Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc., or simply Couche-Tard, is a Canadian multinational operator of convenience stores. The company has 15,000 stores across Canada, the United States, Mexico, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Japan, China, and Indonesia. The company operates its corporate stores mainly under the Couche-Tard, Circle K and On the Run brands, but also under the affiliated brands 7-jours, Dairy Mart, Daisy Mart and Winks.
The flagship Couche-Tard and Mac's stores, as well as some older Winks outlets, prominently feature a distinctive anthropomorphic red, winking owl. This mascot, named "Jandrice", was inherited from the Provi-Soir / Winks chain when it was absorbed in the late 1990s.
Founded by current chairman Alain Bouchard, the corporation is based in Laval, Quebec, Canada, a suburb of Montreal.
In French, "couche-tard" literally means "(the type of person who) goes to bed late", with connotations very similar to "night owl" in English.
Alain Bouchard opened his first convenience store in 1980 in Laval. In 1985, Bouchard acquired 11 "Couche-Tard" branded stores in the Quebec City area which he merged with its existing stores in the Montreal area to rename the whole company "Alimentation Couche-Tard". In 1987, the company purchased the 7 Jours chain from Metro-Richelieu, which Couche-Tard has kept a separate chain to this day.
The chain's current status in Quebec is the result of the consolidation of several major convenience store chains in the province during the 1990s. In 1994, Couche-Tard, already a significant convenience-store operator in Quebec, acquired the La Maisonnée from Steinberg and Perrette chains, as well as Mac's stores in Quebec. The combined chain was subsequently rebranded "Dépan-Escompte Couche-Tard". To better reflect the new Depan-Escompte Couche-Tard trademark, a piggy bank mascot was introduced and replaced the previous Couche-Tard sleepwalker mascot from the late 1980s and early 1990s. In May 1997, Couche-Tard acquired C Corp, a subsidiary of Provigo that owned the chains Provi-Soir in Quebec, Winks in Ontario and Red Rooster in Alberta. In early 1999, Dépan-Escompte Couche-Tard and Provi-Soir merged to create the chain in its current branding; reverting to the old Couche-Tard name without "Dépan-Escompte" (albeit with a new logotype), but adopting the owl mascot of Provi-Soir. The company has since revived the Provi-Soir name in Quebec which it keeps as a distinct chain, much like the 7 Jours division. The new Provi-Soir, basically a combination of rebranded Couche-Tard and 7 Jours locations, does not feature the owl mascot from the original chain and its logotype is completely different than in its last incarnation.
Similarly, Silcorp had consolidated several of the largest Ontario convenience-store chains, such as Mac's and Becker's, under its ownership before being itself acquired by Couche-Tard. As in Quebec, other corporate banners such as Becker's and Mike's Mart are slowly being phased out in favour of the dominant Mac's brand, although new franchised stores are still being opened under the Winks and Daisy Mart brands.
In 2001, Couche-Tard broke into the American market with the acquisition of 172 Bigfoot convenience stores from Johnson Oil Company of Columbus, Indiana.
After making some tentative moves in the U.S. under the Mac's brand in the early 2000s, Couche-Tard acquired the Circle K chain from ConocoPhillips in 2003, promptly rebranding its existing U.S. locations to the better-known Circle K moniker. The Circle K brand is also franchised in Asia and elsewhere. Couche-Tard has held the master franchise for Dunkin' Donuts in Quebec since August 2003, but agreed in August 2008 to terminate this franchise within 12 to 18 months.
In early 2010 Couche-Tard started consolidating its outlets in Quebec by closing down many of those that did not do well in sales, and therefore allowing the successful ones to prosper. In all, over 300 stores were closed from 2010 throughout 2012.
In 2014, Couche-Tard sold off its Tiendas Extra chain in Mexico to Grupo Modelo, a brewery owned by international brewer AB InBev. Originally a sub-chain of Circle K, Couche-Tard acquired Extra when it acquired Circle K in 2003.
In 2015, Manulife Bank of Canada reached a deal with Couche-Tard to add its ATM machines to 830 locations. In September of that year, Manulife Bank also introduced speaker recognition.
On September 23, 2015, Couche-Tard announced that it would adopt the Circle K brand on all of its stores in English Canada, the United States, and Scandinavia. The Couche-Tard brand has been retained in Quebec.
On August 29, 2016, the purchase of 53 Cracker Barrel convenience stores in Louisiana for an undisclosed price was announced. As in the case with most of its other acquisitions, the Cracker Barrel chain would also be converted to Circle Ks. The acquired chain stores all have gas stations, with the exception of one location, and 12 have quick-serve restaurants. The Cracker Barrel chain is unrelated to the restaurant chain of the same name.
In July 2017, Couche-Tard announced an agreement to acquire Holiday Stationstores, the 18th largest convenience store chain in the United States, with over 500 locations in 10 states.
In August 2020, Couche-Tard announced that it had suspended plans to acquire 3900 Speedway stores held by Marathon Petroleum, following a winning competing bid from competing chain 7-Eleven for US$21 billion.