PALO ALTO, Calif. -- For meat and seafood, bigger is proving better at Andronico's Market's eighth and largest store here.
The meat department's share of total store distribution is 2% more than the average of the Albany, Calif.-based operator's other stores. And the new seafood department isn't far behind with an improvement of 1.5% of total store dollars over other locations, according to Darren Horton, Andronico's vice president of meat and seafood.
Horton told SN he is confident those increases in department performance can be at least partially attributed to the greater elbow room for displays and merchandising afforded by what are Andronico's largest meat and seafood departments to date.
"The meat department is probably close to 15% larger. And seafood is just a little larger at 5%," said Horton.
The 37,500-foot unit here, opened this summer, also features Andronico's largest deli and produce departments. "We have a larger variety of everything," confirmed Leslie Emery, the store director.
Horton said the expanded meat and seafood departments gave him a larger canvas that opened up his merchandising opportunities substantially.
"Our displays are usually 12 to 15 feet long and 3 feet deep. These have deeper pockets, at 4 to 5 feet, that give you more display space," he explained. He said the department is about 65% full-service.
The meat case features a wide variety of steaks, like T- bone and filet mignon. Further down on the meat case, colorful blackboard signs saying "Natural Poultry" hang over the free-range chickens, quail and whole game hens, which are merchandised on ice.
One of the categories benefiting from the expansion is sausage. The meat department here features a selection of 33 to 34 different kinds of sausages, according to Horton, which represents a significant increase over the usual 20 to 30 available in other locations.
The meat department features a poultry sausage line, with unusual flavors including chicken apple, chicken cherry and Yucatan turkey, many prepared by a noted local chef.
"All of the poultry sausages are free-range poultry," said Horton of the line. "We just rolled them out to the other stores, and they don't even know it." He added that the cost difference between the free-range and regular poultry sausage was about 40 to 50 cents a pound.
The store sets up a complete display of both sausages and entrees on ice in the service case. The selection the day SN visited included Cajun steak and lemon garlic chicken, alongside a stuffed leg of lamb with rosemary.
That display, too, is outsized compared with Andronico's other sites. "I think we had 26 meat-based entrees on ice this morning," Horton told SN the day he was interviewed. The selection usually ranges from six to 15 in Andronico's other seven locations.
"The meat and seafood entrees are all raw and ready to cook," he explained.
"We can cook them in the kitchen [while customers shop]," added Brian Matthews, a meatcutter, who said customers were very excited about the things they could buy from the meat case for their dinner parties.
Horton said Andronico's regularly "invited different guests every week to demonstrate and cook."
Matthews said the store probably has at least three demos a week, "most of them done by the people who produce the product. We demoed Coleman beef and ostrich and we have had demos with the sausages."
In seafood, the added space has allowed Horton to put in "four to six varieties of fresh Hawaiian [fish] instead of one to three."
The new store here is also offering a larger selection of "marinated fish [which] is something we wanted to do more of and didn't have the space for," he said.
Lobsters swim in a tank near the back wall of the store. Further down toward the right, bowls of cleaned squid, jumbo scallops and Dungeness crab line the case. Bottles of tartar and cocktail sauce and packs of salmon jerky stand at the ready below.
Some of the seafood department's ideas have even made it into other sections of the store. "We cross promoted ahi tuna patties in seafood and took them up front in the make-your-own sandwich bar," he explained.
The roominess of the meat and seafood departments in the Palo Alto store is not the last word. Horton said that Andronico's perishables departments will only continue to grow.
"I think that the next store will have even larger perishables departments, a lot larger. The next store will be about twice the size."