Although Rutter’s has been offering foodservice since its early days as a dairy company in 1921, the company recently reached an epiphany.
Leadership realized that due to its expansive food menu — which includes numerous items across breakfast, lunch and dinner — certain items take longer to prepare and serve than others, and time-crunched customers may take their services elsewhere if they don’t want to wait for their food.
“Each customer has their own needs and desires in terms of speed of service, what they're looking for in a food item, and how many items they want,” Chris Hartman, vice president of fuels, advertising and development for the York, Pennsylvania-based convenience retailer, said during a recent NACS webinar. “Depending on what they're looking for depends on how they're looking to get it.”
That sparked Rutter’s to explore online ordering. After months of prep, in March the company launched its program with the help of Paytronix’s Order & Delivery platform, which lets convenience stores and restaurants design, build and deploy online their own ordering capabilities.
Through the system, customers can select from Rutter’s entire menu and order ahead for food to be picked up as soon as possible or at a specific time. All customers can order ahead of time on Rutter’s website, while only rewards members can do so through its mobile app.
So far, the program has proven successful. Within 90 days of launching the program, the amount of food orders placed among Rutter’s loyalty members has increased by 24%, while those same customers are spending 10% more, Hartman noted. Between March and April, the amount of total orders placed tripled.
Beyond those numbers, the platform has helped Rutter’s foodservice team better understand customer expectations for speed and quality — which, in turn, maximizes the overall profitability of its foodservice program, Hartman said.
“We’ve seen that the average ticket on an online order has been larger than tickets placed in-store,” he noted.
Testing and marketing
Before launching its online ordering system, Rutter’s test-ordered every item on its menu multiple times. This ranged from placing the order online to preparing it for pickup in-store to ensure there were no hiccups with the technology, Hartman said.
“Rigorous testing is key because you want that experience at launch to be as close to perfect as possible,” he said.
Rutter’s also trained its foodservice team members to properly use the program, he noted. Team members were excited to find moments of relief during the busy breakfast, lunch and dinner hours, since not as many customers were ordering in-person at one time.
“That excitement really drove the acceptance from our employees to make [the platform] successful,” he noted.
Rutter’s also invested heavily in marketing the program. This included social media promotions, in-store signage, fuel pump ads, commercials and billboards.
And of course, there’s always word-of-mouth marketing, which is critical, Hartman noted.
“Making sure we took the steps necessary to have that strong launch, that experience that customers would enjoy — that's the best marketing that you can really have,” he said.