CLEMENS LOOKS TO HEAT SUMMER MEAL SALES

KULPSVILLE, Pa. -- Clemens Markets here is offering its main course entrees at a special price for the first time, to try to spark sales that had cooled when summer arrived.Paul Rorer, food services buyer for the 14-unit chain, said the special prices, advertised last month, are being applied to the entrees that are produced fresh at Clemens' central kitchen.He said sales lately have reflected a seasonal

KULPSVILLE, Pa. -- Clemens Markets here is offering its main course entrees at a special price for the first time, to try to spark sales that had cooled when summer arrived.

Paul Rorer, food services buyer for the 14-unit chain, said the special prices, advertised last month, are being applied to the entrees that are produced fresh at Clemens' central kitchen.

He said sales lately have reflected a seasonal slump that was not unexpected. Generally, the program is performing up to Clemens' expectations.

"It's a hot meals program," Rorer said. Even though the items are offered chilled, they are sold to be reheated, "and it has slacked off as the weather warmed up." He added that he does not have the results in yet to determine whether the latest ad, which touts the price reduction, has helped sales recover.

"We know business will pick up again in the fall," he continued. "The program is doing very well. It takes continual refinement, though, to do it right."

Rorer added that most of the tweaking to the program has involved minor changes or additions that are usually in response to customer requests.

"For example, we had customers tell us they wanted additional basic vegetables without so much sauce as side components, so we've added some," he said. More types of potatoes and plain spinach are examples.

In the chain's ad circular last month, its "HomeStyle" center-of-the-plate items were offered at 25% off the regular price. At the top of the page, just above the chain's two-week "Meals for You" menu, which features a meal of the day for two, a drawing of the HomeStyle packaging was shown.

Next to the illustration, the ad said, "Save up to $1.75. Private collection recipes, HomeStyle selections. All main course entrees! Assorted varieties (varies daily). Does not include side dishes, soups or desserts."

The separate meal components number 30 to 35 daily, including soups and desserts. They are displayed alongside the meals for two program, called "Meals for You." Meals for You features an entree, two side dishes, soup and dessert, packed in heavy, white plastic bags that bear the Clemens' logo. The meals are assembled in-store from components delivered fresh each day from the chain's central kitchen.

Friday is the top sales day for the Meals for You program, and Baltimore crab cakes are the stand-out favorite, Rorer said.