HERSHEY, Pa. -- Giant Food Stores is putting its money on updating its delis and bakeries, using contemporary colors, enhanced product variety and fine-tuned merchandising to spotlight the departments at a replacement store here.
Many of the new features in the deli and bakery -- including the color schemes and merchandising strategies -- will be rolled out to new stores and remodels, primarily those in upscale market areas, officials said. "The deli here is a big, big departure from any of our others. We've changed just about every element, from lighting, to colors, to displays, as well as the products in it. And that's true in bakery also," said Hillary Gray, vice president, deli-bakery, for the 91-unit chain based in Carlisle, Pa.
More self-service, ready-to-eat foods, more seating and an environment that's been warmed up with color, wood decor and indirect lighting are hallmarks of the new-generation deli. In the bakery, too, wood and soft colors add warmth and a new menu of fancy cakes and pastries adds panache. Opera cakes, sacre tortes, pear mousses and fresh fruit tarts catch the light in a tall, rotating display case, the focal point of the department's new look.
One goal of the 55,000-square-foot store, which opened last month, is to make the deli and bakery destinations for an increasing number of consumers, Denny Hopkins, Giant's vice president of marketing/sales, said.
A colorful flier mailed to all households in the market, and heavily distributed in-store during grand-opening week, heralds the launch of Giant's "Market Square Deli Carry-Out Cafe" and "The Corner Bakery Shoppe," and describes much of what's available there.
The synergy created by bunching selected elements together in a pleasing environment is the key to differentiation, Gray said.
Smack in the middle of the aisle facing the service deli stands a new, island merchandiser that sports individual self-service bars offering these trendy items: roasted vegetables, grain salads, olives -- and chicken wings available every day in five flavors.
A made-to-order sandwich operation featuring panini as well as subs and traditional sandwiches, sushi and a smoothie bar are new for the chain, Hopkins pointed out. Some elements, however, are concepts that have proved their worth at other Giant units and have been expanded or promoted to a new, eye-catching level at this store.
Olives are a case in point. Offering olives self-service isn't new at Giant, but the number of varieties here and their presentation are.
"We have 12 varieties which is at least double what we have in other stores. And we display them in ceramic bowls without a cover in that island group which includes the wings, the roasted vegetables and the grain bar. In other stores, we've just had them in a section of the cheese case, in plexiglass bins," Gray said.
She went on to explain how the new deli concept evolved.
"Since I joined [the company] about a year ago, we've been having a dialogue about how we could take deli a step beyond where we had been. Here, in Hershey, we've started to put all the pieces together synergistically to create what we think are great food options."
Even the colors of the walls are part of the blueprint, she said. In the deli and in the bakery, stylish hues such as lilac, soft blues, yellow and salmon clearly distinguish the departments from the rest of the store where Giant's traditional colors of green, white and gray predominate.
The departments also are expected to set the store apart in its market area. "The products, most of them proprietary, certainly create a difference. The recipes for our prepared foods, like our roasted corn with bacon salad and our stuffed pork chops, have been developed just for us," Gray said.
"Everything like that is done in conjunction with a group of outside suppliers including our own sister company, U.S. Foodservice [a Columbia, Md.-based company that is a recent acquisition of Ahold USA, Giant's parent company]. Jammin' Juice, the smoothie bar, is our own concept, and then we have a Giant exclusive in this area with Manhattan Soupman, a company out of New York."
In addition to more variety, which Gray said is an important factor in bringing consumers into the store more frequently, the chain is looking to give customers more convenience. Added self-service elements and more seating are part of that effort.
"We have some products that have been converted to self-service. For example, we have a hot buffet in some of our other stores, but it is service. Here, we've put it in a serve-yourself case," Gray said.
The 15-well hot buffet is situated in-line adjacent to the deli service counter.
"The more we can put into self-service, the more convenient it is for the customer, and it reduces labor," Gray said.
But once customers have loaded up their plates or filled their containers, they need to have the option of eating on the premises, Hopkins added.
"We've increased seating by probably 25% and the area has more style, not so utilitarian as seating is at other stores," he said.
A half partition, topped with etched glass, sections the seating area off from the surrounding store environment, giving it somewhat of a restaurant ambiance. The flooring there is wood and so are the tables, and indirect lighting has been added.
The wood theme is repeated in the bakery, which is situated at the opposite corner of the store. There, a new product, Cinna-Buns, is an attention-getter. Developed for Giant by one of its suppliers, the huge, iced cinnamon rolls are just about plate-sized and are reminiscent of the signature items produced by the Cinnabon chain.
"We have several toppings for them. There's a maple-iced and a cream cheese, for instance," Gray said.
That and another product, "a Real Denmark Danish" as Giant's colorful flier describes it, are Giant exclusives. The Danish, imported frozen from Denmark and baked off fresh each morning, is characterized by its flakiness and the amount of butter that's folded into the raw dough, Gray explained.
In a nod to its neighbor here in town, Giant makes sure customers know that its chocolate cakes and chocolate chip cookies are made with Hershey chocolate. Ads and product signs tell customers that, and two-foot-long Hershey bars are offered, too, as gift items, in the bakery.
In addition to all the eye-catching sweets, an expanded line of artisan breads has literally taken center stage at this store. In other Giant units, the artisan breads are displayed against a wall. Here, they're displayed on an island table that would be hard to miss.
The new features, plus "a very successful" Hot at Five baguette program and a renowned scratch doughnut operation, both of which are chainwide, are expected to help draw more customers into the store on a daily basis, and thus get them into the habit of taking the "European approach to shopping," Gray said.