Billionaire investor Warren Buffett is betting big on a chain of truck stops.
On Tuesday, Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway announced it had agreed to acquire 38.6% of Pilot Travel Centres, the owner of the Pilot Flying J truck stop chain. By 2023, Berkshire will become the majority shareholder.
Pilot Flying J is the largest operator of travel centres in North America, making more than $US20 billion in annual revenue.
Here’s a closer look at what exactly sets the chain of truck stops apart from the competition, and has made it a trucker staple across the US.
Truck stops are crucial for truckers and other travellers on long trips because, in addition to restrooms and gas, they provide food options and a significant amount of parking.
In 2009, Pilot acquired 250 Flying J travel centres, after the other truck stop chain filed for bankruptcy. Two years later, the two formally merged, with the new 'Pilot Flying J' encompassing 550 travel centres across North America.
Pilot Flying J attempts to attract both professional truckers and more casual travellers to the chain.
They also feature 'PJ Fresh' food, which the company describes as quality fast-casual options that you can't find at most trucks stops.
Perhaps Flying Pilot J's most important feature is its dedication to cleanliness -- especially in the restrooms.
'It varies by store, but maintenance is supposed to check every 30 minutes to make sure the restrooms are clean,' founder Jim Haslam II told Fortune. 'In the past other managers and I would go into the stores and get a feel for what was going on. Friends would tell us if they ran into a dirty restroom somewhere. Now we do spot checks through mystery shoppers.'
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