SnacKing Kitchen – Gas King’s Latest Success Story

SnacKing Kitchen – Gas King’s Latest Success Story

By Gretchen Matthews

The next time the people of Lethbridge, Alberta, are hungry for a hearty, handcrafted sandwich or satisfying taco in a bag, they should look no further than the new SnacKing Kitchen.

Gas King’s flagship location, first acquired in 1985, sold a lot of prepackaged items for most of its history, but in the last several months, it was redesigned with state-of-the-art culinary features that have enabled the company to transform its onsite offerings and share fresh new items with other Gas King locations.

Sitting at the corner of 2nd Avenue and Mayor Magrath Drive North, adjacent to an industrial park and a residential area, the Lethbridge location is perfect for attracting people who need to eat more than once a day and would like tasty, substantial options. President Brent Morris explains the catalyst for the shift from standard c-store to full-service kitchen by saying “we had done some minor renovations over the years, but we knew it was time.”

Morris also attests that having the right people in place at just the right time can lead to tremendous change. He explains: “Our management team included Kelly Klimchuk who knew the food supply business…so we decided to try our hand with food service at this location.” Klimchuk is Gas King’s district sales manager for its seven stores, with 27 years of experience in food service. Before coming to the company five years ago, he worked primarily with broad-line distributors and closely with manufacturers and brokers, learning how to find and recognize quality products. His knowledge of competitive pricing and food supply proved valuable. Regarding the SnacKing Kitchen, Klimchuk says: “This is a natural fit for me to quarterback our new fresh food offering.”

Klimchuk explained the company’s decision to move into food service as a natural evolution, given its location and sales trends. “As we see other areas in the store are on the decline – the tobacco category and cigarettes, for example – we know that food service is the future. We see it with our national competitors, the path that they’ve carved out. We see it in the needs of the community. Folks are busy; they’re on the run – there is always lots going on. They’re working multiple jobs to be able to afford the cost-of-living increases and such. So, we see that they’d rather make one stop on the way to work than two or three,” he says. Despite the competition from nearby fast-food franchises in Lethbridge, the team proceeded with the renovation, and the results are paying off. “It’s incredible that we can put out like items and we sell through those like items that are priced competitively,” he says.

Morris also quickly credits Scott Sibbet, vice president of retail operations, who supervised the complex two-phase construction process. Sibbet has been with Gas King for more than 30 years and has worked closely with the two groups the company chose for the redesign and rebuild: CTM Design in Calgary and Southwest Design and Construction in Alberta. With store traffic up to 1,000 customers daily, Gas King prioritized consistent service. The two-phase conversion plan, which called for a temporary store within the existing store, kept Gas King open for all but a few hours of the renovation.

Beginning in September 2022, 80 per cent of the store was gutted and renovated over a five-month period, but it operated out of a 250 sq ft space which included a walk-in cooler. A temporary wall shielded customers from the gutting process. In January 2023, the two sections were switched, and operations transitioned to the larger section. Items requiring refrigeration were moved from the walk-in cooler to temporary coolers in the smaller space while the larger space was finished. Construction was completed in June.

Sibbet explains one challenge with this plan. “All of our subcontractors came in and did their portion of the work on the main section of the store, and then most of them had to return and finish their job on what was the small temporary side of the store. So, it’s drawn out a little bit doing it that way, but we were able to keep our doors open 99 per cent of the time and I believe that contributed to the quick turnaround in sales.” Morris emphasizes that their first goal was to stay open and shares the feedback he’s received saying, “traffic stayed about the same during construction and the comments we’re getting now are, ‘Wow! What an improvement!”

The team is quite pleased with SnacKing Kitchen’s capabilities and equipment, purchased from Western Refrigeration. For example, its oven is an Alto-Shaam Vector Series with high-velocity, focused-heat cooking in four chambers which allows a user to simultaneously prepare four different foods at varying temperatures without flavor transfer. This enables the three full-time kitchen workers to assemble disparate orders quickly and easily. In the self-serve area, the coffee island boasts two Schaerer machines producing all forms of java – bean to cup, without waste – with blends provided by a local roaster, Cuppers Coffee. Cuppers branding stands out on the machines’ touch screens.

Gas King experienced no major reduction in sales over the eight months of construction and is now reaping multiple benefits in producing its own offerings on site. Before the conversion, another company made sandwiches for Gas King. Now, Klimchuk explains, “we always knew that we would become vertically integrated at one point. So, when we started preparing our own sandwiches, we were able to up the portion weights and also the quality and freshness of the product. We were able to lower the retail on most products by a dollar or so, giving our customers more bang for less buck.”

SnacKing Kitchen’s evolving menu promises something for nearly every palate. Bestsellers are hot dogs and smokies. Breakfast eaters looking for a protein punch might try a loaded breakfast bowl. SnacKing mini donuts are baked (not fried) in a convection oven and are hot and ready in under two minutes. Warm, buttered popcorn, offered with assorted flavorings, is available round the clock. The Gas King team taste tests each item and works with suppliers such as Core-Mark and Brewmaster Wholesale Foods to source the freshest ingredients.

The kitchen not only serves Lethbridge customers but provides daily deliveries of subs, salads, deviled eggs and more to five other Gas King locations via a van bought solely for this purpose. Every item is sealed in SnacKing Kitchen packaging and branding. Morris is pleased with the new delivery system. He says, “it’s gone very well. And the sandwiches are really good.”


Gas King celebrated the Lethbridge grand opening on June 15 by cutting fuel costs by 10 cents a liter and advertising the one-day sale in its newsletter and via texts to King Card Reward members. Since the Lethbridge location does not have a drive-thru or a lot of storefront parking, Gas King also recently partnered with Pompe Media to position LCD screens atop the gas pumps, advertising kitchen products inside the store. The screens were ready and running for the June event.

ES SnacKing Displays

When it comes to attracting and retaining customers, Sibbet says details and cleanliness are paramount because customers have high standards. “Customers like new. They like to see change.” He gives an example: “We put in beautiful bathrooms. Everything is high-end, from the ceramic tile to the fixtures. We went paper free.” Klimchuk concurs saying, “Don’t focus on your write-offs. Focus on a satisfied customer. We’re trying to extend ourselves out as far as we can to our market. They will tell us when we have hit our limit. And, maintain those relationships with your suppliers and vendors.”

Morris, who together with his late father Don Morris (1930-1992), started Gas King in 1985. He purchased the business from his mother in 2000 and has been at the helm ever since. “I cannot see myself fully retiring anytime soon, although, now at almost 60, I might start showing up to work a little later and leave a little earlier,” Morris states laughing. The next generation of the Morris family is preparing to take over the business, as Morris advises that his son Zachary is now working in the business full time and being shown the ropes by the very capable Gas King team.

It seems the future of Gas King is in very good hands! While states, provinces and municipalities add regulations for stormwater management and water quality, working to protect our groundwater is the wise course – even when not mandated. By any measure – short-term or long-term, financial or environmental – the choice businesses, communities and individuals make today can make decades of difference.

Gretchen Matthews founded Chesapeake Quill to help businesspeople become better writers. She is a regular presenter at the biannual Women in Carwash conference and the copy editor for its newsletter, L.E.A.R.N. Contact her at

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