Consistency is Key to North Store's Success

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Karla Lovell

Family-owned Transwest Fuels is a shining example of a local success story. Tranwest Fuels started out as a bulk fuel business but found an opening into the retail market 2.5 years ago. Brothers Ben and Sam Clifton – whom supply bulk fuel and lubricants to farmers, truckers and construction industry across NSW’s Tamworth region, realized there was a poor service station offering with no takeaway food or ready to go meals. Transwest Fuels now operates three café outlets within its service stations at Manilla, Kootingal and Walcha with plans to open more stores in the next 5 years.

Branded as The North Store, the cafes are designed to provide locals and passers-by with a space to refresh, refuel and recharge. Karla Lovell, Retail Operations Manager of Transwest Fuels, explains how the idea for The North Store cafes came about: “When I got involved in the business, I said ‘We need to move away from the mindset that people think of our business as just fuel, so let’s change the way we are seen in the market as a country style café…that also sells fuel’. We wanted places that had their own character, with each store getting it’s own makeover and not to be seen as another generic franchise. We wanted to design our food menu around what we would eat ourselves – a good meal that tastes delicious.”

This recipe for success has paid off with a steady stream of repeat business. “The majority of customers are locals, so it’s very important that we’re competitive with pricing and that we offer good customer service as well as good food,” Karla emphasises. “It’s great for the locals to have this service, because they no longer have to travel so far for their fuel or their food, and it’s great that they support us in return. It’s all built around the idea that locals should support each other as that’s what builds a community.”

Top of The North Store’s ‘must-have’ menu checklist are ingredients which offer great performance and consistent reliability – so it’s no surprise that Ingham’s products feature prominently. “We have the same menu across our three stores and because so many of our customers travel throughout the local area, it’s really important that our menu items are consistent across all sites.

“We want our customers to know they can buy a Chicken Satay Wrap or a Chicken Schnitzel Burger at our store in Manilla and it will taste just the same as the one they bought at Kootingal. So we did a lot of testing at the start and worked through different products to see what works for us and what doesn’t. We found Ingham’s had fantastic products with great flavour and consistent quality. As we don’t have chefs, it’s also important we have food that anyone can cook. The Ingham’s products we use fit the bill because they require only minimal preparation while presenting and tasting the same every time.”

While emphasising that consistency is extremely important, Karla also acknowledges the need to keep the menu current, and utilises social media to ensure that The North Store’s offering stays in touch with customer tastes. “We do regular Facebook polls to see what people want – we’ll bring in new items to see how they do, and evolve the menu to keep customers coming through the door. We need to constantly engage with the local community as they’re the lifeblood of our business.”

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