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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Although Pilot Flying J has been making headlines for the past five months because of the fraud allegations surrounding its fuel rebate program, one company executive explained that there is more to the retailer than its rebate program.
"The focus of the investigation has been on rebates for diesel fuel sales, but that's a very small portion of Pilot Flying J," Ken Parent, executive vice president, said in an interview posted on Pilot Flying J's rebate education website, rebateeducation.pilotflyingj.com. "As I oversee the day-to-day operations of the company, my goal and one of my key roles is to make sure that our team members and our core business are not impacted by what is going on. We are 100 percent focused on doing the right thing for our customers and our team members."
In his position, Parent oversees the field operations for Pilot Flying J's 650 travel center locations across the United States and Canada. He is also responsible for the Knoxville, Tenn.-based company's human resources, technology and marketing departments.
Parent said the April 15 federal raid on Pilot Flying J's headquarters has had "little effect" on the daily business. The departments he oversees are highly focused on delivering quality service to customers, and developing and training team members, he added.
"Overall, there has been little effect," he said. "I am very proud that our team has remained focused on our day-to-day operations and ways we can continue to serve our customers better. Externally, we immediately reached out to all of our vendors. We have been very open with everyone. They know we are taking this matter seriously and that we will continue to keep them informed."
As for other aspects of the company, Pilot Flying J is working on several projects, including technological advances like mobile checkout, an assisted checkout program to eliminate lines, and leveraging technology to eliminate managerial back office and administrative duties, according to Parent.
"In short, we are focused on giving our customers choices to make their experience with us more convenient. If they want to get in line and check out at the counter, they certainly can. If they want to get in and out quickly, they can be checked out on a mobile device. And if they want an assisted self-serve checkout, we will give them that option, too," he explained.
In addition, Pilot Flying J continues to grow and open new stores -- opening 16 new stores so far this year. Two more locations in Odessa, Texas, and Belmont, Ohio, will open by the end of the year, the executive said.
"Around 30 percent of my time is focused on marketing and merchandising and working on ways to increase our sales at the travel centers," he said. "One of the biggest opportunities we have right now is finding alternative food choices and healthier options for our drivers. Whether it's adding completely new concepts, such as our PJ Fresh Marketplace, or adding a new product to shelves in our stores, we want to make sure our customers have plenty of choices when they visit us."
While he acknowledged that the first 60 days after the raid were "particularly tough on everyone," he said morale is good right now and improving every day.
"We will come out a much better, stronger company. We are tightening our processes and procedures, increasing training and evaluating the company as a whole," he stated. "We are all focused on moving forward in the right direction. We hope that our customers recognize our efforts in the travel centers to provide a fast, friendly and clean atmosphere."