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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Pilot Flying J is working on several initiatives as part of its goal to be the go-to place along the interstate for professional drivers and four-wheel customers.
These initiatives include changes to its physical locations, as well as the offerings inside the stores.
"Pilot Flying J's goal each and every day is to connect people and places with comfort, care and a smile at every stop of their journey," Brian Ferguson, chief merchandising officer, said during a company call with the media on July 19. "Knowing the critical role the footprint of our travel centers play in achieving this goal, our team is working very hard to ensure we are updating our facilities, food and other in-store offerings to deliver a consistent, elevated experience to all drivers on the interstate no matter which Pilot or Flying J location they may visit."
At the start of this year, Pilot Flying J began a $485-million investment to renovate its existing locations over the next five years. According to Ferguson, the company has 45 facility enhancement projects planned for 2017. As part of this program, the company is focused on:
- Replacing signs and canopies with new logos;
- Updating all site and canopy lighting to LED;
- Enhancing the exterior look and feel of the stores, including adding stone, tile and stucco;
- Replacing floor tiles, ceilings and lighting where needed;
- Installing new cooler doors, as well as decorative tiles and graphics; and
- Updating deli cabinetry and equipment while installing upgraded beverage equipment.
In addition to refreshing existing locations, Pilot Flying J is opening new stores throughout North America this year, according to Ferguson. The new locations include gasoline pumps, PJ Fresh fast-casual dining, a wide coffee selection, free Wi-Fi, showers, and some drivers' lounges.
Dining and foodservice are also a priority focus of the company this year.
"Knowing a home-cooked, fresh and healthy meal is hard to come by on the road for our pro drivers, our food offerings are a key component of our five-year modernization and expansion plan," Ferguson said. "We recently hired Shannon Johnson as our new vice president of food innovation, bringing the experience and expertise needed to continue to boost our restaurant partnerships as part of our food offerings, as well as our PJ Fresh fast-casual dining."
Pilot Flying J is incorporating improved equipment and technology at all of its stores "to offer the very best possible food and beverage selections, and we are working to incorporate a made-to-order platform as well, providing customers the freedom to customize their orders to best meet their needs and tastes," Ferguson added.
In direct response to feedback from professional drivers, Pilot Flying J is changing up its merchandising mix, working to add an assortment of clothing and accessory options.
"Launched earlier this month, we are testing a unique shop-in-shop partnership with Bass Pro Shops at Store 411 located in Lebanon, Tenn., which allows us to continue exploring innovative ways to better our retail offerings," Ferguson said, noting that if successful, Pilot Flying J's goal is to expand the Bass Pro Shops offering across its footprint.
In addition, the Lebanon store features the company's latest "cutting-edge, interactive technology and products" in its Consumer Electronics Center. "We are excited to see how our customers respond to this new experience and to these great new products," he said.
"The first half of 2017 has been an exciting year thus far for Pilot Flying J and will continue to be throughout the remainder of the year. As we move into the second part of the year and into 2018, we will continue listening to the feedback of our professional drivers, fleet owners and our guests to improve our offerings to ensure we are providing the most positive experience possible across our footprint," Ferguson continued.
Speaking of positive experiences, Pilot Flying J continues to evolve its mobile app. Redesigned last year, the MyPilot app is expanding its features. The app rolled out myOffers earlier this month, which provides in-store deals directly to app users. The deals change every two weeks and include buy-one-get-one promos and twofers.
"Pro drivers continue to seamlessly integrate technology into their daily lives while on the road and are always looking for convenient, reliable platforms to make their lives easier. That's why here at Pilot Flying J, we are continuing to listen to the drivers and identifying opportunities to expand our [mobile] app's capabilities," Ferguson noted.
Also in the area of technology, Pilot Flying J is offering Pegasus TransTech Transflo ELD T7 devices at all of its store locations nationwide for $99. The discounted price runs through August. The device helps professional drivers conveniently manage electronic logs.
By this December, all professional drivers who keep records of duty status will be required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to replace their log books with electronic logging devices (ELDs). The ELD synchronizes with a vehicle's engine to automatically record data such as date, time, location and engine hours at certain intervals throughout a driver's journey.
"With a driver shortage and retention of professional drivers continuing to plague fleets of all sizes, our team is always looking at new services and offerings to make life easier for drivers on the road," according to Ferguson.