Credit: PHOTO BY DUKE PHOTOGRAPHY / GRAPHIC BY NICK ORABOVIC
When it’s time to fuel up and grab a snack, Rick Chafey says
nothing is better than QuikTrip.
“Their attention to detail is incredible, just across the
board,” explains the owner of Red Rock Pools in Gilbert,
That attention plays out in a variety of ways, including customer
service, efficiency and product variety. Though Chafey says each of
those areas sets QuikTrip apart from the competition, he adds that
it’s the company’s devotion to improvement in even the
tiniest touches that makes it an inspiration to his own
Perhaps the most noticeable, and most unique, of QuikTrip’s
innovations is its point-of-sale setup.
Instead of the typical arrangement of one employee per cash
register per line, QuikTrip has re-imagined the entire checkout
process from the ground up.
“We have three or four cash registers per location, and each
employee at the register is typically dealing with two lines of
people at once,” explains Mike Thornbrugh, manager of public
and government affairs at QuikTrip in Tulsa, Okla. Not only does
this setup increase checkout speed — it allows each employee
the chance to interact with the customer at the front of one line
while another’s payment is being processed.
Even so, such a system is only as effective as the people who staff
it — and QuikTrip takes care to excel in that department as
well. The company encourages its employees to greet every guest who
steps through the door, and take time to make small talk during the
checkout process. “We make a point of hiring bright,
energetic multi-taskers,” he says. “A lot of that
friendliness comes from their own common sense.”
Another admired aspect of the chain is its dedication to variety.
Most convenience stores carry one or two products from a given
supplier, but QuikTrip often stocks as many choices as are
available. “From snacks to fountain drinks, they do a really
good job of carrying a wide selection,” Chafey says.
“They even have two different types of ice.”
Though many of these adaptations are uniquely suited to the
convenience store industry, the thinking they reflect can provide
lessons for any professional. “Whether you’re a
convenience store or a pool builder,” Chafey says,
“understanding customer concerns is one of the hardest
aspects of any business — and also the most
And there’s an even broader lesson Chafey takes from
QuikTrip’s success: True leaders don’t just try to beat
the competition — instead, they focus on constant improvement
in every aspect of their business.
“We check our system continually to make sure our employees
are greeting and helping customers, being friendly and so
on,” Thornbrugh says. In short, the company is always looking
for ways to improve its service.
By contrast, Chafey cites another leading convenience store chain
in his area, whose continued market dominance led to a gradual drop
in attention to detail, and in the company’s overall drive to
improve. But ever since QuikTrip brought a more popular business
model to town, the competing chain has worked to conform to the new
That example, Chafey says, demonstrates why regular self-analysis
and fine-tuning are crucial for a businessperson in any line of
work. “Instead of trying to chase down someone who can show
you how to do it better, you need to make sure you’re doing
it better in the first place,” he says. “You want to be
the leader at all times.”