Looking for a drive-through gas station near you? Look no further than the list of stores below. But first, let’s talk about starting up one of these stores as your own small business.
People don’t want to leave the house. And if they have to leave their house, they certainly don’t want to leave their car. Thus, the drive-through gas station/convenience store.
Yes, the drive-through gas station is growing in popularity. Sure, we had a big push for curbside service of all types over the past couple of years. But this trend is continuing, and gas stations are evolving.
According to CSP Daily News, 51% of consumers would pick a drive-through as the #1 amenity that would make them choose one convenience store over another.
These types of stores have been around a while in various formats. For instance, in the northern states where it’s colder and people don’t want to leave their cars, some convenience stores actually let you drive into the store like a barn.
And in the South (where I live) there are long-time “beer barns” where you can drive through to get your liquor. Yep.
These types of stores are a great idea, because they focus on a unique customer experience.
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How to Start a Drive-Through Gas Station
So you want to start a drive-through gas station? The steps are pretty straightforward. You’ll need to find a place, get permission, design it, prepare your inventory, and start your marketing efforts. Here’s a simple breakdown of each.
Find a Location for your Drive-Through
When it comes to starting a gas/convenience store, finding the right location is key. You want to choose a spot that’s easy for people to get to and not too close to other similar stores.
Nolo.com has some great questions to ask to narrow down your location, including: affordability, zoning, competition, etc.
Consider buying an existing gas station and converting it to drive through to add value to the business.
Getting a Permit from the City for Your Store
Before you can open your gas/convenience store, you’ll need to get all the necessary approvals and permits from the local and state authorities.
Design Your Drive-Through
Designing your store is important too – you’ll need to figure out the layout of the fuel pumps, payment kiosk, and convenience store.
Buy Inventory for Your Gas Station Convenience Store
Managing your inventory is crucial – you’ll need to make sure you have enough of the right products and supplies, and keep track of everything you have on hand. With a drive-through store, a more minimal premium inventory might be the key.
Marketing the Drive Thru Gas Station
Don’t forget about marketing – you’ll want to let people know about your store and get them excited to come to check it out. You can do this through ads, promotions, social media, and more.
Some downsides to watch out for, according to Gavin Bradley of Convenience Store News.
Drive-thrus can be difficult to implement effectively, even for quick-service restaurants that already have a well-known menu.
Adding a drive-thru to a convenience store, where customers may not be familiar with all the offerings, can lead to long lines and increased difficulties. It takes careful planning and consideration to get it right.
Additionally, drive-thrus can shift the focus of labor from the customer to the store, requiring employees to shop for the customers rather than the customers doing it themselves. This can increase the risk of wrong items ending up in bags and potentially running the drive-thru at a loss.
Further, Gavin suggests some things to help your store stand out:
There are several solutions that can help convenience stores overcome challenges with drive-thru service, including:
- expanding service options,
- imposing limits on available items,
- exploring return-only windows, and
- tailoring service to the individual store and its customers.
Examples of Drive Through Gas Stations
Here are some examples of drive-through gas stations and what you should think about if you want to start one yourself.
1. Farm Store in Florida
Farm Stores, based in Florida, opened its first location in Miami back in 1957. It was a small, 350-square-foot drive-thru that sold fresh food like milk, butter, bread, eggs, and ice cream.
Customers would order at the window and then an employee would bring the items out to their car.
The drive-thru concept was inspired by the popularity of drive-in theaters and diners at the time. Now, Farm Stores has 65 locations in Florida and caters to busy parents with their small, convenient drive-thru stores.
Although the company’s revenues are undisclosed, they have reportedly been profitable.
2. The 7-11 in Dallas, TX
7-Eleven just opened up a drive-through in Dallas? Yeah, it’s their first one ever and it’s attached to their Laredo Taco Co. restaurant. You can get all the usual stuff like Slurpees and other drinks, but apparently you still gotta go inside for everything else.
Chris Tanco, the COO of 7-Eleven, said they’re trying to turn their stores into more of a destination by adding the convenience of a drive-through. They’ve opened a few of these “evolution stores” in places like NYC, DC, and San Diego over the past couple of years, too. Cool, right? Read more.
3. The Wawa in Pennsylvania
Yo, have you heard about Wawa’s new drive-thru store? Yeah, they’re testing it out in Pennsylvania and New Jersey this December. It’s like 1,850 square feet and it’s all drive-thru – no inside shopping allowed.
You just pull up to the window, place your order, and a Wawa employee will process your payment and hand over your stuff. And if the line gets too long or you’ve got a super big order, you can just park in the designated curbside spot and they’ll bring everything out to your car.
Wawa already had plans to try out this drive-thru concept before the pandemic hit, but they sped up the process because of COVID. Makes sense, right?
4. Yabbos in Louisiana
Get ready, Louisiana – Yabbos, a new drive-thru convenience store, is coming to town! They’re already getting the groundwork ready and everything.
But the best part? You don’t even have to leave your car for snacks, drinks, or anything. Just drive through the building’s special “tunnel” designed for cars and friendly store clerks will assist you.
Oh, and they’ll have Chevron brand fuel too. Sounds pretty dope, right?
5. Alta Dena Market in San Diego
The Alta Dena Market in San Diego’s Clairemont suburb has been a staple in the community for many years.
If you’ve never been, it’s definitely worth checking out. What sets it apart from other markets is the fact that you can actually drive through the store! That’s right, you don’t need to get out of your car to shop here.
There used to be lots of dairy markets like this all over Southern California, but the Alta Dena Market is the last one still standing in San Diego.
It’s a unique and convenient way to shop, and it’s been a beloved part of the community for decades. So if you’re ever in the area, be sure to swing by and check it out!
6. Auto-Drip in Maine
The Auto-Drip experience offers ready-made foods to go, as well as an impressive selection of beer and wine. In addition to pre-prepared foods, they also have a variety of grocery items available.
Customers can enjoy all of this from the comfort of their cars, with friendly service and a smile. The Auto-Drip team is known for providing the best customer service on the seacoast.
How Much Money Will You Need to Start a Drive-Through Gas Station
That depends. If you’re starting a custom, on-off store like Auto-Drip, then you’ll be looking at as little as few thousand to get started.
But if you’re buying into a franchise model, like 7-11 or Farm Stores, then you’ll have a more significant investment. For instance, Farm Stores franchises start at a minimum of $230,000.
Starting a drive-through gas station may seem like a daunting task, but with careful planning and a little bit of elbow grease, it can be a rewarding and profitable business venture. Just remember to keep your tanks full, your pumps working, and your customers happy.
And if things ever get a little too hectic, just remember the words of comedian Mitch Hedberg: “I used to do drugs. I still do, but I used to, too.”