The familiar Q1 sign on the horizon has always been a welcoming beacon for motorists. It’s an invitation to stop, refuel and grab a snack before hitting the road again. These days, however, Q1 service stations are offering more than just a pit stop. They’re encouraging their customers to linger, relax and dine – and we’re not talking about feasting on a packet of peanuts
and a sugar-coated doughnut.
Q1 Energie’s CEO Frederick Beckmann is responsible for the development of Q1’s shop and bistro brand Oase. Admitting he’s an enthusiast of good food and wine, Frederick believes the concept promises what the name suggests – an oasis, not just for motorists stopping en route, but for diners looking to enjoy a home-cooked meal. The business model was deemed best in industry for supply and service by the German Association for Consumer Studies (DtGV) and will gradually be launched in more Q1 stations.
While Q1 Energie still offers its extensive range of snacks and refreshments, around 15% of its more than 200 stations scattered throughout Germany have been fitted out with the charming Oase bistros.
The venues are mostly manned by in-house chefs who whip up delicious, fresh hot and cold food, including daily specials to tempt the regulars. Among the fare are mouthwatering baguettes filled with camembert and salami, goulash served with crusty bread, freshly made pastries and the traditional Konigsberger Klopse, which roughly translates as ‘meatballs to die for’.
Of course, any of these gourmet delights are available to take away, but why would you? Sophisticated lighting, fashionable tiling, a chic layout and free wi-fi conspire to replace the need for speed.
“It’s the attention to detail that sets the Oase concept apart from the others,” Frederick explains. “We have used the best architecture in a lean and clean way to highlight our offering, which enables our customers to focus on our range, then choose a product to sit down and enjoy. With no distractions and a feel-good atmosphere, the customer will stay.”
Q1 Energie, headquartered in Osnabrück, Lower Saxony, dates back 120 years to when F Wilhelm Beckmann founded what was a predominantly leather goods company in 1898, before shifting focus to petrol stations in 1923.
In 1988, the year Frederick was born, Q1 – a name reflecting ‘quality first’ – was developed and protected as a brand throughout Europe, with the petrol station business transferred to Q1 Tankstellenvertrieb GmbH & Co. KG in 2005.
Frederick’s first job at one of his family’s stations was at age 13, in a role loosely tagged as construction worker. Other stations and more roles followed, in accounting, strategy and marketing. Along the way, Frederick completed management studies and a thesis titled ‘The German Service Station Market until 2030’.
His study looked at senior executives from oil companies and the introduction of convenience stores into fuel stations. After graduating, he co-founded the start-up zahlz, which focused on payment interactions, in particular direct mobile phone payments, and won the Innovate Concept Award at the 2015 Web, IT and Media Industries Congress of Northwestern Germany.
Gaining a more sustainable market position
In 2014, Frederick was appointed Assistant to the Managing Director before taking on the role of CEO just 10 months later. He wasted no time implementing a broader strategy which would allow him to fulfil a long-term vision to maintain a sustainable market position. While ensuring Q1 maintained its regular services – fuels, lubricants, postal and car wash – Frederick’s vision included moving into end-user natural gas and electricity.
The company was renamed Q1 Energie AG in 2015. “Mastering the social, economic and environmental challenges as the best in class and maintaining continuous organisational development would give us a competitive advantage, so we changed from Q1 Tankstellenvertrieb GmbH & Co. KG to Q1 Energie AG, becoming a joint-stock company to ensure we could be even more flexible in the market,” says Frederick.
“We decided to diversify into new fields of business to follow our mission, which is to provide people with energy and mobility. Our end-user natural gas and electricity portfolio is comparable to a medium-sized public utility company.
“All new businesses have their ups and downs,” Frederick admits. “Of course, our business case has a long-term orientation, but we are on a solid path. We are focused on distribution, marketing and purchasing, outsourcing all other processes. When choosing business partners, we always make our basic principle – quality first – a priority. This principle applies not only to our natural gas and electricity activities, but also to our core business, where we
rely on long-term partnerships, such as WashTec for the car wash, or Gollub for service station maintenance.”
Frederick is pragmatic about the challenges facing the German energy sector, citing political uncertainty and the need to develop a power grid to support an energy structure based solely on renewables as issues yet to be resolved.
“It is clear that new powertrain technologies will reduce the demand for fossil fuels over the next few decades,” he agrees.
“This will lead to heavily increasing competition and market consolidation in the service station market. But so far, with no clear vision, or strategy, the transition has failed in Germany. Our electricity market is also disrupted and at risk because we have no solution in place for absorbing the closure of nuclear and coal-fired power plants.”
Meanwhile, Q1 Energie is playing its part in meeting social and environmental targets that are far-reaching and varied. “We donate to regional organisations engaged in providing equal opportunities for children and, in terms of our environment, we follow strict requirements to ensure we conserve as much of our resources as possible,” Frederick says.
“For example, our new headquarters was constructed following the most modern standards of energy efficiency and we are refurbishing our service stations based on energy saving and ecological standards.”
The company is also focusing on introducing other award-winning innovations to define itself as a digital company and give it an edge in sustainable competitiveness. Frederick believes Q1’s innovation capacity and investment in digital transformation is a distinguishing feature over other market players.
“We have two major projects, both in-house developments,” he says.
“First, the Fuel Price Analyser, a B2B product in a web environment that can be used for the graphical analysis of fuel-pricing mechanisms, pricing behaviour and pricing strategies.
“Second, our zahlz ecosystem has facilitated mobile payments directly at
the pump, in the car wash or the POS,” he adds. “We have recently digitised the DKV fuel card on the zahlz platform and are currently piloting these new developments at our stations.
“Besides our in-house resources, we are also collaborating with local universities and with our closest business partners, such as Gilbarco, to help with our digital transformation.”