Rutter’s is a network of 68 convenience stores. Fifty-five of our locations feature made-to-order foodservice operations, while the remaining 13 locations use a more traditional c-store foodservice model, including menu items cooked on roller grills.
The footprint of our stores with made-to-order foodservice can measure up to 9,200 square feet. Each store has at least two fryers but can go up to four fryers based on the location’s volume. Our menu includes 20 to 25 fryer items, ranging from standard items like mozzarella sticks, fries and hash browns to more unique things like fried bologna, corn nuggets, and mac and cheese bites.
Because we hang our hat on food quality and consistency from one location to another, our operations use closed fryers. A crew member places the food into the fryer and closes it. The food cooks for a set period of time and the menu item comes out consistently every time.
Although I got into this position two years ago, I have been a restaurant chef for close to 30 years. Over the course of my career, I always thought there had to be a better way to filter and recycle fryer oil. It’s a dirty and dangerous task, which means nobody wants to do this.
We had a system that was a little better than most but it was still manual. We used a manual pump to transfer the grease from the fryer to the vat. Then a crew member had to wheel the grease out back to dump it. Then a crew member had to lift 35 pound jugs to refill the fryers.
Just recently, we transitioned to a dual tank, automated fryer oil management system. When it’s time to filter the oil a staff member puts a hose in the fryer that connects to a box that filters the shortening. It gets the debris out of the oil and treats it to help extend the life of the oil. By flipping a switch and using a wand, a staff member can replenish the oil in a fryer.
If it’s time to replace the oil, the staff member hits a button and it pumps the old oil to the recycling tank. When empty, you hit the button on the wand and that pumps new, clean oil into the fryer from a holding tank on-site.
Using this system extended the shelf life of our fryer oil by two days, and with our volume that is significant. We have been able to reduce labor to the point that this system has already generated a positive return on investment.
This is just the start for automation within the restaurant industry. It will play a critical role in creating efficiencies in the years to come. Whether it’s information or temperature monitoring or even enhancing speed of service, automation will play a role in making our foodservice operations more efficient. Automation will help streamline our operations to help our team spend more time with our customers and we will continue to set goals to keep Rutter’s on the forefront of innovation.