News & Solutions Rotisserie Report
TAMPA, Fla. -- Boston Market, watch out. Kash n' Karry Food Stores here is pitting its new rotisserie meals program against the best of them.
After laying the groundwork for a comprehensive rotisserie meals concept over the past year, the chain has brought it all together this spring in a program built around a carving station that serves up not just chicken, but also turkey breast, ribs and Cuban-style roast pork.
To make the full transition to a meals program, Kash n' Karry finished off the station with self-serve side dishes, said Jarett Peppard, food-service manager for the 91-unit chain.
Kash n' Karry started to revamp and expand its rotisserie strategy last year to keep it in step
with a new larger mandate to create a fresh image for its stores.
The first step was to replace the smaller, frozen chickens it had been using for its rotisserie with fresh, marinated, 3-pounders, Peppard said. Soon after, it added ribs and turkey breast. This month Cuban-style pork loin joined the menu.
Peppard unveiled the service carving station and serve-yourself vegetables in March at the grand reopening of a remodeled store here.
As of this month, the rotisserie program, including sales of entrees from a self-service island case, is accounting for 17% of deli sales, Peppard added.
The carving station, staffed by three smiling associates decked out in crispy chefs' garb, looks more like an upscale buffet than a supermarket department.
The operation is not a buffet, however, at least in the sense of letting customers go back for free seconds. But they can pile as many vegetables on the 10-and-a-quarter-inch plate as it will hold.
A quarter chicken, white meat dinner with serve-yourself sides is $3.99. A portion of turkey with sides, or ribs with sides, is $4.99.
"Quality is our top priority, but just as important is our customers' perception of value," Peppard said.
And the value part of the equation is important for any rotisserie program in a supermarket, Peppard said. Kash n' Karry's positioning on price also serves the program well against competition from other supermarkets and from "our newly defined competitors such as Boston Market and Kenny Rogers," he said.
Kash n' Karry arrived at its price points by carefully surveying what the competition was charging for similar products. Then the chain evaluated its own service levels and quality standards against the competition's. The conclusion was that Kash n' Karry could actually offer more value and still keep prices under that of the competition. A whole rotisserie chicken retails at $3.99 at Kash n' Karry, for example, a dollar less than at other supermarkets in the area, and substantially less than at restaurants such as Boston Market, Peppard said.
Peppard's strategy is to build volume sales. It's the number of rings and the size of those rings that will build the bottom line, he explained.
"When you're behind the counter, it's easier to manage small numbers. That's where the attention should be day to day," he explained. Sales levels mean much more to the store-level person than margins, he said. It sets a positive goal based on numbers against which progress can be easily measured.
The ideal margin, on the other hand, might differ for each amenity from store to store, he said, making comparative analysis more complex.
"For example, in some neighborhoods where we have to try harder to build business, I'd let a little more shrink go by in order to keep offering consistently fresh product," Peppard said. "We make it clear to our associates at store level that it's OK to sacrifice that food [that has been sitting too long]. At the same time, we stress that quality and the food's legitimacy in terms of the customer's perception must never be compromised."
As an illustration of his way of implementing quality standards, Peppard said he requires that associates constantly cut food being held to test its taste profile -- and that means as often as every 30 minutes.
The entrees are cooked in a bank of three electric rotisseries. The company chose electrically operated equipment that doesn't need to be vented to the outside. The resulting aroma in the store is a decided dividend, Peppard said.
Ovens behind the carving station are used to hold the products, both entrees and vegetables. "Those ovens keep the products moist," Peppard explained.
To herald the difference of the rotisserie meals program -- and also to evaluate how such a program would be accepted by its customers -- Peppard took product sampling to a new level for the chain.
With the blessing of top management, he gave away thousands of dollars' worth of dinners for two weeks prior to the program's official launch. On the night prior to the store's reopening, Kash n' Karry gave away a total of 65 chickens, 25 turkey breasts and 30 slabs of ribs.
"We were able to determine customers' time schedules, their patterns, during the two weeks prior to the store's reopening. It was definitely a good investment," he said.
Most rotisserie sales are from the carving station, and the busiest time of day is lunchtime. Most customers also choose to eat their meals at tables in the store's Sand Dollar cafe. Next on Peppard's schedule is to focus on hiking evening sales and takeout sales. To do that, he will feature family-sized meals, he said.
The rotisserie meal concept is destined for more Kash n' Karry stores. The next one will be put in a remodeled store just a few miles away.