A buffet of fountain soft drinks, breakfast sandwiches, and hot dog bars loaded with fresh condiments - these are convenience store delicacies the battle of the gas stations has given us, more than anyone driving to or from work could ask.
Nothing is more appropriate for the commuter-entrenched market of metro Atlanta than gas stations that rid people of the need for fast-food chains altogether. Besides, a bag of chips and a cheap fountain drink always cheer me up after being gouged at the pumps.
But, behind the early morning aroma of sausage biscuits that greet gas pumpers each morning, there is a tooth-and-nail war being fought between heavyweights like QuikTrip and Race Trac. Gas prices are just one front of the war. The inside of the convenience store is a much more important and potentially lucrative front. If people think gas prices are out of control, think about the prices paid for food and drink at the convenience store.
Chips, sodas, milk all comes at a premium. Even the hot dog stands are lining to be one of the pivotal battlegrounds. The careful attention to their presentation illustrates this importance.
Already, the 99-cent hot dog sections have been loaded down with amenities like the bun steamer and freshly sliced pickles. The bum steamer is the gas station version of fresh bread at the Pizza Hut buffet. It just adds a touch of class to the grit and grime. Steamed buns also give the illusion of freshness. Never mind, that the hot dogs have been on the rollers for five hours already.
The deli-fresh pickles at the Race Trac do a similar thing with class.
One overriding benefit of these gas station wars is the selection. Like a fast food restaurant has other options beyond just the hamburger, the convenience stores offer something extra in case a hot dog is not what you're in the mood for. The taquito option, both chicken and beef, could be the best thing to happen to gas stations in a long time. No more do I have to go out of my way for the low-grade taqueria delights, formally relegated to Taco Bell. Now, whenever the tank is low, I just stop and pick up a taquito while I'm at it. The taquito was a fight that, at first QuikTrip seemed to be pummeling the competition on. But, recently, others have added the item.
It became a crucial time for Race Trac; they needed a response. Beating the competition on the condiments wasn't going to be sufficient anymore. So, they got wise and tacked on some taquitos of their own.
All the competition this one one-upsmanship creates is good for the customer. I can't say how great it is to stop for gas, pay almost $40 to fill up the tank, and then have milk shakes, an array of frozen drinks, both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo drink options, and hot dogs all at my finger tips.
With gas prices so high, my tab ends up looking like I ate a fancy restaurant, so the extra effort to make my snack selection a little more luxuriant is much appreciated.
Justin Boron is the government and politics reporter for the News Daily. His column appears Mondays. He can be reached at 770-478-5753 x 281 or at firstname.lastname@example.org .