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New Energy World magazine logo
New Energy World magazine logo
ISSN 2753-7757 (Online)

On the move: how mobility and convenience offers are evolving on the fuel retail forecourt

5/6/2024

8 min read

Man at a forecourt cafe passing a burger and take away cup of coffee across the counter to a customer Photo: BP
In the UK, more than 50% of transactions at BP’s forecourts are now for shop-only purchases, rather than fuel and shop; and for BP in Germany, that figure stands at around 25%

Photo: BP

The days when visiting a service station forecourt simply meant refuelling a vehicle, picking up a newspaper and buying a snack for the onward journey are long gone. Mobility is changing and so is the ‘customer offer’ for convenience nationally and globally, explains Jo Hayward, Vice President Mobility & Convenience Retail, who is responsible for BP’s network of around 1,150 retail sites in the UK.

Today, when you visit a BP fuel retail site, you can charge your electric vehicle (EV), buy a sandwich from the Wild Bean Cafe, browse gifts and flowers, and pick up grocery items – all in one stop. With the energy transition, customer habits are evolving, and BP anticipates a future where drivers spend more time at its forecourts charging their EVs. For many customers, visiting a service station is not just about refuelling or charging up, it’s an opportunity to take advantage of a great retail experience.

 

A matter of convenience   
In the UK, more than 50% of transactions at BP’s forecourts are now for shop-only purchases; and for BP in Germany, that figure stands at around 25%. This shift in consumer preferences is supported by market projections from Euromonitor, which anticipates a global growth rate for the convenience market of around 4% annually. Food service is expected to surge at double that rate globally, at approximately 8% per year.

 

‘Convenience’ is one of BP’s five transition growth engines, alongside bioenergy, EV charging, hydrogen, and renewables and power. What’s more, the company is investing $15bn in convenience and EV charging globally over the next seven years.

 

Globally, BP is aiming to double its convenience gross margin from a 2022 base of $1.5bn by 2030 and double the number of strategic convenience sites. These are the retail sites where the company believes its offer is differentiated from competitors –either through partnerships or BP’s own brands.

 

Through this investment, BP is hoping to bring new customers to its brand. Within two years, it wants to increase customer interactions globally from around 12 million a day in 2023 to more than 15 million a day by the end of 2025.

 

The BP strategy revolves around understanding and meeting customer needs: giving them what they want, when they want it and where they want it.

 

With 21,150 retail sites around the world, BP has a network covering various channels of trade, including company-owned, dealer and franchise stores. The 2023 acquisition of TravelCenters of America added around 300 huge truck stops, with more than 600 full-service and quick-service restaurants, to its US network. The company is also expanding its network in growth markets, including India, Indonesia and China, to reach even more customers.

 

Globally, BP is aiming to double its convenience gross margin from a 2022 base of $1.5bn by 2030 and double the number strategic convenience sites.

 

EV charging   
In certain markets, like China, Germany, the UK and the US, this network is being enhanced with the installation of high-speed EV charging points. Whether at its own forecourts, building new EV charging hubs or installing BP Pulse EV charge points at destination locations like shopping centres, BP wants to boost consumer confidence in driving electric.

 

By 2030, the company aims to deploy over 100,000 charging points worldwide, up from 29,000 currently installed. In the UK, 90% of the population currently lives within a 20-mile drive of a BP fuel retail site and 70% are within a five-mile radius of a BP Pulse rapid or ultra-fast charger.

 

Collaborating with partners further enhances the accessibility of electric charging infrastructure, with BP Pulse EV chargers also being installed at some dealer partner sites. In addition, BP Pulse will be rolling out hundreds of ultra-fast and rapid chargers at M&S stores in the UK. In continental Europe, BP Pulse’s joint venture with Iberdrola in Spain and Portugal will see the two companies roll out a network of up to 11,000 rapid and ultra-fast public charge points in the two countries by the end of the decade.

 

Further afield in China, one of the most progressive markets globally for EV convenience offers, is BP Pulse’s fast-charging site at the Huanan Logistics Hub in Shenzhen, Guangdong province. This is a supersize-hub with 386 charging points, serving both business and consumer drivers, and providing 30,000 daily charging sessions. It also has a hot food canteen, a drivers’ lounge with massage chairs, carwash facilities, a Wild Bean Cafe coffee offer and an access-controlled autonomous convenience store.

 

EV charging is still a nascent market where everyone is seeking to understand the customers’ needs – and what offers and services they are going to value while they charge their vehicles. Various EV charging and convenience propositions are being tested by BP around the world – from vending solutions and unmanned convenience stores to a full food service offer – to help understand what customers will value in the future.

 

Fresh, quality food   
While customers charge their vehicles, BP expects that they are going to want high-quality food and drink. In March 2024, the company piloted a made-to-order food-for-now offer at selected locations in the UK. Items on the menu include a fish finger sandwich and a breakfast bap, and have proven popular when this menu was tested at two proof-of-concept cafes.

 

In addition, BP stores around the world are expanding their range of food and drinks with local tastes in mind. For example, at Wild Bean Cafes in Spain, bakery goods are the focus, whereas customers visiting a Wild Bean Cafe in India will be treated to samosas and a recently-launched watermelon cooler. In Poland, there is a range of filled Italian focaccia sandwiches developed with a celebrity food critic and TV personality.

 

man at cafe counter adding burger sauce to a bun with fresh lettuce in the foreground

Broader tastes as BP stores around the world expand their range of food and drinks with local tastes in mind – in the UK, you can get a burger and latte; at Wild Bean Cafes in Spain, bakery goods are the focus; whereas customers visiting a Wild Bean Cafe in India will be treated to samosas
Photo: BP

 

For its ~850 dealer-owned and operated sites, BP is offering the Wild Bean Cafe as a franchise and has designed a new ‘micro-market’ concept, offering food and beverages in a self-serve format. The offer includes coffee, blended ice drinks, smoothies and milkshakes, as well as pastries and hot food that is baked on site every day.

 

The unit is designed to take payment, easing the workload on staff, reducing queues and contributing to a pleasant shopping experience. Early sales figures are positive, showing coffee sales are up by 60% for sites with the micro-market, equating to 80 cups a day.

 

Partnering for success   
In addition to investing in its own food and drink brands, BP recognises that forming the right partnerships is crucial for growth and adding value. It was a ‘market first’ agreement for a forecourt retailer when, 20 years ago, BP entered into a partnership with grocery retailer M&S. The company now has convenience partnerships with seven well-known retailers in Europe to offer customers the best in on-the-go convenience.

 

In 2023, BP extended its convenience partnership with Auchan, aiming to introduce over 100 Easy Auchan stores to its Polish network by 2025, complementing the existing Auchan partnership in Luxembourg. In addition, BP renewed its largest European convenience supply agreement with Lekkerland to deliver REWE To Go stores on Aral forecourts in Germany for another five years, reaching 1,200 company-owned retail sites across the country.

 

To date, BP has worked with strategic partners to deliver a differentiated food-for-later offer. With the acquisition of TravelCenters of America, BP is also operating food-for-now franchises. Indeed, the company is not only partnering with grocery and food partners, but also investing in digital and AI solutions to improve its operations.

 

As customers’ needs change, BP will continue to build its retail expertise to meet the demands of those on the move. While petrol and diesel remain staples on the forecourt, biofuels – for heavy duty transport – and EV charging are an important part of the future.

 

Currently, EVs represent less than 5% of the total vehicles on the road, globally, at any one time. However, BP’s Energy Outlook 2023 predicts that by 2040 this figure will be closer to 50%. Ultra-fast EV charging coupled with convenience will shape the future of the forecourt, providing customers with seamless experiences and on-the-go solutions wherever they are.

 

  • Further reading:’Trends in the 2023 UK fuel retail market’. The Energy Institute’s (EI) Knowledge, Insights and Research team has gathered a wealth of UK forecourt and electric vehicle charging point data as part of the latest Retailing Market Survey (RMS).
  • Find more on TotalEnergies’ plans to partner with Canadian convenience store leader Alimentation Couche-Tard at its fuel retail sites in Belgium and Luxembourg, and to sell its forecourt networks in Germany and the Netherlands to the Canadian firm, as it moves away from traditional fuel retailing and towards hydrogen and electric vehicle (EV) charging.