Buc-ee’s – Not Your Father’s Fuel Stop

If you don’t think a gas station/convenience store can be a destination in and of itself, think again: Buc-ee’s has redefined the sector, experts told The Food Institute, boasting the cleanest restrooms, a wide array of private-label merchandise, and a spacious atmosphere of 75,000 square feet at its newest travel center in Luling, Texas.

“When you walk in, you feel good. It can be hard to identify why that is, exactly, but likely, there are several factors combined to create that feeling of awe,” said Melanie Musson, a travel expert with InsuranceProviders. “Buc-ee’s takes the convenience and elevates it. It makes sense to have a one-stop shop. You can get the fuel your car needs, a meal that competes with a sit-down restaurant, and some ChapStick in one stop.

“First, it’s clean and bright. There are no dingy aisles, and the ceilings are tall. It’s spacious and uplifting. Second, it’s buzzing with excited people. The people are happy to be there because of all the other factors, but they add another level of excitement. Third, it smells great. There are roasted nuts, BBQ, and cookies, and everything smells delicious. Fourth, you can find just about anything you need. From snacks to last-minute hostess gifts.”

Deidre Popovich, associate professor of marketing at Texas Tech University, said the company has created a place where people want to stop for gas and has great customer service. It also has a reputation for “paying its staff above the industry average. The Buc-ee Beaver is an adorable mascot, which also attracts customers, particularly since the chain offers branded merchandise, unique snacks such as Beaver Nuggets, fun gifts, and seasonal offerings to capitalize on various holidays.”

“Think of Buc-ee’s as the Walmart of the gas station market,” forensic marketing expert D. Anthony Miles of Miles Development Industries Corp. said. “They have completely dominated their target niche. Buc-ee’s even makes Walmart a bit nervous. I see Buc-ee’s as a bi- box category killer, like a Toys R Us or Office Max. They took the big-box business model and applied it to gas station retailer marketing.”

Like Walmart, Buc-ee’s went after small, semi-rural towns rather than major markets, Miles said.

The Luling site, which replaces a travel center that opened in 2003, is Buc-ee’s first targeted at families and its 50th in the United States overall (most of its stores are in Texas). The company also has stores in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, Missouri, and Colorado.

The new Buc-ee’s boasts 120 fuel pumps, thousands of national brand and private-label snacks, and meals and drinks (including Texas barbecue), the company said in a press release.

“The food selection is much closer to that of Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s than your typical convenience store [fare],” David Bakke of Dollar Sanity told FI. “The brisket is to die for. I’ve only enjoyed better brisket than that of Buc-ees at a handful of dedicated BBQ restaurants.”

The 200 employees at Luling start at above minimum wage (just $7.25 in Texas) Full benefits include a 6% matching 401k and three weeks of paid vacation.

Fast Company reported Buc-ee’s is also investing in electric charging stations, putting EV chargers at 12 locations in the so-called Texas Triangle – the Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth-Houston, San Antonio corridor – as part of a deal with Mercedes-Benz.

The Food Institute Podcast’s “Foodservice Gamechangers” Series

Get to know the men and women behind the scenes of foodservice distribution in a new, limited series from The Food Institute Podcast called “Foodservice Gamechangers.” Recently, Pat Mulhern, advisor to The Food Institute, sat down for brief conversations with seven of the most influential foodservice merchandising and distribution leaders. Highlighting their food career journeys and management styles, the conversations feature insightful thoughts on what may lie ahead for manufacturers, distributors, and operators in foodservice.