POULSBO, Wash. (FNS) -- The most remarkable aspect of the deli department at Nakata Thriftway's 65,000-square-foot Market Place unit, here, is that there is not a slicer in evidence, there is not a counter person with a scoop in hand, indeed there is no deli counter.
Instead the operator relies on a self-service format when it comes to chilled meal-solution offerings.
More than 30 feet of refrigerated self-service case merchandises everything within a well and two decks. Entrees, gravies, side dishes, sandwiches, salads and sauces along with the most popular sliced meats and cheeses, offered in presliced packaged form, are all included in this counter-less deli. This system has been in place throughout the three years that the unit has been in operation and has proven to be wildly successful.
"It's most efficient, not having a service case," said Elaine Krogfoss, food-service director. This shift to self service has paid off and has a strong track record, since the Market Place deli posts a 50% gross margin with a 5% to 8% shrink, according to Krogfoss.
Complete-meal components such as rotisserie chicken with sage stuffing, garlic mashed potatoes, roasted red potatoes, meat loaf, eggplant parmigiana and Swedish meatballs are offered in addition to soups, ranging from chili and chowders to chicken noodle. Alongside these offerings sit side salads such as coleslaw, smoked cheddar red potato salad and Mandarin noodle salad.
A convenience-oriented case offers 10 feet of vendor-packaged sliced meats and cheeses, in-store produced sliced turkey and roast beef, dips, dressings, sandwiches, entree salads and commodity salads.
A 6-foot section of Asian specialties is also offered in the grab-and-go guise. Dim sum, pot stickers and barbecue pork were just some of the favorites available the day SN visited the unit.
Complete, individually portioned meals are grouped together to help customers sort out the direction of their dinner.
Traditional Meals-to-Go include meat loaf with mashed potatoes, red pepper and zucchini medley; pot roast with jojo fries and vegetables. Wonderful Meals-to-Go are grouped together, with entrees such as Italian Lasagna and Chicken Parmesan. Accompaniments to these entrees are focaccia, vegetables and pastas. Healthy Meals include Italian chicken, Oriental stir fry, polenta, chicken curry and rice dishes.
The only service aspect of this deli comes in a 6-foot hot case. But even here, shoppers will find 2 feet of self-service chicken. This case is stripped and the menu reset during the day to ensure freshness and appropriate day-part direction. Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., then the food is removed and the case is cleaned. Dinner is served from 4 to 8 p.m.
On the Monday evening when SN visited, pork loin and roast beef were the entrees de jour. Weekend evenings, barbecue pork spare ribs and chicken are customer favorites, said Krogfoss.
Most meal items from the hot-food case are priced per pound; however, meals can be bundled for customer convenience. A quick pasta, salad and soft drink lunch is priced at $3.99. A single-serve dinner is $5.99 and a complete roast chicken dinner for four is priced at $20.80. A hot soup bar, situated across the department, rounds out the ready-to-eat offerings.
This unique setup requires a different approach to labor. Production of all the food, with the exception of the sliced meats and cheeses and the Asian specialties, is done in-store. This scratch operation begins in the morning with two production people and two employees designated to pack and stock the case. The state-mandated pack date and sell-by dates are carefully recorded on each package.
In-store personnel are responsible for keeping track of item movement and seasonal shifts so the self-service case always offers what customers are looking to buy. Stocking the self-service merchandiser takes special care. "Every time someone walks by, we face," said Krogfoss.
Consistency in product is another food-service aspect the in-store staff is responsible for. To set employees up for success, Krogfoss only seeks food-service professionals who have served in a production role for at least five years. Krogfoss herself has come up through the ranks in the hotel industry.
"In an operation like this, you must be tuned into what the customers want, when they want it, and be able to use management of people and production to give you a good return," Krogfoss said.