fas mart spreads its wings

After a successful test of a proprietary chicken program at 60 stores, the chain is preparing a company-wide rollout.

With over 150 stores,Fas Mart and Shore Stop’smarket strategy focuses onspeed, quality and convenience for its customers. Its primary goalis to continuously improve the speed andthe quality of goods it offers consumers.

Throughout its growth and expansion,Fas Mart, operated by GPM InvestmentsLLC in Mechanicsville, Va., has earned areputation for excellence. It’s guided by itsseven core values: Commitment, Passionfor Excellence, Honesty and Integrity,Discipline, Accountability, Adaptabilityand Team Work.

In its bid to become a world-class company, Fas Mart embarked upon an effortto improve in all areas of business andto become a compelling place to work,shop and invest. The entire organizationparticipated in the development of a fiveyear strategic plan for the company andis in the process of implementing those initiatives to accomplish its goals andobjectives.

Fried Success

As part of this growth strategy, FasMart has developed fresh fried chicken asa signature item and branded the program”Fas Fresh Chicken.” In fact, fried chickenis credited for driving convenience storesales in recent years. Last year, Fas Martreported that chicken sales increased 35%,and overall deli sales increased by doubledigits.

In a test of 60 stores a year ago, FasMart prepped, fried and sold approximately two million pounds of friedchicken, and another 1.5 million poundsof hot wings and tenders. This excludesmany of the other fried items Fas Martsells, such as corn dogs.

In a high-volume environment suchas Fas Mart’s, equipment reliability anddurability remain key factors in the success of the operation. In other words, afryer that goes down quickly equates tolost sales and customer confidence.

“Where it relates to our customers, asfar as foodservice goes, we want to makesure that safety is priority one,” saidWayne Sarkees, category manager for FasMart. “Because that’s key, we have to havethe proper procedures, the correct equipment—even training has to be in placeso that when a customer buys a productfrom us, they know it’s going to be issuefree. We make a promise when a customerbuys a piece of our chicken, they can feelgood about eating it themselves, or aboutserving it to their children. If you breakthat promise, it’s very hard to get that trustback. We want to do it the right way.”

Getting it Right, Right Away
With all of the competition for foodservice dollars, customers know that whenit comes to chicken, taste is key. For eachstore’s strategic design and equipmentrecommendations, the company turns toCarlisle Food Systems—a partner they’verelied upon for years and an authorizedHenny Penny distributor.

Carlisle works closely with its retail customers to first determine their needs, andthen to match those needs with equipmentrecommendations that will withstand theoften-grueling abuse it will experience ina pressure-cooker environment.

“The pressure fryers cook our productto perfection and afford us the taste andappearance profile we know we need,”Sarkees said. “If you’re going to make thecommitment to do foodservice, you have to make the commitment to do it right.”Food at Fas Mart isn’t simply aboutprofit margin. The commitment to qualityis a commitment that begins with the CEOand filters down to the store level. “We’renot going to do things halfway. We’redoing fresh fried chicken. Not frozen. Notpre-breaded. It’s fresh,” Sarkees said.

Fas Mart relies on Henny Penny’s PFE500 pressure fryer with a Computron 8000control module. By virtue of the fryer’sdesign, the cooking method is one of theindustry’s most profitable, efficient andspace-saving methods available for highvolume cooking. With the ability to cookup to 14 pounds of food per load from justfive square feetof floor space, large batches as well as small can befried under pressure, without having to adjust times and temperatures.A built-in filtration system extends shortening life at optimal levels.

With its automatic load compensationfeatures, the equipment basically knowsto compensate if a smaller load is beingfried. It’s going to come out with the sameconsistency as it would for the full load.

Automatic and manual idle melt cycleoptions also provide the user with theoption of automatically turning back thetemperature when appropriate, affordingFas Mart a significant cost savings, bothin terms of utility costs as well as oil forfrying. What’s more, the equipment isuser-friendly, a benefit when dealing withturnover. Sarkees said training is streamlined due to the preprogramming timeand temperature features.

Fas Mart also enlists the Henny PennyHHC 903, a holding cabinet that helpsthe store manage back-up product that’snot yet in the display case. Entrées takeupwards of 45 minutes to cook typically, so if a store runs out of entrées in the middleof a daypart rush, it holds until more canbe prepared. With the holding cabinets, all employees haveto do ispull productoutand placeit in thecase during rush hours.

“The equipment is easy to work withand it’s easy to train on, too, whether it’sa hot case or just overall maintenance ofthe fryers. This is critical, especially whenyou’re working with staff and employeesin a lower-skill, high-turnover industrysuch as ours,” Sarkees said.

HMR Potential
To further meet consumer demand, FasMart has embarked on a new endeavor—tapping into the growing home mealreplacement (HMR) segment. The company has just concluded testing on a wholerotisserie chicken product, which has beenmet with overwhelming demand and consumer approval.

“Since people like our fried chicken, wesaw it as a natural progression,” Sarkeessaid. “For those shoppers who wantsomething that can be perceived as a little more healthy, we can now confidentlyoffer rotisserie chicken.”

But space was a concern. Without theability to expand current square footage,Fas Mart needed equipment solutions that would maximize its limited space, yetyield a tasty, high-quality product. To meetthe need, a Henny Penny SCR CountertopRotisserie was installed. This high-performance, single cabinet unit includes a spitrotation switch for easy loading, helpingthe store save on space while still incorporating the technological standards they’vecome to know.

Combining Fas Mart’s strong locations with market analysis, research, solidpartnerships and the right foodserviceequipment is paying big dividends forthe convenience store chain. It recentlyannounced that it will introduce its newrotisserie chicken to all new and remodeled Fas Mart stores in the coming year.

“There are many problems that can getin the way of a successful business, minimizing equipment problems is just oneway to avoid them,” Sarkees said, adding his experience with Henny Penny hasnever been about simply selling products—it’s about developing new concepts,value-added services and customizedfoodservice solutions.

“We buy Henny Penny equipment.Period,” Sarkees said. “Is there cheaperequipment out there? Absolutely. Butwe’ve used Henny Penny equipment foryears. We look at the quality—and weknow all that they stand for. It’s simple,they stand behind your equipment—andin NASCAR country, where we operate,it’s too fast to slow down for broken orinferior equipment.”

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