To Bill Slott, it's ridding his staff of the grocer mentality. To Scott Fox, it's hiring chefs and other food-service professionals. To Dan Kallesen, it's turning a roll into a brand.
These are some of the answers offered first-hand by retailers at the front line; decision makers who are faced everyday with the question: "How do you make supermarket meal programs work?"
There is no shortage of "experts" poised to instruct retailers on the proper way to conduct their start-up fresh-meal businesses. But valuable reports from the meals battlefield may arguably carry more weight to those watching from the sidelines.
Fox is director of bakery operations at Dorothy Lane Market, Dayton, Ohio; Slott, director of bakery/deli, Martin's Super Markets, South Bend, Ind.; and Kallesen, director of bakery/deli, Harps Food Stores, Springdale, Ark.
At the Retailer's Bakery Association show in Chicago last month, the above three deli/bakery executives provided real-life glimpses of their supermarket meal operations.
Each admitted that he did not have all the answers. And they all said they believe their programs are in flux, but they shared lessons they've learned so far. One common lesson is that their meal programs probably should always be in flux.
"It takes atmosphere, service and quality to get sales, but it's also very important to keep things changing and not get stale," said Kallesen.
And all three agreed that shedding interdepartmental barriers, especially between bakery and deli, were necessary steps toward well organized meals programs.