The Buc-ee’s Phenomenon

The Buc-ee's PhenomenonWe recently talked about the rise of “beloved” gas stations, brands that have passionate fans on social media. The King Kong of this phenomenon is Texas-based Buc-ee’s, and learning what they’ve done can help you build a better business.

Let’s look at what they focus on, which Buc-ee’s spokesman Jeff Nadalo summarizes as: “Providing award-winning clean restrooms, freshly prepared food, cheap gas, and outstanding customer service.”

Win Basics

We all might chuckle a bit at the phrase “award-winning restrooms,” but it’s not a joke. Some years ago Cintas awarded a Buc-ee’s in New Braunfels the title of “America’s Best Restroom.”

The second most popular/necessary thing to do when you stop for gas on a road trip is to make a visit to the bathroom. The expectation that consumers have developed over the years is one of fear and loathing: who knows what lurks in a gas station bathroom? Buc-ee’s turned that on its head by bragging about their bathrooms on billboards hundreds of miles out.

They raised expectations and then met or exceeded them.

Action item: what is something basic that customers in my industry fear or have low expectations of? How can I turn that on its head? For example, many who take their cars in for repair fear being cheated. Could a shop push the “most honest mechanics in town” narrative and then shoot photos and videos all throughout a repair, not just sharing them with a customer but repurposing them on social media, allowing the DIY folks to get an assist as well?

Add On Items

Buc-ee’s knows, at the bare minimum, they’ve got you for gas and the bathrooms. But they know once you’ve walked inside, you’re probably going to get hooked on any number of other things:

  • Their jerky wall features all sorts of high-quality Buc-ee’s jerky
  • The meat island, which includes the spectacle of one of the team calling out — and others responding — they are about to chop up some brisket
  • The nearby fudge station with fresh-made fudge ready for you to taste and buy
  • The ICEE wall, with all kinds of flavors of the beloved frozen treat
  • Lots of shelves stocked with the famous “beaver nuggets” (if you haven’t had them yet, this is puffed corn tossed in brown sugar, butter, and vanilla) and other “must-have” items for Buc-ee’s devotees
  • A large retail section, usually packed with ample local and regional products, incentivizes the surrounding community to champion Buc-ee’s

Buc-ee’s knows there are plenty of disciplined people who might walk past all these items on their way back out to the car. But there are also plenty of others who will be toting at least a bag (or two) of things they never imagined they needed or wanted (who expects to grab a delicious, fresh-made, authentic brisket sandwich when stopping at a gas station?).

Action item: how can I serve my customers beyond what they are already buying from me? If, for example, I’m a trusted landscaping company, would it be that hard to add on gutter cleaning, thereby saving my customers from having to find someone else? Or if I want to push seasonal business, how about stringing up Christmas lights (and taking them down)? As before, photos and videos can be taken of this work, boosting awareness of the brand online.

Be Friendly

Have you ever heard people complain that a business is just “too friendly”? People appreciate a friendly attitude and a kindly smile, especially if they’ve been on the road for a while. With people greeting you as you come and go, as well as staff roaming the store to make sure you’re never too far from help, Buc-ee’s makes sure that their retail experience is a far cry from what most Americans are used to these days.

On the weekends, their mascot, Buc-ee, periodically comes out to take pictures. A little-known secret we found out from a devotee: if you come on the weekend and don’t see him, you can ask a member of staff if he’s free to come out and meet you, and if you’re willing to wait a bit, he will.

Action item: It’s one thing to be friendly, but it’s another thing to have a reputation for friendliness. How can your business be more approachable? If you don’t have a large brick-and-mortar space (or any office space, for that matter), you could consider short video introductions that you can drop in an email with software like Loom so that potential customers can “meet” you and see the friendliness you and your team exude.

We want to help you get top dollar for your business. If you’re looking for other ways to add value to your company before it’s time to sell, give us a call today. We’ve got plenty of experience and ideas to share with you.

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