SAG HARBOR, N.Y. -- Schiavoni's IGA Market has invested in the future with the launch of its meals menu into cyberspace.
The single-unit operator here, smack in the middle of Long Island's toney Hamptons area, has joined up with Seattle-based cybermeals, an on-line home-meal replacement marketer and order facilitator, to sell its deli and bakery fare electronically.
"We have our whole menu laid out on the web site. Customers can order breakfast, lunch or dinner, tell us when they want it ready, and then come in and pick it up," said Michael Schiavoni, president of the company, which is a member of the Independent Grocers Alliance, Chicago.
Schiavoni explained that the set-up with cybermeals fits his needs particularly well since he is an independent operator setting out to capture a big share of the area's meals-to-go trade.
"For us, joining cybermeals is a win-win situation. Basically, I get a free web site and an opportunity there to advertise what we have in the deli and bakery," Schiavoni said.
"For us, the fact that the initial investment is small was important. Three to four hundred dollars, and then cybermeals takes a percentage of each order," he said.
Schiavoni said his company renovated its store two years ago with an eye to getting into the meals business, and as a result, has seen deli sales grow at a rate of 20% a year. The link-up with cybermeals is the next step in his meals-selling strategy, he said.
"So far, we've only had a few orders that came through cybermeals but that's all I expect at this point. The growth will be gradual, but steady. Internet activity will continue to grow; there's no doubt about that," Schiavoni said, pointing out that more people are buying PCs.
"And people are staying out here for longer periods of time," he said, referring to the fact that Sag Harbor, like the surrounding towns in the Hamptons, is the site of second homes or vacation homes for the most part. It's a getaway place for New Yorkers, particularly on summer weekends.
"But now, instead of coming out on Friday, people are coming out on Thursday or even Wednesday. And the year-round base of people is growing, too," Schiavoni said.
He said he expected the cybermeals site to eventually help alleviate jam-ups in the store at lunchtime because more people will place their orders in advance and therefore won't have to wait for them.
At a total of 8,000-square-feet, the store -- which is also a full-service supermarket -- needs all the help it can get to keep meals traffic moving during rush periods, he said. Late last month, the company addressed that subject in its ad circular.
Here's how it works: cybermeals has an agreement with AOL, Lycos, Excite and Yahoo! PC users can go the cybermeals site, on any of those systems, and find menus from all participating restaurants, grocery stores and alternate formats in a particular geographic area. cybermeals participants have their own web site address as well so their customers could log into them directly. However, cybermeals would be entitled to a percentage of the order just as it would be if the customer went to the cybermeals web site.
The cybermeals concept enables consumers to log into one site and find take-out meals locations within a specified geographic area. Full menus for each are listed. The system even offers directions and shows consumers, on a map, where the meals-provider is located. And each store's hours and its deli's hours are posted. "cybermeals is the only national system with geo-specific mapping and the capability of creating data mining for two-way communication with customers," said Sandy Goldstein, director of home meal replacement, for cybermeals.
In the immediate area surrounding Schiavoni's IGA, the only other cybermeals participant at this time is a 7-Eleven down the street, Schiavoni said.
At Schiavoni's IGA, orders generated by cybermeals are taken via the store's main telephone line, but some supermarkets have added dedicated lines or fax machines in the deli to accommodate cybermeals orders, Goldstein said.