Cheap Eats: 'Own' your order at Rutter's
Jerry Weiner sometimes goes to Rutter's just to sit back and watch.
With an iced tea in hand, he keeps his eyes fixed on the touch screens.
Weiner, vice president of food services for Rutter's, said customers' choices always amaze him.
He once watched a businessman in his 30s order a ham and cheese sandwich with mayo and Caesar dressing, a combination Weiner considered odd.
He has watched people pour four different coffees and creamers into their cups, flavored with syrups and topped with sprinkles.
"I've watched people do things to their coffee that I would never think of," Weiner said.
He has his own creations: a toasted pot roast sandwich with gravy and a grilled cheese on white bread filled with cheesesteak meat.
The beauty of creativity - if someone doesn't like their culinary work of art, they've got no one to blame but themselves.
"They own it," Weiner said. "Like it our not, they did it."
I stopped by Rutter's in Manchester Township recently for lunch, thinking maybe I'd order a turkey sandwich or a wrap, a staple in my diet. I browsed through the screen to check out what the store had to offer.
I normally don't order food at convenience stores. I find it intriguing how convenience stores have changed in my lifetime.
When I think of convenience food, I think of my earliest recollection: room temperature pizza smushed in plastic wrap and pickled sausage at the checkout counter. That image paired with fuel pumps doesn't do much for my appetite.
I think I'm the odd one out on this one, especially in York County, an area covered with Rutter's, Sheetz and Royal Farms stores. However, these stores have completely overhauled their offerings and marketing in recent years.
I had a selection of sandwiches, wraps, breakfast, mashed potatoes, fried pickles and spaghetti with meatballs, among other items.
I decided to create my own wrap. I don't know why, but I chose roast beef. I don't usually eat much beef. I selected Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, Dijon mustard on multigrain. I added a little pepper and oregano for flavor, and picked up some fruit to make it a combo.
It was a decent wrap, prepared in less than four minutes - the chain's standard. Next time, I'd skip the oregano. But like Weiner said, it was my choice.
He said people crave options and the ability to customize their meals. Touch screens enable convenience stores to provide that service.
"We have now entered an era where people want to create their own thing," Weiner said.
He started working at Rutter's in 1997 and moved to vice president of food services in 2000. He started a new food program in 2007 to provide dinner in some stores that have space.
Now, customers can order a stir-fry at Rutter's.
Choose from beef, chicken or pork. Teriyaki, sweet and sour, or General Tsao's. Snow peas, broccoli or onions. Fried rice, white rice or lo mein.
The meal comes with a fortune cookie and chop sticks.
Weiner said such menu additions stem from new customer demands.
"Giving them the choices is a very important part of satisfying customers," he said.
Cheap Eats profiles local restaurants with meals for less than $10. Suggestions are welcome. Reach Leigh Zaleski at 771-2101, email@example.com.
If you go
LOCATION: Rutter's Farm Store, 55 stores in Pennsylvania
LEIGH'S PICK: Roast beef wrap, melon, an orange and iced coffee ($8.74)
HOURS: 24 hours a day every day
PRICE RANGE: $1.29 to $5.99
ACCEPTS: Cash and credit
KID'S MENU: Yes
DETAILS: Visit www.rutters.com or call 848-9827