AKRON, Ohio -- Piquing the interest of shoppers and local media is one way to create a distinctive food-service operation, according to Carol Moore, director of food service for West Point Market here.
Moore will expand on that idea as a part of a panel of industry experts, convening to talk about concept merchandising for the upcoming Supermarket Food Service Conference, sponsored by the Food Marketing Institute and National-American Wholesale Grocers' Association.
The conference is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 16, through Tuesday, Sept. 19, at the Hotel Nikko in Atlanta. It will kick off with an opening and welcome provided by Joe George, senior vice president of Harris Teeter, Charlotte, N.C., and Gianfranco DiCarlo, director of deli, bakery and food service for Harris Teeter. Moore will offer examples of how West Point, a high profile upscale independent operator, has drawn and maintained local interest in its own food-service programs.
Before the retailer launched its panini sandwich program, for instance, it primed the consuming audience by providing "teasers," she said, adding that the teasers included such fun tactics as posting that said, "What is Panini? Is it an artist from another century?"
By building interest beforehand for the grilled sandwiches, the program got off to a great start, Moore said. "It was entirely new for the market. A lot of people got on the bandwagon, because we piqued their interest," she said.
Moore will participate in a panel discussion that will be moderated by Jack Allen and Tom Pierson, professors of the Food Industry Management Program at Michigan State University. It will run on Sunday morning, following a continental breakfast.
Joining Moore on the panel will be Bob Baxley, director of deli food-service procurement and marketing for H-E-B Grocery Co., San Antonio, and Len Steenbergen, supervisor of merchandisers for Spartan Stores, Grand Rapids, Mich.
Following the panel discussion is a seminar called "Take-Out Options: Is Your Supermarket on the Menu?" During the seminar, Kai Robertson, manager of research for FMI, and Kathy Moulton, manager of consumer research for Hannaford Bros., Scarborough, Maine, will present results from a new FMI study on why consumers buy -- or don't buy -- prepared foods from supermarkets.
Before the lunch break, Howard Solganik, president of Solganik & Associates, Dayton, Ohio, and Carin Solganik, vice president, will present a session on "Supermarket Food Service: 1995 and Beyond."
Sunday afternoon, Marcia Schurer, president of Culinary Connections,
will speak on "Competition for the Food Dollar -- Food Industry Strategies Impacting Supermarket Prepared Food Sales."
"People Make It Happen . . . Maximizing Your Employee Recruitment/Retention Efforts" is the final session scheduled for Sunday.
Monday will kick off with an Ideas Exchange Breakfast, followed by a session on "The Retailer-Supplier Partnership: Where is This Relationship Headed?"
Following that will be a session on "Technological Breakthroughs for the Food Service Department." After the lunch break the senior sanitarian of the Snohomish County Health Department, Lisa Carpenter, will discuss "Food Safety for the Nineties and Beyond."
"Fresh Format: Fresh Foods -- Giving Your Customers What They Want" will follow. Scheduled speakers include Jim Riesenberger, director of deli operations for Wegmans Food Markets, Rochester, N.Y.; David L. Gryszowka, executive director of sales and marketing for Balls Food Stores, Kansas City, Kan.; and Liz Margolis, food-service specialist for Haggen/Top Food & Drug, Bellingham, Wash.
On Tuesday, the final session is "The Future of Supermarket Food Service and the Keys to Our Success."
The conference will conclude with a tour of Atlanta retailers, from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday.
The tour will visit local operators Harry's Farmers Market, Publix and Harris Teeter, among others. Holding the tours as the last event of the conference is a departure from previous conference schedules, in which the tours kicked off the multiday meeting. David Anderson, education administrator for FMI, said the conference planning committee decided to try something different this year.
"We'll have more time to do store tours this year," Anderson said. "It seemed like there were time restrictions last year."