CSP Exclusive: EZ Energy's Sandwiches Are Cooking

Hot-sandwich test elevating sales across foodservice, tied to roller grill

Abbie Westra, Director, Editorial, CSP

SEVEN HILLS, Ohio -- Increased basket rings, sales lifts across categories and elevated credibility. Frank White has a lot to be happy about with his new hot-sandwich program. It's also helping him capture quick-service restaurant (QSR) customers.

"With any fresh food program, one of things that gives it a lot of credibility is variety. We were missing that burger customer," said White, director of marketing for EZ Energy USA. "This gives our customers a choice, and that person who may have been going to a McDonalds or a Burger King are now coming to us."

In this five-store test, the 91-store, Ohio-based chain is using the new Fast Fixin' Sandwich Bar from AdvancePierre Foods. The program consists of a hot-holding unit with wells to hold three prepackaged trays of fully cooked proteins: Angus beef patties, breaded chicken and barbecue pork rib patties.

Paired with bun warmers and condiment bars, it allows customers to build their own sandwiches, similar to the roller grill. The proteins are heated quickly (three minutes in a microwave) in the packaging--eliminating any employee contact with the food. (See Related Content below for previous CSP Daily News coverage.)

EZ Energy rolled the program out at the end of January at three stores in Pittsburgh, one in Mansfield, Ohio, and one at a truckstop in Monroeville, Ohio. The stores already had a range of roller-grill items, pizza, grab-and-go hot sandwiches and fresh subs.

In the stores already doing a robust foodservice business, the added variety actually brought an overall lift in awareness, credibility and sales. Sales of pizza slices increased by double digits, and roller grill and fountain sales also saw a jump. As for the sandwiches, some stores are pushing more than 50 units per location per day, said White.

The stores with slower lunch business have experienced a smaller bump, and White plans to start some external advertising (pumptoppers and coupon drops) to drive traffic into those locations.

What might be most notable is what Fast Fixin' means to the roller grill. For one, it's given them added variety. "And it's increased our basket ring because the customer who might be getting something for $1.49 or $1.99 is moving up to this fresh program," said White. (Sandwiches sell for $2.49 or 2 for $4).

Those shoppers are also enjoying the expanded condiment center, including shelf-stable, squeeze-bottle toppings from Heinz; fresh relish, tomatoes and onions; a real Wisconsin cheese squeezable Cheddar spread; and a fried-onion topping from Onion Crunch. Buns come individually wrapped from Gonnella.

The roller grill also determines how EZ Energy might roll the program into other stores. "I would never put it anywhere without a roller grill with it. That's a key customer," said White, who estimates the program--including the Fast Fixin' case, any existing roller grills and condiment bar--requires about six to eight feet.

Potential new locations also need to have good lunch traffic--as well as busy morning business, as said he White hopes to expand the program with breakfast items soon.

Abbie Westra, CSP/Winsight By Abbie Westra, Director, Editorial, CSP
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