WINTERSVILLE, Ohio — One weekend per month, Scott Stewart, store director for the Riesbeck's Market here, gets to show off his grilling skills and promote his company's Certified Hereford beef program at the same time.
The most recent cookout, held the first weekend of August right outside the store's entrance, tempted shoppers with fresh off-the-grill specialties like Stewart's signature rib-eye sandwiches.
Stewart said he chooses to do the grilling himself because he enjoys it, and because it gives him a chance to meet more of his customers.
“They like to see me out there, and they love the rib-eye sandwiches. That's the most popular thing we grill.”
The location's in-store bakery gets some of the spotlight, too. Signage and announcements on the store's public address system let shoppers know that the sandwiches are served on hoagie rolls made fresh in the store's bakery.
“The sandwiches are a really good deal for the customer. For five bucks, they get a 4- to 4½-ounce rib-eye steak on a fresh bun, a small bag of chips and a can of pop,” Stewart said.
“When people ask me why the sandwiches taste so good, I tell them it's the ingredients — the meat and the bun.”
He also tells them the sandwich steaks, as well as other cuts of Certified Hereford beef, are available in the fresh meat department.
“On the days we do the cookout, I'll have the meat department cut some sandwich-style steaks and pack them, usually four to a package. They look the same as our regular rib-eye steaks, but cut thinner, about a quarter of an inch or a little more.”
Customers look forward to the grilling days. In fact, Stewart said, they start asking way ahead of time when the next one is going to be.
He starts announcing the upcoming events about a week and a half in advance, with signs posted at cash registers and near the store's entrance.
On grill day, the line is biggest at lunchtime, but people are buying all afternoon, Stewart told SN.
“We'll have local businesses call and order six or eight of them, and I'll pack them up and have them ready for them. We've also had people buy one sandwich and come right back and buy another one, or come back that same evening to get some to take home.”
Stewart is at the grill from 10:30 in the morning till at least 5 o'clock.
“I use a large commercial gas grill — with two propane tanks. I could put 30 steaks on there at a time, but I don't like to hold them. I want them to be freshly cooked. So generally I grill only eight or 10 at a time.”
Before the day is over, Stewart says he has typically sold at least 200 to 220 sandwiches.
Family-owned Riesbeck's Markets is the only supermarket in the area that sells Certified Hereford beef, and all the meat is cut in-store. The store here has three full-time butchers.
“We sometimes grill our homemade sausage or other items, but the rib-eye sandwiches are by far the favorite.”
At $5 dollars for a sandwich, a soda and a bag of chips, the store doesn't make a whole lot of money on the deal.
“Sometimes the pop or chip companies donate their products, but not always. What we do make, after costs, we give to a local charity,” Stewart said.
A few of the 15-unit chain's other stores stage a cookout once in a while during the summer, but not on such a regular basis. And, Stewart continues his location's grilling events all the way through November.
“When it gets cold, we sell our homemade bean soup to go with the sandwiches.”