CANTON, Mich. -- Holiday Market recently replaced most hot prepared foods with an upgraded program of cold cooked entrees.
The two-store operator, based here, still sells rotisserie chicken, turkey breasts and fried chicken, hot and ready to eat. Occasionally, associates fill special requests for other R-T-E items. But that's the extent of the hot foods lineup. In revamping the program, officials at this upscale independent west of Detroit got rid of the old case that used to carry an assortment of hot to-go comfort foods. They installed a new 8-foot-long, European-style cold display case that serves as a showcase for a new enhanced lineup of ready-to-heat entrees.
Freshly prepared grilled salmon, grilled pork chops, vegetarian spring rolls, crab-filled chicken breasts and other main dishes maintain an appetizing appearance throughout the day in the cold case. Set up next to the deli, the case displays prepared foods on platters, with fresh greens garnishing the dishes.
The entrees are a cut above the chicken, pigs-in-a-blanket, ribs and other comfort-food standards featured in the old lineup. Customers appreciate the upgrade, if significantly higher sales are any indication.
"Our hot food sales had been the same for the last three years," said John Pardington, owner of Holiday Market. "I couldn't do anything to get them up. Now sales are up $400 to $500 a week."
If the volume continues at the present rate, the store could double its sales of prepared entrees in about six months, he said.
The problem with hot cases is "we couldn't find a case to keep the food looking good all day," Pardington said. In a cold case, "the food looks fresher; it's gorgeous."
The challenge Pardington described is common for supermarket food-service operators, and contributes to the chronic problem of waste in prepared-foods departments, said a representative of a leading equipment manufacturer.
"We see a lot of customers who have always had hot foods going to cold," said Todd Griffith, national sales manager for Alto Shaam, Menomonee Falls, Wis. "A lot of folks are experiencing success with it. With hot foods, retailers incur a tremendous amount of waste. There's less waste with a cold set."
The case is the latest eye-catching fixture at a store known for bringing drama into the food-retailing business. Holiday has a 40,000-pound Farjas brick oven for making bread, a peanut roaster in the produce department, a smoker in the meat department, and a juicer for making freshly squeezed orange and grapefruit juice. A popcorn machine turns out plenty of popcorn, which customers enjoy at no charge.