QuikTrip will roll out its Generation 3 store prototype in Wichita Thursday morning, with the opening of the company’s newest store at 625 S. Hillside.
It’s the latest and the largest model as the Tulsa-based convenience store chain steps up its bid for the local fast-food dollar – and readies itself to sell more alcoholic beverages if Kansas loosens its liquor laws.
The new 5,700-square-foot store is a significant departure from the QT business model, company spokesman Mike Thornbrugh said. Its features include two front doors, a larger QT Kitchens area, room for more liquor and a first for the chain – a speciality hot and cold drink and ice cream area staffed by baristas.
“Typically, everything in our stores has been self-service, so this is definitely our newest wrinkle,” Thornbrugh said. “This is going to require more staff, and it requires a store laid out in a way so the checkstands are completely different. It will require more work and effort to keep everything in place, to merchandise things properly and take care of the customer.
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“The other side of the change is we know Kansas will change its adult beverage laws. If not this year, shortly. This new look gives us the opportunity to accommodate customer choices.”
Currently, convenience stores can only sell 3.2 beer and wine coolers. A move to allow grocery and convenience stores to sell liquor, wine and full-strength beer died during the last legislative session.
The extra room also will mean more daily fresh food, and Thornbrugh said QT’s venture into the fast-food business will only grow.
“QT Kitchens offers us the opportunity to grow with a lot more variety, and this concept gives us the opportunity to do so,” he said. “Our core customer wants something readily consumable, something they can walk in and grab and eat in the car, or take back to work and home. That side of our business is continuing to grow.”
The company also plans to grow its “Grab-and-Go” food line, including pizzas, lasagna and pastas.
The new prototype and store layout represents a change in traditional in-store traffic patterns, Thornbrugh said, and is designed to route customers directly to what they want.
Wichita State University marketing professor Cindy Claycomb called the store changes “quite a step for them.”
“Particularly the baristas,” she said. “Their business model has always been built on employees who are fairly interchangeable so it’ll be interesting to see if the baristas specialize or if the store will have more cross-training. That would seem logical to me.”
Nonetheless, “they have a reason for everything they do,” Claycomb said. “They really test what they’re thinking in Tulsa and if they go forward, they’re confident in it.
“There’s a market for the food expansion, if you can compete with the likes of McDonald’s This certainly seems to ramp them up to be even more of a one-stop shop than McDonald’s.”
The new Wichita store joins three in Tulsa, four in the Carolinas, one in Texas, one in Kansas City and 45 new stores under construction. Currently, QT has 591 stores nationally, including about 20 in the Wichita area.