SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Martin's Super Markets here has added rotisserie chicken to its deli lineup.
The retailer predicts strong sales based on its long-time success with fried chicken, which has been a "great tailgate party item," said Meg Richardson, deli merchandiser for the 13-unit retailer. "And here in Notre Dame's home town, tailgating is very big. When there's a home game, we'll sell as many as 1,500 pieces on a Saturday afternoon from one store that's near the stadium."
Martin's decided to try to expand on that success by capitalizing on all the attention fast-food chains are giving rotisserie chicken in their ads, Richardson said. "We also wanted to combat food-court competition since we have no food courts in place."
She added that the healthy aspects of rotisserie chickens, too, are expected to attract customers.
Martin's is using priority space in ads, in-store signs, danglers and sampling to call attention to the program. Once sales are off the ground, Richardson said, Martin's will introduce individual chicken meals and then family meals.
Launched in September, the rotisserie chickens were spotlighted in a recent half-page ad on the front of the retailer's circular. Regularly priced at $3.99 each, the 3-pound-average birds were featured that week at two for $7.
"We season the chicken with all natural spices and seasonings, then slow roast it in our own rotisseries to give you the best rotisserie chicken you've ever tasted. Guaranteed," the ad says.
An illustration of a whole chicken dominates the top half of the page. The other half features Martin's European-style crusty breads.
"We wanted to call special attention to items that you can't get just anywhere. They can be a real draw to our bakery-deli department," said Sheryl Leddy, bakery director.
The rotisserie chickens are sourced marinated and frozen. At this point, only one variety is offered, but others, such as lemon-pepper, will probably be added, Richardson said.
"They've been doing all right, but I expect with just a little more advertising and attention, we'll more than double our sales," she said. Before the first ad, the retailer was selling about 500 a week.
Right now, the focus is on the whole chicken, but a lunch pack will get its debut soon, Richardson said. "We've had requests for an individual lunch. We're going to offer a quarter of a chicken, 'Hoosier fries' -- our version of french fries -- and a quarter-pound of salad and a dinner roll," she said. The price will be about $2.89.
After the first of the year, the retailer plans to push a family meal consisting of a whole rotisserie chicken, with a pint each of mashed potatoes, gravy and coleslaw, and six biscuits.
"That will be a good time for it, because people resolve to go on diets after New Year's, and I know KFC's advertising will help the dinner idea," Richardson said. She said her company's family dinner, probably at $7.99, will be perceived as a big value since KFC's price for a comparable meal is nearly twice that much in her area.