PLEASANTON, Calif. -- Things may be bigger out West, and at Safeway, that now goes for fresh rotisserie chickens, too.
The chain, based here, is trying to boost its rotisserie-chicken business from the deli with a new emphasis on larger birds.
The new chicken product, 25% larger than previous offerings, is being used to appeal to customers with big appetites, who have the perception that a larger bird is a better value, according to industry sources.
Safeway officials were not available to comment on the program's new reliance on larger birds. Industry observers, commenting on Safeway's decision, said the new direction is most likely being taken to offer customers more value, and therefore to challenge the perception of superior value that some other carry-out operators in Safeway's trading areas enjoy, primarily because they had been offering meatier birds than those sold at the supermarket.
The chain is aggressively promoting the larger chickens, both in the stores and in print, in at least two of its marketing areas, Seattle and northern California.
In regular newspaper ads and in store circulars, Safeway is heralding the rotisserie program with an eye-catching strip, topped with a "Big Appetite?" teaser headline. The advertisement declares that Safeway's new rottisserie chickens are 25% larger.
The chickens indeed are big birds, with a finished cooked weight of just about 2 pounds each.
In-store banners repeating the "Big Appetite?" tagline are strung up in the service deli departments, mirroring the print advertising and inviting customers to "Try out Rotisserie Chicken, original barbecue or zesty lemon herb flavors. Now 25% larger."
Safeway is also aligning its pricing of this larger rotisserie chicken more closely with those found in competing carry-out chains. The operator has shifted away from a per-pound approach to pricing, and has moved toward a pricing structure based on each bird or dinner, as do successful rotisserie chicken outlets such as Boston Market.
In northern California, for example, the chickens are being advertised at $4.99 each. In western Washington, the prices have been set at two for $8.
The rotisserie chickens are also being included as a choice component in the Chicken Licken' Dinner Meal. This meal, priced at $6.99, is composed of the customer's choice of either flavor of rotisserie chicken, fried chicken or chicken strips; two 1-pound side orders chosen from a selection including macaroni salad, coleslaw, potato salad and fried potatoes; and two 32-ounce drinks.
Offering larger-size chickens -- in addition to complete meals -- may be a move Safeway is strategically making to challenge carry-out operators, by offering a comparable product or meal package at a significant savings, said Dan Giacoletto, national promotions and merchandising manager, BC-USA, New Holland, Pa., and an industry expert.
"The larger the bird, the more edible meat that is available, with less bone," Giacoletto told SN. "This produces a better value for the customer and is something positive for the retailer to be remembered by.
"If retailers want to be in the same business as carry-out operators such as Boston Market, they have to sell the same product," Giacialetto said, "Not skinny, little birds, but larger and flavorful chickens."