How Rutter's Took a Struggling Item & Turned It Into a Standout
YORK, Pa. — 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 Rutter's Director of Foodservice Ryan Krebs recently found out.
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.
"What an epic fail that would have been," he reflected.
For more on menu development, click below to read our full report, “The Building Blocks of Convenience Foodservice.”