Hit-n-Run is also turning its attention to its restrooms. “We’re going to spend more than double what we would normally spend on the restrooms at that location and go with an upscale look,” Mouton said. “People have come to expect more out of convenience stores now, so we don’t just want to meet those expectations we’d like to try to exceed them.”

A softer color scheme is also being created to replace the chain’s usual neutral off-white and beige color palate with a brighter look. “We want something pleasing to the eye,” Mouton said. “The female demographic, which is a very important part of our business—even though the bulk of our customer base is male—prefers more of a softer look. So we want to have a color scheme that won’t offend the core customer, but at the same time will present a nicer offering and a nicer overall store package so we appeal to a wider range of people.”

The prototype unit will also feature a new set of graphics, including menu boards and inside and outdoor signage as well as updates to the chain’s logo.

“We’re somewhat limited because of the Chevron sign as far as what we can do on the road signage so upgrades will mainly be on the building,” Mouton said. “Our current logo is simple and nondescript with a blue background and red letters outlined in white, but we’re jazzing it up as part of the graphics overhaul, and we’re tying it all together. Then we’ll have a graphics package that we can tweak and then roll forward to other locations.”

Foodservice Focus
In developing the prototype, Hit-n-Run Food Stores is taking a hard look at its foodservice offering and looking for ways to enhance its presentation. The store Hit-n-Run is about to rebuild features the chain’s best proprietary deli in terms of volume.

Currently the proprietary deli does a strong business with chicken, seafood, and breakfast and lunch plates. A breakfast plate includes customer favorites such as eggs and bacon. Once the new prototype store is up and running, customers will be able to find an expanded menu with an array of sandwiches, including po’boys, a traditional submarine sandwich from Louisiana that is sure to be a hit with local customers.  

Customers will also be able to get a glimpse of their food being prepared fresh. “In the old days you could get away with throwing a deli case up on the counter and adding a couple of cash registers and do your thing, but that just doesn’t cut it anymore,” Mouton said. “You’ve got to have more of an open kitchen where people can see what’s going on behind the counter, and it has to be more interactive with the customer. Customers have gotten used to that. You look at a lot of your successful restaurant chains now and a lot of them are following that format. Subway has spoiled customers that way where they’re able to see everything being prepared.”

Future Plans
Brenton Investment Corp.’s decision to create a new design evolved out of its desire to continue to expand in a market that was lacking in appealing acquisition opportunities.

“The larger chains in our area won’t be selling any stores and most smaller players that are looking to get out of the business have already gotten out, so there are not as many opportunities to acquire the types of quality stores we are interested in going forward,” Mouton said.

In order to stay on track with its expansion goals, Hit-n-Run has turned its attention to growing through new builds. “An easy way to start is by rebuilding an existing store,” Mouton said. “We know we have a popular corner and we already do a strong business at the store that will become our new prototype, and it needed to be rebuilt, so it was a good place to start.”

Mouton noted that the price for building a new location has soared in recent years. “It’s virtually impossible to do it now for under $2 million,” he said. “When I first started in this business you could build three locations for that kind of money.”

Once the prototype is up and running, Hit-n-Run aims to use the new store look and format as it continues to expand throughout south Louisiana, building one store a year for the next few years.  

“We see lots of opportunity for growth over the next several years,” Mouton said. “Once we get all the bugs worked out and all our costs in line, then at that point we might look at building two stores a year.”

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