Despite picking up an assortment of awards in 2022 – NACS Asia Pacific Convenience Retailer of the Year, AACS Store of the Year, and AACS Independent Store of the Year – APCO Wangaratta has not lost sight of what makes it so successful.
“We try and offer that great customer service every time a person comes in. It’s an experience. Our vibe and ambience for a service station with a café is very loud. It’s not like a normal, everyday service station. It has a really good vibe about it,” explains Brett Anderson, Owner of APCO Wangaratta.
It’s this dedication to providing quality customer service that sees not only the usual road trippers travelling from Sydney or Melbourne pull in, but a steady stream of locals who know they can grab whatever essentials they need while chatting to a friendly face behind the counter.
“I would say 70 per cent of our customers are local. Our local customers are amazing. We still serve every customer face to face, and I think that helps a lot. We have a lot of elderly people come in and sit at the café and they can have a chat and we’ll wait the tables for them.”
Such is the popularity of the store; Anderson says they now have customers calling to book a table at the café so they can sit and have a coffee and a cake.
“It’s become a meeting point for a lot of people. The locals really supported us during our renovations two years ago, then during Covid, then when we won the awards; they really embraced us.”
The renovations in 2020 included the addition of an IGA X-press, expanding their offer to give customers access to an extensive range of fresh produce at competitive grocery prices 24/7.
“For us, we just want to be a one-stop store for everyone in Wangaratta. They’re not going to come here to do their $100 shop, but they’ll come here for a $30 shop and have their coffee and cake and grab their meat to make their dinner. It’s just about the convenience of having everything in the one place.”
Fresh is best
Operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Anderson understands the importance of always having fresh food ready to go. Whether it be a family travelling on holiday from Sydney to Melbourne, or a local tradie coming late at night to grab dinner, there will always be something available.
“You can come off the highway at any time of the night and it’s all good. All our fridges are always full. You won’t come in and just find little scraps of shopping left over. There’s also always someone in the kitchen, 24 hours a day, so you can come in at any time and we’ll make you whatever you want. If you’re travelling down the highway at four in the morning and want a hamburger, someone here will cook it for you.”
It’s not just the midnight snack though, APCO Wangaratta and its Café 24/7 offer has something for any time of the day, covering breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacking, both on-the-go and ready-to-eat.
“We try and cater for every meal of the day, so people can walk around our fridges and grab whatever they need to last them for the day. You’ve got your Bircher muesli with yoghurt for breakfast, fresh salads, and sandwiches for lunch, then you could sit in and have a roast or parmigiana for dinner. If you bought a steak at the IGA, you could come in and we’d cook it for you.”
Anderson believes that between Sydney and Melbourne there’s nothing like APCO Wangaratta, with its clean toilets, fresh foods, car wash, and comfortable seating, the store doesn’t do gimmicks, just the essentials very well.
“I guess we’re not Instagram friendly. We’re not a place where you come and spend $50 on breakfast and take a photo, but we’ll do the same breakfast for $20. When locals come in here the baristas know who they are and what they want.”
A winning mentality
Despite Anderson’s humbleness, the achievement of winning not only the AACS awards, but the NACS Asia Pacific Convenience Retailer of the Year award, is not lost on him.
“For a small town like Wangaratta to win that award is pretty incredible. A store between Melbourne and Sydney to pick up such a large international award is very impressive. It’s exciting for both Wangaratta and us.”
The locals, former and present, were quick to offer their congratulations to Anderson and the team for the impressive feat.
“In those first couple of weeks after winning the award, the amount of people who came in to have a look around the store was incredible. We’ve had people from Western Australia, Northern Territory, Tamworth, people who used to live in Wangaratta, call up because they heard the news on the radio or TV to congratulate us and just say it’s so nice to hear Wangaratta mentioned so far from home.”
Robert Anderson, APCO Service Station Director, said he was extremely proud of all the team, both at the support office and APCO Wangaratta to achieve this acknowledgement and amazing award recognition.
“I’m extremely proud. It is a testament to the collective effort of everyone to share a vision and then bring this to life, and importantly this is a well-deserved award for Brett and Karen Anderson, our retail partners that pride themselves and are passionate on providing an incredible customer experience.”
This article was written for the December/January issue of C&I Retailing magazine.