On Sunday, the New York Times wrote about everyone’s favorite dilemma— one that has
puzzled lovers of roadside fare since the beginning of time.
Sheetz or Wawa?
Shmuffin or Sizzli?
“Made-To-Order” or “Built-To-Order?”
It’s an interesting debate. Both establishments have tribal followings that rival those of Pennsylvania’s favorite sports teams, the story pointed out.
We are creatures of habit
We love our greasy food.
We love our self-serve coffee.
We love to form strong opinions about things that don’t really matter.
I got Scott Hartman, CEO of Rutter’s Farm Stores, to weigh in:
“Many people start their day in a convenience store,” he said. “It’s the people connection, the consistency of the offer, the quality of the offer. Those are all things that make people loyal to a store and a brand.”
I may have shed a tear when I noticed that the York County-based chain and its yellow and red awnings didn’t get any ink in the New York Times piece.
I mean, really? How can you not spread the love for a joint with this “call for help” button in the bathroom?
Their slogan says it all: “Why go anywhere else?”
Alas, Rutter’s — with just 57 stores in a regional market — is much smaller than its competitors on a statewide level.
But, as they say, size doesn’t matter.
In the inaugural Convenience Store News Foodservice Innovators Awards, Rutter’s was named Food Service Retailer of the Year by the National Association of Convenience Stores.
Pennsylvania, in general, is a progressive state for convenience store food, Hartman said. Consumers elsewhere aren’t as keen on the idea of filling their tanks and stomachs simultaneously.
“Since we can’t sell beer and wine, we had to develop another category of strength,” he added. “Food was the area that everybody focused on.”
Across the United States, he said, beer accounts for 20 percent of sales at convenience stores.
Many Pennsylvania convenience stores have history in the dairy business. Food was already part of the equation, he added.
So, where does Hartman stand on the Sheetz vs. Wawa debate?
It would probably be treason for him to comment.
He, too, is a creature of habit.
“Other than going into their stores to see what they’re doing,” he said. “I don’t really patronize either one of them very often.”