Darren Schulte

Darren Schulte

Darren Schulte serves as Vice President of Membership at NATSO. In this role, he directs recruitment, retention and customer service for truckstop and travel plaza members. He is also responsible for developing NATSO products and programs, particularly those relating to education, research and training for truckstop and travel plaza operators.

Schulte also leads NATSO's Profitable Retail Review program. A Profitable Retail Review is a custom assessment of your truckstop, including recommendations for every aspect of your facility, from actionable ideas to improve revenue to tactical ways to improve your net operating costs. Learn about NATSO's Profitable Retail Review program here.

Schulte joined NATSO with nearly three decades of experience in truckstop and travel plaza operations and merchandising. Schulte has worked for: 

  • Love's Travel Stops and Country Stores,
  • HESS Corporation, 
  • Petro Stopping Centers, and
  • TSC Global/Barjan LLC.

Join Me Abroad to Take in New Great Ideas and the Latest Innovations

Posted in: Truckstop Business, Leadership & Strategy

I am a strong advocate for learning all we can from those around us, and I would love for NATSO members to join me in June at the NACS Convenience Summit Europe.

Along with retailers from around the world, I’ll be working my way through London and Amsterdam and will gather ideas and trends to share with truckstop and travel plaza operators when I return.

The tours, which are led by convenience industry experts, are designed to provide a closer look into retail operations and solutions and a deep dive into discussion-based learning.

4 Best Practices for Long-Term Truckstop Hiring Success

Posted in: Truckstop Business, Human Resources

Truckstops and travel plaza facilities create unique challenges for those who manage them. Unlike many businesses, most truckstops and travel plazas are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and managers must work hard to keep the facility adequately staffed at all times.

A location’s team players are the first and last line of contact for customers in a truckstop and travel plaza, so hiring and training the right team players can significantly affect the profitability of the business. With proper orientation and training, operators can ensure from the very beginning that their team players will succeed.

Here are four tips for long-term hiring success.

Five Retail Trends Your Truckstop Should Be Adapting to and Exercises to Explore Them

Posted in: Truckstop Business, Marketing & Retail

In preparation for NATSO Connect, I took a fresh look at the trends influencing the industry. Truckstops and travel plazas should be adapting to each of these trends.

Number 1: Rise of Experiential Retail
According to the article, “The old model of in-store (and even online) retail strictly focused on products being sold. However, consumers have slowly but surely been moving away from strictly shopping for products, instead seeking a more engaging experience”.

The trend was originally driven by younger consumers and their preference for experiences over price and product, however that no longer just the case. Young and old are less likely to spend money in places where the experience is poor regardless of how great the prices are. There is a growing feeling that my money is worth something and if I plan on spending it better be a worthwhile experience.

“Even so, simply remodeling a store isn’t enough,” the article continues. Nearly 5,000 stores closed in 2018 and some experts believe another 4,000 are expected to close their doors in 2019, and “the brands that do survive will have done so by creating engrossing experiences”.

What Should You Do:

Get a pencil and pad of paper.
Identify your three busiest diesel fuel gallon times and days.
Schedule an extra employee on these days.
Create a mini menu for breakfast and lunch of grab-n-go foods.
During these identified times, the extra employee armed with proper safety gear should ask drivers while they are fueling if they can get them anything to eat and drink such as a breakfast burrito and coffee and or a PBJ with chips and milk.
This will create a positive experience.

Highlights from NATSO Connect 2019

Posted in: Truckstop Business, Marketing & Retail

Truckstop and travel plaza operators came together in Orlando, Florida, for NATSO Connect 2019 and left inspired and informed. So many amazing things came out of the annual event. Here are a six highlights.

Insight Into the Future
We all want to know what the future holds, and much of NATSO Connect focused on helping operators prepare for the trends and technology that are coming down the pipeline.

During one keynote, NATSO President and CEO Lisa Mullings sat down with Dave Manning, president of TCW Inc. and Immediate Past Chairman of the American Trucking Associations as well as Dan Murray, vice president of the American Transportation Research Institute, to discuss the latest trends affecting truck drivers. Attendees got a first-hand look at how hours-of-service requirements, electronic logging devices and e-commerce are all changing professional drivers’ operating environment.

Coffee Cup Travel Plaza Adds Warmth and Space with Renovations

Posted in: Truckstop Travels

Gordon Price, national sales director at DAS Companies Inc., has spent a significant amount of time inside of truckstops and travel plazas throughout the country, which is why I so highly value his opinion. This week, I asked him to sit down with me for a Q&A about Coffee Cup Fuel Stops newly renovated location, which is in Vermillion, South Dakota.