Foodservice: Retailer Perspective 2014

Q&A With Jerry Weiner, Rutter’s Farm Stores

By  Kelly Kurt, Freelance writer

Jerry Weiner
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Q: Tell us about Rutter’s foodservice offer.

A: We have 45 locations with touch-screen ordering for food—made fresh to order—as well as a hot and cold grab-and-go offer. Most of those also offer seating. All of them offer free Wi-Fi. We also have 14 locations that, although they do not have the ordering screens, still produce all food items on premise for a fresh-made offering. We bake five sub rolls, two ciabatta rolls, biscuits, muffins, cookies and a hand-stretched stromboli, which is baked to order. We do everything in front of the customer.

Q: What are some foodservice trends that you are including in your off er this year?

A: Flavor trends in our market, like many others, are moving toward Hispanic taste profiles and more zesty condiments and sauces. Some of our most popular items are walking tacos, soft-shell tacos and quesadillas. We recently rolled out Ultimate Burgers, which give the option of adding fried pickles, mac-and-cheese bites, mozzarella sticks, fries, pastrami, steak and taco meat to a burger.

Q: Are you seeing increased interest in more healthful options?

A: It used to be that consumers didn’t care at all about healthier options. Then we moved to where they talked healthy but didn’t eat that way. I think we have arrived at where they are trying to make healthier choices. While we offer a 230-calorie breakfast sandwich—made with an egg-white patty, a turkey-sausage patty and a 100-calorie roll—customers request that combination less than 10% of the time. Most of the time, consumers are placing an egg-white patty on a croissant with bacon and cheese, but they feel better about their choices. Or they have a pastrami burger melt but put it on a 100-calorie roll. I do believe this is generational. My children are doing a much better job teaching my grandchildren to eat healthier than I ever did with them.

Q: How do you accommodate your customers’ desire for customization?

A: I see consumers wanting to literally have it their way. We have entered an era of customization and personalization of foodservice items. This is not just for food but extends to coffee, fountain and crew-served espresso bars. Our kiosk ordering system truly lends itself to satisfy that desire, and our entire menu is available 24/7. When a customer goes on the kiosk and selects a food group—sandwich, sub, wrap, stromboli, etc.—there are myriad options on each screen for bread, cheese, meat, condiment/ sauce and toppings.

Q: What trends are you seeing in beverages?

A: In cold beverages, I see people adding syrup fl avoring and multiple fountain fl avors to make their individual beverage. It’s the same in hot beverages but with multiple options for creamers, sweeteners and toppings. Our newly installed espresso bars are crew-served and offer many options for hot cappuccinos and lattes, as well as iced lattes, frappes and smoothies. All of these feed that desire to have it their way.

Q: How have you changed your offer to address the trend toward all-day snacking?

A: We offer nine items that are “appetizer/ snack” food, and they are very popular during some of the day-parts. Consumers order several of these snacks and make that their meal. We also have introduced a value menu of 54 items priced 99 cents to $1.99. This has been very effective in creating price value, and customers are taking advantage of these offers. Overall they are spending more money in total than before we had this offer.

Q: If you had to point to one thing that makes your foodservice a success, what is it?

A: I believe our success is defined by an offer that is fresh-made food, high in quality and a price value. The challenge is to do it consistently in every location, every day. The better we get at execution, the more successful the program is.

Jerry Weiner is vice president of foodservice at Rutter’s Farm Stores, York, Pa., 59 stores.

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