MINNEAPOLIS -- Lunds Food Stores here has opened its first Carry-Out Cafe, featuring a Chickery restaurant and a fresh pizza operation, both firsts for the retailer.
Convenience, variety and attention to consumers' health concerns are paramount in the retailer's new concept, according to Russell T. "Tres" Lund 3rd, president of the nine-store independent.
"We're addressing consumers' demands for convenience and for healthy eating and it's working," Lund said. He added that since its launch during the first week in May, the Carry-Out Cafe has posted double-digit sales increases each week.
The cafe's name is significant, he said, intended to reflect the quest for quick but wholesome meals among growing numbers of consumers.
"When we were conceptualizing this, we were thinking 'food court,' but food courts are in shopping malls and they don't always have the best image," Lund said.
"We thought about calling it 'Food Emporium' but then decided on 'Carry-Out Cafe' to avoid any confusion about what it is."
The retailer had already carved a niche for itself with fresh, prepared foods, but the expanded department carries this several steps further, Lund said.
Situated at the right front end of the store, it emphasizes meal ideas and provides increased "theater" through pizza preparation, a bank of rotisserie chickens, a made-to-order Caesar salad station and a made-to-order sandwich station. There's also internal synergy created by the inclusion of Lunds' own cappuccino bar, he added. The newest cafe addition, made late last month, is a fresh juice bar operated in conjunction with the cappuccino bar.
"It's definitely an exhibition-style department. We're opened up the sales floor. In this store, the backroom used to take up 30% of the store, but now it's only 22%," Lund said. The opening was accomplished by adding 5,000 square feet obtained by buying space next door and by outplacing some coolers, he said.
"Now we've got 1,000 square feet in the Chickery devoted to fried, grilled and rotisserie chicken. That compares to 5 feet of roasted chickens, prepared in a roaster, previously," Lund said.
The Chickery restaurant, which offers whole meals built around rotisserie, grilled and fried chicken, is an important component of the cafe equation, he said. The company acquired the Chickery concept and name last year from Dayton Hudson Corp. here, which had operated the restaurants in Dayton and Hudson stores and at freestanding sites.
"When we surveyed our customers, we found that there is 40% recognition of the Chickery brand. But more important is that it has become a Lunds brand. And our frequent-shopper data base shows our customers are predisposed to wanting home delivery, which we offer from the Chickery," Lund said.
Another Chickery restaurant is planned for a second Lunds store before the end of the year.
Lunds has given its own twist to the Chickery products.
"For instance, we've created marinades for the chickens, which we think has created a product that's superior to previous Chickery products. We have several marinade flavors, including Thai peanut, lemon pepper and Hawaiian. And we use the chicken for some of our pizza toppings, too," Lund said.
Although Lunds is putting the spotlight on carry-out, most sales, ironically, are eat-in business, Lund said. The cafe offers twice as much seating -- to accommodate 30 people -- as other Lunds stores, with the exception of two that have full-blown restaurants.
Hot food is the star in the Cafe, but chilled versions will be added, Lund said. Fresh pizzas, chilled and packaged, are currently offered in the deli but will soon be moved to a case adjacent to the hot pizza station, Lund said.