Applegreen executives keeping the wheels on a well-oiled machine
Applegreen appears to be a well-oiled machine. And while its senior management team has confirmed that it has now committed to expanding in the United States, they don't want the wheels to fall off.
There's no doubt that the growth potential for the group in the US is enormous in the long term. However, there's still plenty to keep the group occupied on this side of the Atlantic too, with the development of motorway service areas in Britain also a long-term project.
In the US, Applegreen has so far teamed up with 7-Eleven for its retail offering. To date, Applegreen's US outlets are petrol filling stations. But Mr Etchingham said that the company had added two sites in the US since the year end, which he said included its first potential trunk road service area in southern Massachusetts.
Those service areas are a scaled-up filling station format with seating areas and up to three food and beverage offerings.
"We're actively exploring other opportunities in the US market," he added. "We're strengthening our management team and we are confident that the US can become a future expansion platform for the business in years to come."
Mr Etchingham co-founded Applegreen with chief operations officer Joe Barrett, who oversees the company's American business.
"We're always out there looking," said Mr Barrett, who said that 7-Eleven also helps Applegreen to identify locations.
"As a medium-term prospect, there are lots of opportunities in the US. We're just looking at the east coast, and we're not going further afield than that," he added.
"There's a very pro-Irish culture over there. There's a lot of support, especially from our supplier base who give us better supply prices than ordinarily for the size of business we are."
Mr Etchingham stressed that it's impossible to know just how many sites Applegreen could eventually have in the US, given the scale of the sector there.
"There are 152,000 gas stations in the US," he said. "Where our estate might grow to in three or five years' time - it's impossible to predict that."
He pointed out that CrossAmerica - from which Applegreen has already leased sites - has 1,200 sites in the US, with other companies having similarly-sized footprints.
The cautious approach to US growth will serve the company well. Retail history is littered with examples of failed overseas expansion.