FORT LEE, N.J. -- Food Emporium, a division of A&P, Montvale, N.J., has turned up the burner on its prepared-foods program at a new store here, its largest yet.
The 58,000-square-foot store, which replaces an old A&P unit at the same site, is twice the size of the division's next biggest, in Rye Brook, N.Y.
That gave Food Emporium the space to increase its ready-to-eat and ready-to-heat foods dramatically, said chain officials.
To its established prepared-food programs, Food Emporium here has added a full-fledged pizzeria, a wok-centered Chinese food program, a sushi bar and a coffee bar. Fresh, store-made pasta and cooked seafood are also new here, and so is a 12-foot, self-service hot food bar.
"The whole scope of what we're doing here is huge. Before, we had done only a select amount of items, but here we have an extensive variety -- everything from soups to lunch and dinner entrees, hot and chilled," said Louis Ruggiero, president of the 35-unit, Bronx-based division of A&P.
Variety here is the biggest point of difference from our previous stores. Every department has increased its stockkeeping units by at least 30% to 40%," Ruggiero said.
SN interviewed Ruggiero and other Food Emporium officials at the store here just prior to its grand opening April 26.
Ruggiero told SN that tight space has hampered the division's prepared-foods ventures at other locations.
"This is the first time we've had the space to do some of these things," he said, as he pointed to the pizzeria that's situated just inside the entrance. He also gestured toward the open-production kitchen, which is just beyond the expansive hot food bar.
With many of its stores located in Manhattan, where available real estate is scarce and expensive, Food Emporium has some units with as little as 7,000 square feet of selling space.
The stepped-up prepared-foods presentation, which occupies nearly the entire right wall of the store as well as two refrigerated island cases, is an expansion of a meals-to-go program, The Outgoing Chef, launched six months ago at the Rye Brook store. This is the second store to get the program.
Robert Damato, the division's director of deli/bakery, pointed out that the prepared-foods menu here takes on a decidedly international flavor, which is new. That, he said, is intended to match the demographics of this town, which is situated right across the Hudson River from Manhattan.
One of the influences is Fort Lee's large Asian population, which is reflected in the line-up of items here.
"We wouldn't be cooking so much Oriental food otherwise. We have two authentic woks and rice steamers in both departments [deli and seafood] and the authenticity you get with the woks makes a real difference," Damato said.
Commenting on the variety in the chilled, grab-and-go selection, Damato said, "We even have fried calamari here."
In its other stores, prepared foods had been limited to the fast-movers such as veal and pepper dishes and loin of pork, he said.
"But today's consumer wants more; they want a lot of choices. We've expanded that here, maybe tenfold. And we don't limit the chefs here to making a standard menu. We want them to exercise their creativity," Damato said.
According to Ruggiero, all the prepared-food programs here will be rolled out to new stores and, in some form, will be retrofitted into many of the division's existing stores.