Do You Need to Upgrade Your Gas Station After Choosing a New Fuel Partner?
‘Finding the Right National Fuel Partner’ is one of the valuable seminar topics at this year’s CARWACS U Show in Toronto – Canada’s largest retail fuel, car wash and convenience events. One question that often arises as part of this conversation is, “What will I need to do to make sure my store aligns with the brand of the fuel provider I have selected?” That is the topic of today’s blog.
As an independent fuel retailer, you may be considering a partnership alliance with a national brand fuel provider. After all, there are numerous benefits. Consumers tend to place more trust in a national brand; national brands offer programming and advertising support; national brand loyalty programs offer a valuable incentive to customers. The list goes on.
Retailers who are new to the process often wonder what changes they may be required to make to comply with the national brand standards. Two common questions are, “Will I need to choose a design/ engineering firm to assist me?” and “Do I choose a firm or does the national fuel provider do it for me?”
“Will I need a design/engineering firm to make my business fit the new brand?”
This will largely depend on the state of your existing structures and fueling systems.
In many cases, the requirements are very minimal. As long as you have a compatible fueling system, your fuel partner may simply send you new signage inserts sized to fit your existing pumps, canopy and MID sign. Or, you may need to make some cosmetic changes, such as adding promotional displays in your forecourt or inside the store. If this is the case, no outside engineering or design expertise is required.
The fuel provider will determine if bigger changes are required. This may vary from one brand to the next.
Here are three common requests that could require the involvement of a design and engineering firm:
- Upgrade to fueling systems: At the end of the day, a national fuel provider’s main prerogative is to find partners who can sell as much fuel as possible. Based on their research, your fuel provider may feel your site has the potential to do more volume. If so, they may require you expand your fuel system to add more pumps and/or increase storage capacity.
The other question is whether or not your fueling and POS payment systems are compatible with their systems (for example: Does it allow pay at the pump? Can it be programmed to accept the brand’s loyalty card?)
If changes are required, you may need the services of an engineering firm to provide stamped blueprints for wiring, piping and tank installation to the planning department.
In some instances, adding additional storage capacity may affect delivery logistics (for example, larger fuel tankers may now need to access your site). This may require the assistance of an outside site planning consultant.
- Canopy/ Forecourt (addition or alteration): The fuel provider may request that you add or expand a weather canopy to enhance the customer experience, to increase brand visibility, or to provide additional lighting for the safety of customers and staff.
- Addition of MID signs: If you do not have a free-standing Major Identification (MID) sign in place, you will need an engineering firm to provide drawings for the foundation as part of a signage permit application. As these signs are backlit, wiring drawings are necessary as well.
Building a new service station from the ground up: If you are building a brand-new retail fuel outlet on brownfield or greenfield land, you will most definitely require the services of a qualified engineering and design firm that is licensed to work in your province. A professional firm will be involved in all aspects of facility design, architectural design and structural engineering. This encompasses electrical and mechanical systems and civil planning (utility tie-in, site access, site preparation, etc.)
Even if you haven’t chosen a new brand at the time of your build, an experienced firm will be able to design your site in such a way that it will comply with the requirements of most national brands should you decide to go that route.
“Do I choose a design/engineering firm or will the national fuel provider?”
For the most part, the retailer is responsible for selecting an engineering/design firm to provide all necessary construction drawings as part of the permitting and construction process. However, your national fuel provider will be able to recommend preferred partners who they have worked with in the past.
Your fuel provider will provide the design firm with their National Design Standard – a set of standardized requirements and guidelines that must be incorporated into the design. It is up to the design/engineering firm to tailor these standards to your specific site, and ensure all provincial code and municipal bylaws are followed.
To streamline the process, it is a good idea to partner with a fully integrated design and engineering firm that offers all services under one roof. Also, be sure to choose one that has extensive experience working with retail fuel providers (ideally with the brand you have just joined.)
By teaming up with a national brand, you become part of family. Take the time to choose the brand that offers your business the greatest value and feels like the right fit. If you have any questions around engineering or design requirements, your national brand is there to help.