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NASHVILLE, Tenn.--Franklin, Tenn.-based MAPCO Express Inc. is rolling out a new line of convenience stores that will emphasize an expanded menu of food items that can be ordered from the pump while customers are fueling, reported the Nashville City Paper .
The first MAPCO Mart is scheduled to open next month in Brentwood, Tenn. followed by a MAPCO Mart in Hendersonville, Tenn., said Michele Niec, manager of public relations for MAPCO Express, according to the report.
"It’s a new concept, a new look, and we’re looking at our existing stores to see which ones will remain MAPCO Express and which ones will eventually be retrofitted into MAPCO Marts," Niec told the Nashville City Paper .
She said in the report the new stores will open at a rate of about one per month next year in Tennessee.
The typical MAPCO Mart will span about 5,000 square feet and will have new prep kitchens and food seating areas so that customers can order food either to-go or for consumption on site, reported the Nashville City Paper .
The concept emphasizes food cooked to order in three minutes or less, Niec told the Nashville City Paper . Customers can use touch screens on the gas pumps to order food such as hamburgers, Philadelphia cheese steak sandwiches, breakfast sandwiches and salads. Stores will also feature larger beverage coolers and coffee stations.
Niec said in the report that some MAPCOs will be retrofitted, and others, such as the Hendersonville location, are being razed and rebuilt into new prototypes that will include outside seating areas.
According to the Nashville City Paper , she would not reveal what the company is spending on the retrofit. It’s the first significant upgrade for MAPCOs since Delek US, an Israeli company, bought the chain in 2001. There are 196 MAPCO stores, 112 of which are in Nashville.
Niec said in the report that the MAPCO Mart is borrowing concepts from two popular convenience stores based in the Pennsylvania area--Wawa and Sheetz.
Those two retailers are leading a trend among convenience stores to shift focus on food service to turn a profit in an era of declining margins on gasoline sales, Jeff Lenard, communications director for the National Association of Convenience Stores, told the Nashville City Paper .
"The retailers make money inside the store, and food service is a great opportunity for that," Lenard said in the report. "One of the things you see is retailers can make more selling a 12-ounce cup of coffee than a 12-gallon fill-up, by far."
MAPCO’s new focus on food has prompted the company to hire new store managers with restaurant and food service experience, Niec told the Nashville City Paper .