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ALTOONA, Pa. — Sheetz Inc.’s future is in a new format, the “convenience restaurant,” which operates independently of gasoline sales, Louie Sheetz, a member of the Sheetz Inc. board of directors and brother of company founder Bob Sheetz, said during a recent speech at the Carlisle Rotary Club.
“You don’t make money in the gas business anymore,” he told the audience. “You do make people come to your parking lot. Gasoline really drives the food and beverage business, which is where your profit is.”
According to the Cumberland Valley Business Journal, this transformation to a food and beverage focus has already begun. Sheetz Inc.’s first full-scale convenience restaurant is already operating in its hometown of Altoona.
As a c-store operator known for its foodservice innovation, Louie Sheetz recalled back in the 1980s when a store manager came up with the idea of having a deli counter with nearly unlimited options. Then head of marketing under his brother, Louie Sheetz loved the idea and termed it MTO, an acronym for made-to-order, the news source reported.
“The reason [Bob] made so many changes is because people’s lifestyles have changed so much in the last six decades,” he said. “Convenience has become more and more highly valued.”
Louie Sheetz did acknowledge gasoline sales revenue is difficult to replace, especially in the chain's home state of Pennsylvania, which has the highest fuel tax in the country.
To drive even more growth under its convenience restaurant format, Sheetz Inc. is eyeing beer sales. Currently, under Keystone State law, Sheetz Inc. must get a restaurant or eatery liquor license and run the operation out of a separate register with separate seating. Retailers such as Sheetz Inc. are fighting to be granted more leeway in this process.
“Beer sales are an integral part of our business model in other states,” said Louie Sheetz. “We know our customers in Pennsylvania would love to see beer in stores. It’s just a matter of finding the right political approach to do so.”