The New Face of Convenience

The late Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald’s once said, “Luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get.” Well, the folks at Rutter’s must be drenched. 
Fresh off the launch of its convenience store prototype in York, Pa., the executive team at Rutter’s, Scott Hartman, Jeff Leedy and Jerry Weiner, were kind enough to invite CSD out to see the new unit and marvel at the design firsthand. It didn’t disappoint. The sprawling 5,400-square-foot facility features a host of amenities that are more upscale restaurant in quality than traditional convenience store. Impressive, elegant and captivating are all adjectives that come to mind when describing the stylish design. 
The store features Rutter’s latest foodservice offerings, including custom stir fry, fajitas and fresh-baked breads. Customers can design their own “oriental bowls” by choosing from chicken, beef and pork;  rice, noodles and veggies; and various toppings and dressings. 
Wide aisles and an open floor design make it easy not only to navigate the many offerings, but to see them from afar, a feature that will speed up service for customers looking to get in and out quickly. Plus, it offers 20 cold and frozen display doors neatly marketed in the background that offer everything from national brands to locally-produced and proprietary dairy items.
“Our customers ask us to provide the most up-to-date stores possible–bigger, brighter and more fast-food options. These new stores will be bigger (5,300 to 5,800 square feet), with new food and product offerings and new media and technologies, and they will incorporate our new ‘green’ initiatives to help save energy and improve the environment,” Hartman said. “Although the economy is slowing, we are trying to do our part to keep all our great construction-worker customers working. It’s going to be a busy, exciting year for all of us.” 
Fighting Back
What is important about Rutter’s $55 million investment in its convenience operations is the timing. Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks, Panera Bread and others haven’t been shy about their desire to attract convenience store customers. Rutter’s new design sends a stern message that this industry isn’t giving up a single customer without a fight. It’s a message that’s long overdue.
“We’ve spent months developing a menu that’s not typically associated with a convenience store,” Weiner said. “We’ve positioned ourselves to compete against restaurants as well as convenience stores. And yet we’ve retained the ‘fast’ aspect as every item on our menu can be prepared in less than four minutes.”
The need to live on the edge and constantly reinvent operations is no big secret. We have been talking about the blurring of retail lines for some time. But typically, the focus has been on how other retail channels are encroaching on the convenience industry. Clearly, that’s not the case anymore. So the next time you hear a report about Dunkin’ Donuts’ sandwich program or energy drink sales at McDonald’s, remember there’s a bulls eye on their backs as well. See the Rutter’s cover story beginning on p. 22.
Honoring Chevron
As we announced last month, CSD is proud to honor Chevron as the 2008 Convenience Store Chain of the Year. It is a most deserving chain. Over the past year, Chevron has reduced credit card processing fees for its branded marketers, introduced a credit card program with a loyalty component that has no processing costs for retailers and promoted a popular dual-branded fuel strategy that gives chains two strong brands to grow their business. That’s no easy feat for a company with more than 10,000 corporate and franchised convenience stores and gas stations.
We will be honoring Chevron during the NACS Show on Oct. 5 at the Metropolitan Club, which is located on the 67th floor of the Sears Tower in Chicago. Tickets and seating is limited. Please drop me a line if you’re interested in joining us for what is sure to be a special evening.
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