Saturday, April 27, 2019

Rutter’s Convenience Stores Customers Love the Fast-Casual Food

Johnson, identified, quantified, and qualified ‘The 65 Inch HDTV Syndrome’ in 2011 and the cultural evolution driving the undercurrents of consumers eating habits continue to expand in favor of grocerant niche Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh food. Regular reader of this blog know that the food business is not brain surgery.  Odd as it may seem, chain restaurant trade publications want to profess it is and no one can do it better than a chain restaurant executive.  Well, Ikea, Costco, Wawa, 7-Eleven, Wegmans, and New Seasons Market along with Rutter’s are all building sales off restaurant customers according to Johnson.
Rutter's Director of Foodservice Ryan Krebs know the food business is not brain surgery. Krebs understands that developing a standout menu item doesn't have to mean starting from scratch. It's possible to take a product that already exists, reposition how it's offered and marketed, and create a success story, as recently found out.
When “Krebs began looking into why the convenience store chain's Chicken Pot Pie was experiencing poor sales. The locally made, 12-ounce item, which was stored in the cold case and positioned as something to grab and heat up at home, wasn't moving despite Pennsylvania Dutch-style Chicken Pot Pie being very popular in Rutter's operating area.
"It wasn't resonating with customers as something they'd pick up and heat later," Krebs told Convenience Store News. The rates at which the packaged pies were being thrown out for reaching spoilage dates would have justified removing the product, but he decided to experiment first by making a simple change: heating it up in-store. "I used all my culinary background," Krebs joked.
Rutter's began offering the same Chicken Pot Pie as both a made-to-order menu item and a grab-and-go product from the hot hold. For packaging, the retailer put it in the soup cups it already used. The difference in format made an immediate difference.
Virtually overnight, sales jumped from a couple of cases per week to thousands. Rutter's distributor even added another line just to keep up with the product demand. "It elevated the entire program," Krebs said, noting that even the Chicken Pot Pie's cold version saw increased sales afterward, growing by more than 100 percent compared to what they were before.
Today, the product "just crush[es] it in fall and winter," he said, and still sees high buy-in during the spring and summer months. What was nearly a failed menu item became a success story with dedicated promotional support and its own TV commercial.
One interesting and unexpected aspect of the item's spike in popularity is that despite the recipe being a particular regional style, the Rutter's store that ranks No. 1 in Chicken Pot Pie sales is not located in Pennsylvania Dutch Country.
The entire experience taught Krebs that format matters as much as the actual product, and that the right product can stretch beyond cultural barriers. Above all, he's glad he didn't opt to drop the item and be done with it.  When the customer moves retailer must move with them. 
Consumers are dynamic not static.  Does your restaurant brand look more like yesterday than today or tomorrow? Brand protectionism is dead according to Johnson.  If your brand is not evolving it is dying? 
Invite Foodservice Solutions® to complete a Grocerant Program Assessment, Grocerant ScoreCard, or for product positioning or placement assistance, or call our Grocerant Guru®.  Since 1991  of Tacoma, WA has been the global leader in the Grocerant niche. Contact: or 253-759-7869

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