FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Local Grocery Stores’ Prepared Food Sections are competing with Restaurants for the Lunch and Dinner Crowds
Westland Bloomfield, MI (August 2015) — Whenever an opportunity arises, President and CEO of MIRA takes guests out to lunch at local grocery stores such as Plum market just across the street from MIRA headquarters. “Plum, for instance, like many of our member stores, has a great prepared food section and everyone I have taken there for lunch really like the options,” said Arabo. “Many of our members are adding or expanding prepared food departments that directly compete with restaurants for the lunch and dinner crowds.” Carl Hakim, chef and owner of Market Basket in Franklin would agree. He has been in the gourmet food business for more than 20 years and long before prepared food in markets became popular. “The demand for on-the-go gourmet meals is increasing,” said Chef Carl.
Chef Carl offers many of his own specialty items as well as taking specific requests from customers. “Many local celebrities come in and give me recipes to prepare that she could pick up for dinner,” said Chef Carl. “We have clients that have particular sandwich requests or various salads.
Chef Carl attributes the high demand for dishes from grocery store is the fact more people are working and are busier than years prior. “Our customers will tell us that they don’t have time to sit down at a restaurant. They want delicious high-end meals that they can enjoy at home,” he said. “It is also much more economical than going out to a restaurant. You don’t have tip anyone at a grocery store, either.”
Chef Carl is known for his Salmon patties, sandwiches and his array of ethnic foods. Daily, customers stop by for his signature Corn Beef Crunch Reuben. “Some of the same customers will come in for lunch and dinner,” said Chef Carl. “Not only do we do corporate catering but we sell many lunch items to employees working in the area.”
According to national statistics on eating out behaviors of Americans, 28 percent eat out at a quick service restaurant while 34 percent frequent weekly casual dining restaurants.
Over the years, Americans have been spending more money eating out than years prior. In 2008, food and drink sales of the U.S. restaurant industry amounted to approximately 573 billion U.S. dollars. The projected amount for 2015 is $709 billion.
Grocery stores are finding new ways to capitalize on that trend.
The bakery at Prince Valley in Mexican town sells many fresh from scratch items on a daily basis and is fast becoming known to the restaurant goers as the place for desert. “We recently had a group of employees from Ford Motor Company come in after leaving Slows Bar B Q, in Cork town,” recalled Joe Gappy, owner. “They came in to pick up baked goods from our display instead of ordering desert at Slows. When you make something from scratch, you must have pride, as an ingredient, in the making.”
When Gappy originally opened his restaurant inside of store, they had a sitting area. He quickly realized that customers would rather grab the prepared food items and eat them elsewhere. They are known for their grab and go baked goods, refrigerated single slices of homemade cakes as well as their homemade sandwiches and subs, fresh made salads, fresh made guacamole and Pico de Gallo.
They also offer hot plate grab and go menu items such as homemade tamales, grilled chicken and ribs, and rotisserie chicken and in their Baha kitchen, you buy hot tacos, burritos, and enchiladas. Chefs at Prince Valley also make fresh chips and hard taco shells.
“In order to compete you must have food, ready to go for the customer, who wants to shop and go home and not make food and eat it,” said Gappy. “With all of the foot traffic inside of the building, you can sell a lot of prepared food. I think that by selling fresh fruits and vegetables, it is easy to sell fresh made prepared food.”
Prepared food is becoming a staple department in many stores and local retailers can learn from the trend Big Box started as well. Prepared food is becoming a staple department in many stores and local retailers can learn from the trend Big Box started as well. The “try it before you buy it” food sampling stations are a quick and effective way to attract a customer’s attention. “When you go to Costco, they give away their rotisserie chicken to bring in traffic,” said Gappy. “They also have a food court selling very simple, hot dogs, pizza, frozen juice drinks. Their simplistic system is a very good and easy way to go.”
As MIRA members can attest to, customers are looking for good food and are showing that they are willing to pay for it. However, the success of your prepared food sales is often contingent on the placement of the item in your store.”Being in the front of the building, is the way to go. You can generate a lot of volume and have very little waste,” said Gappy. “At Target, they use the entry instead of the exit and they use other brands.”
Offering fresh, prepared foods can set your store apart from others. It can offer a new stream of revenue and create a new customer-base. “Many retailers need to find other ways of making more departments work for them,” Gappy said. No one knows your customers better than you do, so spend the time to find out where and how you can best capture your customer’s attention by increasing your store’s selections.
MIRA is a trade association representing thousands of retailers in the Food, Beverage and Petroleum Industries.