TORONTO -- Loblaw Cos. here and Richtree Inc., Canada licensee of market/restaurant format Movenpick Marche, have agreed to open more fresh-meal stores-within-stores, called Take-me! Marche, in Loblaws units.
Two more Take-me! Marches will be opened in Loblaws within the next few months in the greater Toronto area, with plans for several more next year, not necessarily in Toronto, said Colin West, vice president of finance and administration and chief financial officer of Richtree here. Where the concept is introduced depends on where Loblaw builds new or refurbishes existing supermarkets, West said.
The two companies have also decided to introduce joint-branded product lines, to be sold in both Loblaws and Movenpick Marches, said sources involved in the project.
Movenpick will independently open a Take-me! Marche in a 33,000-square-foot, 600-seat restaurant/market set to open in Montreal's Place Ville Marie in April, 1998. Take-me! Marches will soon be introduced in other Movenpick Marches as well.
According to Movenpick, soups will shortly become the first of the co-branded Movenpick-Loblaw items to be introduced. Pizza and sandwiches are expected to follow. The items will be carried in both Loblaws and Take-me! Marches built in Movenpick Marches.
The prototype Take-me! Marches are now in place at four Loblaws in Ontario: two in Toronto, and one each in suburban Etobicoke and South Oakville. The prototypes range in size from 2,000 to 3,000 square feet, and focus on freshly prepared foods, rather than prepackaged meals.
The Take-me! Marche shops are located at the entrance of the participating supermarkets.
The meal-merchandising concept includes a menu with seafood, soups, sandwiches, grilled vegetables, French rotisserie chicken, meats, pasta, Rosti, salads, scratch-made breads and pastries, and coffee. Chefs prepare foods either to be served hot and then consumed on premises, or made to order for takeout.
The Take-me! Marches in Movenpick Marches will be larger than those in supermarkets, between 4,000 and 6,000 square feet, and will incorporate a limited number of fresh items besides prepared foods, such as fruits and vegetables, bread, butter and milk, West said.
Movenpick Marche restaurants already keep most of their fresh stock on display in front of customers, making the sale of these items logical, West explained.
"It would be a natural extension of how we do things to have certain fresh produce available for sale. We would like to be able to think the consumers could come in, buy their dinner for tonight, buy a freshly baked sourdough bread loaf and realize that, if they're out of butter, they could pick some up at the same time. We will, to some extent, fill out the line with those kinds of products."
Movenpick is well-placed to expand into "home-cooking replacement" -- West's name for the industry trend in meals merchandising -- since the company's reputation in Canada is that of a restaurant/market that serves very fresh food prepared on site.
Richtree, as U.S. and Canadian licensee for the Swiss-based Movenpick restaurants and branded products, intends to open restaurants in five major North American markets by the end of 2000.
However, Richtree has no current plans to seek a U.S. supermarket partner for the Take Me! concept, since the company would not have the benefit of a fresh reputation to precede its entry into the meals market in the United States, he said.
"We need to establish our name and reputation as purveyors of interesting fresh food first. We believe the large flagship Marche experience is the best way to become known and identified. It would be inappropriate to crack into that [Take-me! Marche] market as a first step."
Loblaw officials could not be reached for comment, but executives in the past have called the concept part of the company's attempt to "revolutionize the old-fashioned, hard-edge, unfriendly supermarket stereotype."
Currently, Richtree operates a Movenpick Marche in downtown Toronto's BCEPlace, and eight other locations in the Toronto area, all of which are independent of the Loblaw partnership.