DoorAmy Bel/May 28, 2023 7:30 AM EST
Sometimes you don't realize you're addicted to chain stores until you start noticing that you've developed a regular routine of buying your favorite drinks or foods. And if you find yourself in a city without your favorite grocery store, you're likely to panic. WhenFree powersurveyed people about their habits at gas stations, they found that almost 60% of customers choose their favorite station rather than the nearest station or the one with the lowest prices. The average shopper would drive 18 minutes to their favorite gas station, while places like Buc-ee's are worth a 21-minute drive.
Shoppers are drawn to stores with scrupulously clean locations and consistently friendly staff. Other attractions include entire walls of drink, coffee and slush fountains, along with craving foods and snacks that are both naughty and delicious. Some have even become travel destinations in their own right. Zealous fans continue to spread the gospel of their favorite stores and even post their latest snack deals on social media. We set out to find out what makes some stores so fan-worthy.
QuikTrip has been providing fast and friendly service since it first opened in 1958 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Not only are they meticulously clean and well organized, but they also offer plentyfood optionsthey become addictions. QT strives to attract a staunchly loyal fan base with a variety of food for almost any craving. As the name promises, you get in and out quickly.
You'll find an entire side of the store dedicated to coffee, juices and slush. Actually more good than scary, QT's roller belt fare ranges from hot dogs and spring rolls to taquitos and buffalo chicken cheesy appetizers. There are plenty of take-out options, including breakfast and lunch sandwiches, fresh fruit cups, salads and single slices of chocolate or carrot cake. In recent years, most locations have purchased QT Kitchens space to create custom orders such as pizza, ice cream, fancy coffee drinks and sandwiches. The order kiosk helps transfer orders and provides proof of payment.
As of January 2022, there were 900 QTs gathering fans in 14 countries. Most of them are in the South and Midwest. After you've been to QT, you'll feel pampered walking into other local stores like Casey's. When QT finally comes to town, it's not uncommon to see people camping out in anticipation of opening day.
Kwik Trip i Kwik Star
While neither store is doing well, don't confuse QuikTrip with Kwik Trip. Kwik Trip didn't open its first store until 1965 in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, seven years later and 740 miles away from QuikTrip. Comparing the two, they're similar in many ways — although you're more likely to turn to Kwik Trip for groceries than QuikTrip.
Kwik Trip continued to add new items to its menu, including pastries, doughnuts, cold dishes like salads and sandwiches, and fried chicken. You can opt for a cheeseburger, pizza or burrito, but you can also find side dishes such as mac and cheese or mashed potatoes. Stop by Kwik Trip and pick up a takeout meal, like a meatloaf and potato dinner, beef stroganoff or even a rack of barbecue ribs, or grab a take-n-bake pizza, which is also on offer. Along with the usual canned and bottled drinks, you can buy frappes and fruit frappes — or healthier choices like yogurt and fruit bowls.
There are approximately 850 locations in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. However, note that the chain is called Kwik Star in Iowa. In these three states, Kwik Trip and Kwik Star are the kings of convenience, and fans swear loyalty to them. The chain has an obsessive online presence, with several Kwik Trip Fan Clubs, which have garnered thousands of fans, tons of photos and even Kwik Trip memes.
Don't get aWawafanatical about Wawa's superiority over other stores. Wawa has a cult following with over 1.3 million fans on its Facebook page. According to aFree powerresearch, the average customer spends 16 minutes and $84 at each Wawa station, more than any other gas station. Customers rate it highly for cleanliness, customer service and good food. Even if your car doesn't use gas, you can use Wawa to charge electric cars. Because 200 Wawa doesn't even sell gas, it holds itself in a different way than most stores.
The packaged food section has something for everyone. You can fill up on high-quality coffee, made-to-order espresso drinks, pastries, frozen drinks and milkshakes. You can order a wide variety of sandwiches at the kiosk, including the chain's famous hoagies or bistro-level paninis — you can even get soup and desserts.
Even if you've never been to Wawa, you may have seen it on the TV show "The Goldbergs," set in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. Wawa began as a dairy farm in Wawa, Pennsylvania in 1902. It supplied milk throughout the Philadelphia area before turning into a grocery store in Folsom, Pennsylvania in 1964. Franchise enthusiasts can now find more than 950 Wawas in seven states along the East Coast.
J.Michael Jones/Getty Images
You will find hard opposite feelings from rivals Wawa andPagesfans. ANDRedditorof Pennsylvania calls Sheetz "an unhealthy version of Wawa." They say, "If I want crap covered in cheese, I'll go to Sheetz. If I want good coffee and a decent hoagie, I'll go to Wawa." Some of the unhealthy foods you can get at Sheetz include frozen sweet drinks, snacks, hot dogs, specialty drinks made to order, espresso drinks, and F'Real milkshakes. There are also fried dishes such as mac and cheese bites, fries, chicken fingers and other 'appz'. Of course, we also offer pizza and Mexican-style dishes. As in many other popular shops, sandwiches can be made to order. Actually, Sheetz wasthe first store to try kiosk ordering– and you can even order a Beyond Burger with it. Shoppers who just can't stop going to Sheetz can win a prize! card, where every $50 spent in the store gets them a free coffee, fountain drink, donut or cookie.
If Sheetz sounds familiar, it may be because the characters from the Scranton, Pennsylvania, TV series "The Office" drank from Sheetz cups or had other Sheetz props in the workplace. Sheetz began in 1952 in Altoona, Pennsylvania, when Bob Sheetz turned his father's dairy into what would eventually become a gas station and convenience store chain. You can now find Sheetz at more than 670 locations in six states, all in the Northeast.
If you have a friend whofrequents Buc-ee's, you'll know for sure because they'll be posting pictures of everything from Buc-ee's they didn't know they needed (until they walked in) on social media. ANDRedditorexplained their love for Buc-ee's this way: "Because driving from La Grange to Galveston, I never know if I might have to make an emergency stop for a brownie, glitter cow skull, deep fryer, and/or various jams and jellies while I hit the gas .Going to Buc-ee's is mostly about the food, the experience, and the "WTF did I just find?" factor.The restrooms are also refreshingly cleaner than most on the highway.
Some of the treats you can expect at Buc-ee's include Beaver Nuggets, Texas-style sweet corn puffsHartige cakes,fresh beef in flavors you've never seen before(such as maple cherry), pecans, frozen slushies, Mayhaw jelly, Texas barbecue, and pickled quail eggs. It's also unheard of to walk away without at least considering buying a kitsch brand with a Buc-ee beaver on it.
If you want to find out firsthand what's going on with Buc-ee's, you'll have to get lucky at one of the 40 or so locations in Texas, Florida, Alabama or Kentucky that have been open since 1982. At 66,335 square feet is the New Braunfels, Texas locationworld recordbecause it's the largest grocery store in the world, which is about half the size of the average Sam's Club.
7-Eleven is known for its giant Big Gulp fountain drinks and the original Slurpees. However, there are plenty of other junk foods available, including hot dishes like pizza, cheeseburgers, boneless wings, and Korean BBQ taquitos. AndRedditorexplained the 7-Eleven complaint, saying, "I'm fully aware that the food is garbage. It's my pleasure." Plus, it's cheap. You can even buy craft beer and tacos in the newly designed shops. The new Scan & Pay technology also puts an end to the checkout experience. Oddly enough, in terms of grocery shopping, 7-Eleven has become more popular than even Aldi and Kroger for grocery shopping, partly becausefood deserts.
The first 7-Elevens began as ice cream parlors in 1927 in Dallas, Texas, under the name Southland Ice Company. Eventually, it began selling food and changed its name to 7-Eleven in 1946 to remind people of the store's hours. 7-Elevens became Kwik-E-Marts on the spur of the moment in 2007 in anticipation of The Simpsons Movie. You've probably heard of 7-Eleven, even if you don't live in the US. That's because it isthe largest supermarket chain in the world. With more than 78,000 locations, 7-Elevens has nearly twice as many as McDonald's. Fourteen thousand of these stores are located in the USA and Canada. Despite its global reach, many people have never set foot in a 7-Eleven in the US because a staggering 19 states do not have one.
For years, Casey's store design and logo made it look like a generic mom-and-pop supermarket. However, in 2020, the company finally dropped the "General Store" part of the name, modernized its logo, and began rebranding the entire store. It went from being a place you would walk past in favor of another store that looked really inviting. It still doesn't have the same enticing offerings as places like QT, but it's getting there.
His true worship comes from his pizza. If you like nothing else, you can go in on a Friday night and get a pizza, because it's as good as any pizza you can find around here, including Domino's. If you live in a small town, this might be the only place you can get pizza that doesn't come out of the freezer. In addition, the shop has a breakfast pizza that is also surprisingly delicious. However, you can also grab doughnuts, sandwiches, and random sides like macaroni, chicken tenders, and cheese grissini.
Donald Lamberti began converting his father's gas station into a convenience store in Boone, Iowa, in 1959. In 1968, he got the idea to turn other gas stations in small towns into Casey's General Stores. There are currently more than 2,300 Casey's in 16 states, mostly in the Midwest, but also as far south as Oklahoma and Arkansas and into Tennessee, where the fan base is still thriving.
Ampm has plenty of craving food offerings to feed its fans. In fact, the chain has coined a new word for the combination of convenience and nomically-worthy food it offers: "Crave-venience." If you like itMcDonald's McRiboff season you'll find that the Ampm pork rib sandwich tastes really good. The cinnamon rolls are also nostalgia worthy for anyone who no longer lives near Ampm. Other food offerings that people love are cheddarwurst and salted caramel biscuits. It has the usual supermarket items like spoons, but you can also buy Mexican pastries like concha.
One neat thing Ampm offers its die-hard fans is the chance to play an in-app Scratchers game, which they can try out for a chance to win free food. Entering Ampm - and winning and tweeting about it - will get you even more scratches. Therefore, customers can be obsessed with visiting Ampmu. Since everything you win expires in 48 hours, they quickly get you in, hoping you'll buy something else and start the process all over again.
If you don't live on the west coast, you probably don't have an Ampm in your town. You may recognize him from the movie "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines". This BP store has been around since 1978 and has more than 1,000 locations in five states.
Finish and go
Kum & Go may have a funny name, but it has truly evolved into a place you want to stop by for ready meals. It's usually clean and often nicer than nearby shops. Plus, he's really improved his food in recent years. Of course, there are the expected donuts, fountain drinks, sandwiches and roller coasters; however, we were genuinely impressed during our visit to see so many healthy snacks and modern food offerings. You can expect healthier snack brands, from Jackson's Chips to Nick's Sticks Jerky. Plus, you'll find a microwave to reheat dishes from big bowls of ramen to chilled chicken tikka masala and pierogies. You can even find gourmet chocolate bars alongside staples like Snickers. So Kum & Go is trying to appeal to people who don't want the fast food offerings offered by the average grocery store. Of course, if you don't like healthier food, you can still satisfy your cravings for more naughty foods from the supermarket.
Even the food from the kitchen is more refined than normal food from the supermarket kitchen. You'll see grain bowls, burritos and sandwiches with ingredients like chorizo, brisket, sweet potatoes, brown rice, Nashville hot chicken, pulled pork falafel and fancy dips. Plus they have pizzas.
Kum & Go was founded in Hampton, Iowa, in 1959, and more than a quarter of its locations are located in Iowa. However, there are nearly 400 Kum & Go locations in the US in 13 states, almost all west of the Mississippi River.
Wally's was created with the intention of providing an interesting stopping point along classic Route 66. Like many modern attractions along Route 66, it tries to capture retro nostalgia in its decor. Wally's says it's the "Home of the Great American Journey." While looking to the past for decorating inspiration, he continues to look to the future with indoor e-charging stations that can serve more than gas-powered vehicles. The interior is clean and open, with three "experience stations" including a grill, coffee shop and popcorn. The cafe has eight flavors of hot drinks, along with cold drinks like Sloosh, fountain drinks, nitro cold brew and kombucha. There's also plenty of merchandise for sale, but it's more practical than outrageous like Buc-ee's. You'll still find Wally-branded items, but they'll be camping gear and travel-enhancing items instead of the "enchanted cow skulls" at Buc-ee's. One fan onRedditthey say they love it because they "feel and smell like America". No, we're not sure what that means either.
If you haven't heard of Wally's, it's probably because it just recently opened its first location in Pontiac, Illinois in 2020. There are currently only two locations: one in Pontiac, Illinois, and the other in Fenton, Missouri, along historic Route 66.
If you travel the highway often, you've probably started looking for signs of love that shine like beacons in the distance. You know Love's will be clean and have clean restrooms and nice showers. We've also found that if you're traveling with a baby, there's no guessing as to whether or not there'll be a baby changing table. Because it usually has an attached diner like Subway and McDonald's -- along with plenty of truck parking -- it gets more than its fair share of interstate business. There are plans to merge more locations with a Middle Eastern restaurant called Naf Naf in the coming years. Love's also tends to sell items you may have accidentally left at home on your trip, such as charging cables or clothing. Additionally, you can choose random souvenirs and gifts based on your location. Of course, there are other pluses, such as snacks, frozen drinks and frozen yogurt. Another favorite with some travelers is the free Wi-Fi and gaming area in the casino (where legal).
1964 was the first year you could find Love's gas station where it all began in Watonga, Oklahoma. There are now more than 360 Love's locations in the US in 39 states, so you'll find one in most states you pass through. Since the chain adds more than 20 new locations every year, they're even easier to find.
Stewart's started as an ice cream shop1945 The store eventually expanded beyond its original location in Ballston, Spa, New York. Customers loved that they could make their own ice cream - and how to buy milk there. When the company bought a store in Hudson, New York, it had to commit to selling gas and changed its model to become a supplier of dairy products, such as ice cream,Ugas. Over the years, it has grown to serve non-dairy items such as coffee, pastries and Stewart's own line of soft drinks (not to be confused with Stewart's Fountain Classics soft drinks, which have a similar logo). In the 2010s, Stewart's added a kitchen that offered everything from salads and sandwiches to hot dishes like macaroni and cheese and chili. Stewart's Shops products are popular enough to be sold outside stores. Fans can even purchase bags of Stewart's Shops coffee and K-cups to brew at home.
Unfortunately, drivers can only visit Stewart's in New York and Vermont, but there are now more than 350 locations in those two states. If you live there, you're probably a rabid Stewart's fan and go there for your dairy, snack, coffee, beverage, eggnog, and even grocery needs. However, having gas raises itfrom Braum, as well as a more extensive kitchen offer such as grilled pork sandwiches, chicken with parmesan and dishes.