GREENWICH, Conn. -- Fresh Fields, a natural foods supermarket chain, has taken a fresh and dramatic approach to serving prepared foods at a renovated store here.
A self-service antipasto bar that runs at least 18 feet long dominates the deli/prepared foods area now, and sushi and wrap sandwiches have been added to the line-up across the aisle at the service deli.
The new, sparkly, stainless steel antipasto bar replaces a line-up of gondolas that had displayed prepacked, branded cookies, crackers and snack items. SN noted on a recent visit to the store that the long bar -- with mirrors on its back and end, making it look even bigger -- is decidedly an eye-catcher.
White bean and wheat berry salads, Moroccan pasta salad, roasted tricolor peppers and the like are featured. Fourteen different selections are offered in about 12 feet of the bar space, and the remainder holds smaller wells of more traditional salad ingredients such as lettuce, sliced radishes, shredded carrots and olives. The retail price: $5.99 a pound.
The emphasis has been shifted to self-service in this aisle. At the end of the antipasto bar, tiered, self-service cases run all the way to the back of the store. They display a variety of packaged entrees, dinners, salads and sandwiches.
Most selections in the tiered cases are vegetarian. For example, there was an all-vegetable Baja wrap for $4.99. A single serving of red beans and rice in a microwavable container was $2.79, and penne with smoked mozzarella and sundried tomatoes was $3.49. A sectioned "falafel plate," with falafel, couscous and tabouli, was $4.99. A single serving of Caesar salad was $1.99.
For the most part, the items look as if they had been packed in-store, but there were a few branded products such as quiches and containers of "unchicken nuggets."
Across the aisle from the store-length, self-service display, chilled, prepared foods such as spinach lasagna and polenta are heaped high on crockery platters at the service counter. Rotisserie chickens, a bestseller according to store sources, continue to be featured at the service counter. They're $3.99 a pound. Wraps have joined a roster of made-to-order sandwiches there, too. The sushi station, at the end of the service counter, includes a tiered, self-service section.
When the 15,000-square-foot store here was renovated just before Christmas, some of the space formerly occupied by platters of prepared entrees was given over to the sushi and wrap stations, a store-level source told SN. Displays of prepared entrees were consolidated, he said.
At the end of the counter, adjacent to the sushi case, a 4-foot, lighted pastry case shows off an attractive display of single-serving items and small cakes. Individual key lime tarts are $3.99 each. A 6-inch strawberry torte, $13.99; a 6-inch carrot cake, $15.99.
The pastry case displaces some of the display area that had previously been devoted to artisan breads. Artisan breads are still featured.
SN could not reach officials for comment at Whole Foods, Austin, Tex., the parent company of the 21-unit Fresh Fields, nor at its Northeast regional office.
A recent circular highlighted a variety of Easter- and Passover-related foods available in "1-pound increments." Appetizers like chopped liver and gefilte fish, matzo ball soup and asparagus bisque shared the page with braised beef brisket and Mediterranean boneless leg of lamb. Also featured were three complete holiday meals, one for Passover and two for Easter, each serving four to six people and priced at $99.
This store marked Fresh Fields' first foray into the metropolitan New York area when it opened four years ago [see Merchant as Mentor, SN 5/1/95]. Since then, the natural foods supermarket chain has opened units in Millburn and Montclair, N.J. Most of its stores, however, are clustered around Washington, D.C.