The Love’s Revolution

With an increasing store count, ongoing redesigns and a renewed focus on foodservice, Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores has transformed its business model.
Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores is set to begin construction on its 300th location this August. As it prepares for this milestone, the travel stop and c-store giant is making a dynamic push to bring its 58 Love’s Country Stores—in Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas—up to speed with full interior and exterior facelifts.
Along with these extensive remodels, Love’s is ramping up its foodservice presence, expanding its proprietary Love’s Subs brand to include pizza and burritos; remodeling its coffee, condiments and grab-and-go sections and providing customers with new frozen beverage and yogurt programs. The proprietary foodservice program feeds nicely into the company’s Love’s fuel brand, enhancing its overall brand value.
In addition to currently operating 292 Travel Stops and Country Stores in 39 states, Love’s also operates more than 500 Gemini Motor Transports, 148 Love’s Truck Tire Care locations, four Love’s-branded car washes and a number of QSRs (see sidebar). In the latter half of 2012, the chain aims to build eight new travel stops with its 300th location set to open in early 2013.
“Currently with our c-store division, we are going through the process of looking into what we can do to better service our customers, upgrading the appearance of our stores and providing more offerings to our customers,” said Mike Herman, director of operations for Love’s Country Stores.
In 2011, Love’s first began sprucing up its stores, upgrading to three-in-one fuel dispensers at all 58 of its convenience stores. With the forecourts finished—in May 2012–the full store remodels began. At presstime four stores had already received facelifts with the project scheduled for completion in 2014.
“Each store is on a different timeline,” Herman noted. “We’re targeting about 15 stores this year, and we’ll target another 15-20 in 2013. We’re on a process where stores most in need and our highest traffic stores are converted first.”
Outside-In Revamp
Stores set for remodeling will receive an updated exterior with a brick stone motif; however, the outdoor graphics package, which rolled out just 10 years ago, will remain the same. “We’re still pleased with that package and our graphics still look really good,” Herman said. “As we added the new three-in-one gas dispensers, we also just updated the graphics on our pumps.”
Inside, the stores will receive a more extensive remodel, complete with new floor and ceiling tiles, a brighter, more energy efficient lighting package with two-bulb fixtures (down from four), a fresh interior graphics design, and a new cherry-walnut color on the walls to brighten the stores and offer a more upscale and “food-friendly” feel. The restrooms will also receive an upgrade, with single stall units becoming dual stall restrooms with dual sinks.
The new interior graphics design includes new menu boards and fresh signage for Love’s newly introduced frozen drink and yogurt programs.
With so much competition for share of stomach, Love’s understands that there are no shortcuts to providing outstanding service, great products and value.
“There are three reasons why customers choose a convenience store,” Herman noted. “One is fuel, two is restrooms and three is food. It could be in any order. We’re committed to evaluating those three reasons customers stop, and providing them plenty of options.”
To that end, in addition to updating its gasoline dispensers in the forecourt with three-in-one fuel (diesel, unleaded regular and super unleaded), Love’s also rolled out compressed natural gas (CNG) beginning last December at several of its existing locations across Oklahoma for a grand total of 11 CNG stations, giving the state of Oklahoma more than 70 existing or planned public CNG stations. 
Love’s Through the Years
• 1964: Tom and Judy Love incorporated Musket Corp., the predecessor to Love’s Country Stores, and leased an abandoned filling station in Watonga, Okla. for $5,000.
• 1972: The first Love’s Country Store opened in Guymon, Okla., combining a c-store with self-service gas—a new concept at the time.
• 1978:  Love’s Country Stores expanded to 60 locations in small communities in Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas. In-store delis were introduced to make fresh sandwiches on site.
• 1981: The first interstate Love’s Travel Stop opened in Amarillo, Texas.
• 1992: Taco Bell Express debuted in an Oklahoma City Love’s Travel Stop. Today, more than 150 QSRs are located in Love’s  Travel Stops & Country Stores nationwide.
• 1998: Love’s partnered with Children’s Miracle Network to hold an annual in-store fundraiser. Over the next 12 years, Love’s will have raised more than $4 million for children’s medical research.
• 2008: The Truck Tire Care concept was introduced, offering roadside assistance and tire care at select Travel Stop locations.
• 2010:  Love’s acquired 20 Pilot Travel Centers and six Flying J locations as a result of antitrust concerns regarding the Pilot-Flying J merger.
• 2011: Love’s upgraded to three-in-one fuel dispensers at its Country Stores, and added compressed natural gas (CNG) dispensers to 11 stores in the Oklahoma market.
• 2012: Love’s announced plans to construct eight new Travel Stops before the new year, with its 300th location set to open in 2013. The company also embarked on a plan to remodel its fleet of Country Stores, while expanding its proprietary foodservice program to include burritos and pizza, as well as a grab-and-go selection.