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    SavOn Hopes to Drive Success With Drive-Thrus

    Week after week, the chain is seeing double-digit growth in the number of users.

    ONEIDA, N.Y. -- SavOn Convenience Stores offer gasoline, tobacco, foodservice and the typical convenience store fare. But recently, four of the 12 stores owned by the Oneida Indian Nation added drive-thrus to the mix where customers can now pick up coffee, doughnuts and tobacco without having to park or enter the store.

    "The on-the-go lifestyle of guests is increasing and we needed to be more convenient," Sean Brown, SavOn's operations director, told CSNews Online. "As a guest fuels up, it is very convenient to drive up to the window and get moving very quickly."

    The drive-thru at SavOn's Dream Catcher Plaza location is connected to the store, while its other three drive-thrus are 8-foot by 12-foot kiosks that are positioned adjacent to the fuel island at the chain’s three highest volume locations.

    Customers can drive up between 5 a.m. and 7 p.m. to buy tobacco, including Native American cigarettes manufactured by the Oneida Indian Nation, pipe tobacco, filtered cigars and other tobacco products. They can also get a cup of Green Mountain Coffee and fresh Daylight Donuts. The Dream Catcher Plaza drive-thru even sells Blimpie subs and fountain drinks through its window.

    Guest feedback is important to the chain, and is one of the reasons the owners decided to add the drive-thru option. Continued customer feedback is helping to decide which products to sell at the drive-thru, with the latest addition being K-Cups.

    "We have a K-Cup program that is very popular, with strong sales in our stores; guests said they wanted it offered at the drive-thru,” Brown explained. "We are going to tailor the offerings to their feedback. Breakfast sandwiches are something we are planning for the near future based on the demand as well."

    The K-Cup program — pods for use in a Keurig coffee machine — is a big growth category for the SavOn chain. While the stores sell packs of them, they also offer a mix-and-match program that allows guests to create their own six-, 12- or 18-pack. "They are wildly popular, and customers are able to try different flavors," said Brown.

    The drive-thru kiosks have a separate staff, with one person manning each location. The coffee is made in the stores, and pots are brought out fresh to the kiosks as needed. The Dream Catcher location took on additional staff to accommodate its window.

    Since launching in October, the drive-thrus have seen double-digit growth week over week in the number of people using the option. During the launch, customers took advantage of the promotional offer of a 16-ounce coffee and a Daylight Donut at the drive-thru for only $1.49.

    "The drive-thrus are not something expected, so we have been educating our guests with Windfeathers, digital reader board signs and cashiers telling them inside the stores," Brown noted. Additionally, while the morning traffic is high, many of the locations are seeing an increase in evening traffic. SavOn may extend the drive-thru hours in the future to accommodate this, particularly at the chain's Canastota, N.Y., location.

    For more on how SavOn is enhancing its locations, check out the February issue of Convenience Store News.

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