Training and ample staff make QuikTrip fast

QuikTrip works hard to live up to its name. When customers enter the door many are greeted, cashed out and asked to return in less than 20 seconds. If you need to shop, sandwiches, drinks, motor oil and aspirin are easy to find because stockers and floaters keep merchandise on the shelves and keep the floors and counters clean. “The speed just really comes with practice because we have to,” said Casie Kleman, an eight-year employee of the Tulsa-based company who now serves as a cashier trainer. “We have so much volume.” Cashiers are trained to handle as many as three transactions a minute. They often come from the stocker and floater ranks and know prices by memory, count change in their heads and give you a receipt, or not, (they will ask) and ensure that all is done with a cheery smile and a look in the eye. “We literally sell speed of service,” said Jeff Lenard, a spokesman for the National Association of Convenience Stores. “QuikTrip is considered one of the best on almost everything they do. There aren’t any successful inconvenience stores.” QuikTrip can boast of average store sales of $804 per square foot because of a program that selects multi-tasker applicants, trains them in the company culture and merchandizing techniques and then gives them a mentor trainer for two weeks to get them off the ground. “Accuracy and speed is what we are looking for,” said Mike Thornbrugh, manager of public and government relations for the chain. “We want people who are outgoing and who can multi-task.” The company, the 26th-largest privately held firm in the U.S. with $10 billion in annual sales, has 651 stores in 11 states, but still sells 2 percent of the gasoline sold in the country. The company added 102 stores in the past two years. The latest opened on N.E.  28th Street in Fort Worth in February. It is the company’s 100th store in the company’s Dallas-Fort Worth division. It also has distribution centers in Coppell, Kansas City, MO, Atlanta and Phoenix and a handful of QT Kitchens that prepare and ship fresh sandwiches, salads and pastries to stores. The company, with 13,000 employees, models itself as a grocery that happens to have gas pumps, rather than the other way around, and bases its success on the hiring and training of its workforce. “It starts with the hire,” Thornbrugh said. Hiring is done at the local level and only about 1 in 100 applicants will get a job.  For jobs that pay $8.25 an hour for a floater or floor clerk, and $10.25 for a cashier, the company invests five hours in training of the company, its culture, “responsible retailing” of tobacco, alcohol and lottery tickets and work on the cash register. They take a math test and also learn very specific job expectations. Trainees are then sent to designated training stores for two weeks of close supervision and mentorship by senior employees, like Kleman. She watches trainees run the register and count change. She shows them the several computer screens used for time sheets, inventory, work schedules and other tasks. “Most people pick it up pretty fast,” Kleman said. But it’s not easy. “I thought I was awesome” as a floor clerk,” said Ashton Hamilton, 24, a graduate of Southwest High School in Fort Worth. “But now I’m really learning a lot.” Hamilton said she has been learning such management tasks as checking in vendor deliveries and keeping an eye on the floor clerks. “I feel like a totally different person.”    You won’t find cashiers trying to scan a wrinkled UPC code. Scanners take too much time. Cashiers know the prices and ring them up themselves and count change without a calculator. Because of those practices – and a portable generator at each store – QuikTrips are one of the few stores that have been able to stay open and conduct business during power outages. “Anybody can build the stores and stock the merchandise, but nobody spends the time and money on training that we do,” Thornbrugh said. The payoff goes both ways. Workers are eligible for bonuses based on a store’s performance. The company has lower turnover, 13 percent, compared to an industry average of greater than 50 percent, according to the National Association for Convenience Store and Fuel Retailing. And its sales volume is among the tops for all retailers: $804 per square foot, compared to a convenience store average of $522 and $588 at Sam’s Club, according to a study in the Harvard Business Review, titled “Why Good Jobs Are Good 4 Retailers.” Some of the training spills over into other parts of the workers’ lives, too. “When someone comes, you just smile and they perk up,” Hamilton said of customers. “Hello. It starts there.”