SEATTLE -- Queen Anne Thriftway here has discovered that hot pumpkin soup sells bread.
So do Caesar salad and garlic prawns. When Chef Jacques Boiroux, a local television personality, demonstrates entrees and appetizers made from his own recipes at Queen Anne's flagship store here, he often suggests a bread to accompany the creation. When he does, sales of the bread zoom up as much as 10 times, said T. Scott Craig, advertising manager for the two-unit, upscale independent. "This is our primary tool for promoting new products whether they're an ingredient or an accompaniment. For the day of the demo, we also reduce the price of the item slightly, maybe by 10%," he said.
The chef does his demos every weekday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Rustic baguettes, baked from scratch at the retailer's central bakery, just got such a send-off. Boiroux suggested them as the perfect accompaniment to hot pumpkin soup he was serving at the store's demo kiosk. In two hours, the store sold 60. "Normally, we'd sell maybe a half-dozen loaves of that particular type of bread in that length of time," said Craig.
The $1.89 baguettes are made from a combination of wheat and rye flours, and are slightly heavier and larger than a French baguette, Craig added.
French baguettes, at $1 each, often are suggested to go with an entree or a soup. When they are, similar sales increases are seen. And this month, Queen Anne's olive bread got a big boost when Boiroux told shoppers it would go well with the garlic prawns he was sampling. Boiroux whips up a recipe and offers tastes to customers at a permanent demo kiosk positioned near the front of the store, adjacent to the produce department. A small, vertical rack across the aisle from the demo kiosk is stacked with whatever bread the chef is suggesting.
Four aisles away, in the store's bakery department, the customer has a larger choice of varieties of bread, most of which are baked at Queen Anne's central bakery. Boiroux offers recipe cards to customers for whatever entree or appetizer or dessert he's serving.
The demos, aimed at encouraging customers to buy recipe ingredients at the store, were started a little over a year ago, and scheduled three days a week. They've been so successful that they're now held every weekday. In addition, a second person, Pat Gervais, who had previously owned her own catering business, was hired a few months ago, to conduct demos between 1 and 3 p.m. on weekdays.
Whatever the ingredient that's being featured at the demo kiosk, its sales invariably rise by five to 10 times above its normal performance, and then begin to taper down on the second day, Craig said.
The demos are not scheduled for weekends because the front of the store gets too congested with customers crowding around the demo station, Craig said.