QUEENSBURY, N.Y. -- Price Chopper Supermarkets has expanded its food court and is showcasing it in new ways at a prototype store that opened here this summer.
The court's identity has been strengthened through several initiatives designed to set it apart from the rest of the store. There are new design elements, the addition of an espresso bar that serves as an anchor to the space, an expanded menu that reflects new trends and shouts "variety" and extensive cluster seating.
Also, the bakery -- complete with a new artisan bread program -- has been brought into the fresh aisle so that's it's more an integral part of the food court. At most other Price Chopper locations, it's in the back at the end of the fresh foods aisle.
The 85,000-square-foot store, built from the ground up on the edge of Glens Falls, N.Y., is the chain's largest unit yet, and chain president Neil Golub is calling it "the store for the new millennium."
In his remarks at the store's opening on June 28, Golub said the store is designed to offer shoppers all the food and related items necessary to make them happy at meal time.
The chain's food court concept, which has attracted industry attention as it evolved over the past five years, has been cranked up several notches at the new store, according to Joanne Gage, vice president of consumer affairs and marketing, for the 96-unit chain, based in Schenectady, N.Y. "This is the next step up. It's very different from those at our other stores," she said.
"For one thing, the decor package is entirely different. The food court has an Italian tile floor and also different lighting that sets it off from the rest of the store," she said.
Also, instead of forming a straight run from front to back as they do in most other Price Chopper units, the food court elements lead into a large alcove on the right wall of the store. So, when a customer enters, he makes a right turn into the area.
While Price Chopper officials declined to offer details about the food court elements, a local observer described the set-up at this store.
An espresso bar, a first for the chain, is paired with a fresh bagel operation to anchor the food court at this store. "Bagels and coffee are a natural tie-in. And that should work particularly well here with all the Lake George tourists," the observer said, referring to the nearby resort lake and recreation area.
The open production bagel operation, The Bagel Factory, is the first element and right alongside it is the coffee bar which offers espresso, lattes, cappuccino and chilled specialty drinks. Next is the seating area. It accommodates 60 to 80 people at tables and chairs clustered together all in that one spot. That differs from early versions of Price Chopper food courts where seating, in bolted-to-the-floor booths, was situated in several different areas in the food court.
At the store here, the first three elements -- The Bagel Factory operation, the espresso bar and the seating -- are pegged the "Bagel Factory Cafe."
An enhanced sandwich program at this store includes a service sandwich station that offers made-to-order panini, subs and lavash wraps. Also, gourmet sandwiches such as roast beef with a horseradish slaw, have been introduced to the self-service case and are labeled "Price Chopper's Signature Sandwiches."
Fried chicken has been added as an adjunct to the chain's successful Roasters rotisserie program. Fish and chips is new here also. While it's part of the seafood department, and separated from prepared foods by the service deli, it adds another ready-to-eat item for customers to choose from.
The salad bar, which is set at an angle in the aisle near the seating area, is an enhanced version of the traditional salad bars in other Price Chopper units. This one includes trendy grain salads such as curried couscous, multi-grain salad with dried cranberries, and a wheatberry orzo.
After the seating area, the next element is Roasters' rotisserie and fried chicken. While some other Price Chopper units offer fried chicken, they don't promote it under the Roasters banner.
Next in line is service pizza and pasta and then the made-to-order sandwich station, where there are some unique offerings. For example, on the panini menu there is "Ragin' Roast Beef" which is made with roast beef, hot cherry peppers and a sharp cheddar cheese. There's a vegetarian one, too, that's made with basil pesto and mozzarella.
The service deli is next in line and then the fish and chips station leads into the fresh seafood department which has a sushi bar. While fish and chips is new to the chain, sushi is offered in other selected stores.
Across from the sandwich station is a 20-foot, three-tiered, back-to-back case that displays an expanded variety of the chain's chilled, prepacked Ready Meals and a selection of items packed in-store. Adjacent is a "cheese shop" where both service and self-service is offered.