Whether you’re on a long road trip or just heading home from work, chances are that you won’t want to pick up dinner from a gas station. After all, the nation’s fueling stops are better known for roller-grilled hot dogs and unhealthy snacks rather than fine dining. But with many American eaters on the hunt for fresh and convenient options, gas stations around the country have started meeting this demand by bringing restaurants on site.
For instance, in Leesburg, Virginia, drivers can fill up at the Liberty gas station and then head in for some spring rolls at Thai Pan, the stop’s attached eatery. Along with feeding commuters and locals, the restaurant also brings in many curious travelers who are looking for a change from the usual fare found on the road. At least 1,500 other eateries now operate like Thai Pan at “food-forward” gas stations.
This setup would have been unthinkable for major petroleum companies two decades ago. Around the early 2000s, though, profits from food, gas and cigarettes started on a long-term decline. In order to offset these costs, many gas stations began improving their food and drink options. 7-11, for example, moved towards preparing fresh fare like fruits and vegetables at local commissaries. Experts estimate that convenience markets now earn 34 percent of in-store profits from food and drink. Restaurants like Thai Pan stand to increase that share even further as consumers start seeing gas stations as more than places to refuel and take bathroom breaks.
- Will restaurants at “food-forward” gas stations be able to compete with eateries located in more traditional environments?
- What is the appeal of eating at a “food-forward” gas station?