In petrol convenience, the forecourt – canopy, signage, dispensers and surrounds – is the first section of your business that customers are exposed to. First impressions last so it’s important this area is not only appealing, but safe.

Successful operation of your forecourt depends on three critical points:

  1. marketing;
  2. legislation and compliance; and a
  3. safe environment.

Marketing and product range

From a customer’s perspective what you see is what you get, so make sure your forecourt looks inviting by being clean and tidy. Ask your staff to regularly clean dispensers and attend to any spills immediately, to minimize any oily residue on surfaces. Also request staff to walk the forecourt at the start of their shift to pick up any rubbish and top up consumables like water cans and paper towels.

Avoid misleading or upsetting customers by always checking that the prices on the dispensers and price boards are the same. You should measure remaining stock verses sales regularly, ordering stock to minimise any stock outs.

Ensure you have a mix of fuels to meet all customers’ needs. Premium fuels and LPG should always be available and it might be worth considering offering E10 and Biodiesel for those customers that use biofuels in their vehicles.

Also, if you can (and your forecourt has sufficient room), consider offering bulkier items such as gas bottles and firewood to expand your product offering.

Legislation and compliance

Federal and State Governments are continually creating legislation involving owners and operators of the forecourt to conduct certain tasks. In addition, consumer protection laws require operators to comply with trade measurement, signage and pricing criteria.

Many States have laws mandating the use of price boards and while this is currently being reviewed, it is important that you comply with the current legislation. Some States also have laws requiring monitoring of underground petroleum storage systems. For instance, in New South Wales laws require some service stations to implement stage one and stage two vapour recovery.

Under consumer protection laws dispensers require calibration of their flow meters to ensure the correct quantity is delivered to the customer. Product signs on dispensers must describe the exact product being sold, while fuel should meet the Australian standard. It is a good practice to have a procedure for price changes – this will ensure the price board and dispensers are aligned.

It is important to comply with legislation, as failure to do so can result in expensive fines and business closure until rectified.

Safe environment

At all times the forecourt should be free of hazards so customers are safe while filling their vehicle and your staff feel secure at work.

You can create the right environment on the forecourt by ensuring it is free of trip hazards and well lit at night. Safety and directional signage should be clearly visible and parking areas well marked. When staff are working on the forecourt make sure they wear personal safety equipment, like a reflective vest and safety glasses.

Installing CCTV cameras can also assist you with better observing the entire forecourt and can also reduce incidences of drive-offs.

Your forecourt is delivering customers to your store. With the majority of your customers buying fuel, the forecourt is where they observe your business the longest, so make sure you are delivering the right impression.