KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Pilot Co. is embarking on a three-year, $1 billion initiative to overhaul hundreds of its travel centers across the country and improve the Pilot experience for customers and employees alike.
Known as New Horizons, the project will include full remodels of more than 400 Pilot and Flying J locations and upgrades at several more locations as part of the company's largest investment in store modernization yet.
"It is a tremendous mile-marker forward for our company in providing a consistently exceptional experience for our team members and our guests," said Whitney Johnson, the company's chief experience officer.
To plan New Horizons, Pilot sought out thorough feedback from customers and team members. Based on their responses, the company designed complete store overhauls that will include remodeled showers and restrooms, improved driver-focused amenities, expanded kitchen and dining areas, expanded digital engagement, and installation of the latest in fueling and retail technology.
"For 63 years, we've been proud to fuel millions of journeys and as we have done since our founding, we will continue to evolve the travel center experience to meet the changing needs of our guests and team members," said Pilot CEO Shameek Konar. "We are listening to what our guests want most at our locations and how we can improve our offerings to make their travels easier and more enjoyable. New Horizons will incorporate this feedback as we overhaul our entire network to deliver on what our guests value today and prepare our stores for the future."
The first phase of the project is already underway, with 50-plus Pilot and Flying J travel centers slated for renovation in 2022. Multiple phases will follow as the company progresses its store design and incorporates new innovations.
The retailer also noted that it plans to add 34 new locations to its network this year, and add 40 new Southern Tire Mart sites as part of its goal of having more than 200 maintenance locations, as Convenience Store News previously reported.
Key New Horizons enhancements include:
Top-to-bottom overhauls to store interiors and exteriors that feature energy-efficient lighting, an improved fueling experience, updated branding, refaced walls and industrial-style store accents to create a welcoming environment that leaves a lasting impression;
Additional and remodeled restroom, shower and laundry facilities that offer modern, energy-efficient fixtures, including touchless where possible, as well as new tile, fresh paint and brighter lighting;
Expanded seating and lounge areas that offer comfortable furnishings;
Redesigned store layouts that increase food and beverage variety and add more of Pilot's signature fresh deli items, including pizza, homestyle meals, grab-and-go foods and premium coffee — all in an easy-to-shop atmosphere;
Installation of state-of-the-art retail and fueling technology, including self-checkouts, to increase efficiency and enable team members to further personalize the guest experience;
Improved team member areas through upgraded, reconfigured and expanded breakrooms and workspaces, with new kitchen equipment and back-office solutions; and
Future innovations such as fueling alternatives, including electric vehicle (EV) charging stations and the development of a strategy to support low- and zero-emission vehicles.
Allison Cornish, zone vice president, shared that Pilot wants to "provide that consistent food experience to our guests" and will add its food expansion to as many locations as possible. The company seeks to provide food options for every occasion, including snack times, and will roll out fresh-cut fruit with seasonal options later this year.
"Technology is going to play a big part in our investment," Cornish added, noting that Pilot is prepared to adapt to an evolving automotive space. While EVs will definitely make up a larger segment of the passenger vehicle space, the future of trucking is less certain.
Pilot will also use technology to implement a connected experience that delivers personalized service from the gas pump to the mobile app to inside the store.
"We're meeting the guests where they are with the offer they want," said Mike Rogers, chief strategy and information officer.
As part of New Horizons, Pilot is furthering its investment in the communities in which it operates through its giving back program. This year, it will donate more than $500,000 to support local school districts in the areas where it is building new locations or remodeling existing stores. These contributions will go toward providing students with equal access to educational technology, a key focus area of giving back for the company.
"Our team members are an integral part of the guest experience, and we want to equip them with the tools to succeed while furthering our commitment to being a great place to work," said Konar. "With New Horizons, we are investing in the total Pilot experience — from our team members to our guests and to the communities we serve."
Knoxville, Tenn.-based Pilot Co. operates more than 800 retail and fueling locations in 44 states and six Canadian provinces.