ELIZABETH, N.J. -- Fire up the grill, the burgers are ready.
Salmon burgers, that is, along with a selection of alligator sausage, shrimp kabobs, clams, lobster tails and prawns.
At least that's what Mayfair Super Markets, which operates stores under the Foodtown banner, was barbecueing at an outdoor Seafood Festival held at its Mill Creek Mall store in Secaucus, N.J., May 20.
"It opens consumers' eyes to seafood and the grilling season," said Rich Catanzaro, director of seafood for Mayfair, who is planning at least two more events at other stores before the season is out. "It shows that seafood is a good, wholesome, natural product and is easy to cook on the grill."
Catanzaro said the aim of the promotional event is to "show people you can use the grill for things other than hamburgers, chicken and hot dogs."
The company's vice president of merchandising, Paul Criscuolo, who attended the event, said it also creates good will in the community and, "hopefully, will bring people back to the department."
The two-day festival was held in a roped-off area of the store's parking lot and was complete with big white tents, large charcoal grills, and long folding tables and chairs.
Seafood was sold both prepared and raw to take home to cook.
Some menu items included shrimp kabobs with cocktail sauce and lemon and coleslaw for $3; a dozen steamed clams with lemon and butter for $5; a dozen shrimp in shells with cocktail sauce and lemon for $4; shrimp scampi with coleslaw for $4; four lobster tails with lemon, butter and coleslaw for $4; alligator sausage sandwich with peppers and onions for $3, and New England clam chowder for $1.
The live seafood, displayed on a long ice table, was specially
priced for the festival, said Catanzaro. Items included Dungeness crab at $3.99 a pound; Louisiana crawfish at $3.99 a pound; refrigerated salmon burgers at $3.99 a pound; lobster tails for 99 cents each; Oregon spot prawns at $9.99 a pound; whole live lobsters for $4.99 a pound; cherry stone clams for $2.99 a dozen and large shrimp for $6.99 pound
But offering seafood was only half of it.
The goal was to create excitement and fun, said the event's organizers. So to help keep things moving, the company's produce merchandiser and buyer served as announcers to lure people inside the food tents by barking specials over a loudspeaker and offering free gifts, such as hats, T-shirts, sunglasses and beach bags.
Outside, a large inflated Coca-Cola bottle stood near the entrance, while characters supplied by vendors, including the Pillsbury Dough Boy and the Polly-O Parrot, greeted passersby.
In addition to the seafood tents, produce and floral stands were set up along the perimeter of the festival area. And a local radio station broadcast from the site.
On the second day of the festival, which was held on a Friday and Saturday, four members of the 1969 championship Mets baseball team were on hand to sign autographs.
At the festival, a raffle was held for a color television, an electronic video game and golf equipment.
Speaking with SN the first day of the festival, Catanzaro said while it was difficult to gauge how many people would attend, he estimated traffic would exceed 5,000, based on two previous events held at other stores last year.
As a result of the events, seafood sales increased at both locations, said Catanzaro.
He also expected sales to surpass a festival last fall in Raritan, N.J., which moved 2,500 pounds of live lobster; 2,000 dozen littleneck clams; 1,200 dozen cherrystone clams, and 600 pounds of lobster tails. The entire operation in Secaucus was manned by some 45 members of Mayfair's staff including chefs, store managers, supervisors, merchandisers and others from all areas of the company.
To alert the public, Foodtown devoted two pages in its weekly circular to the festival. The pages highlighted the menu and other seafood prices and included an entry form for the drawing, and used radio ads.
"We just wanted to try to have some fun and create some excitement," said Catanzaro, who added it wasn't just good for shoppers, but for the staff as well. "It gives us a chance to do something fun and work together.