New bundled meal deals in foodservice departments offer restaurant-quality food at a competitive price. To compete with local quick-service or casual-dining restaurants, retailers have put together meal combinations with new dishes and varying portion sizes.
“Bundling is a great way to reinforce that [Retailer Meal Solutions] can be a complete meal solution, not just a component,” said Jenny Anderson, director of the RMS monitor program for Technomic, a foodservice consulting firm in Chicago.
“And retailers are in such a better position to do it now than they were in the past, because so many have enhanced their overall variety and can offer a few different choices for sides in addition to the entrée.”
Schenectady, N.Y.-based Price Chopper Supermarkets alternates among 25 or so different dishes for its popular Wednesday meal deal.
“The best combination bundle that we have — it’s pretty much changed our life here — is the Wednesday meal deal. That is the bundle. I put different meal combinations together for four people and that’s around $10,” said John Mazzacco, foodservice manager at Price Chopper.
He said customers like the combination meal because of the variety of different foods; on any given week, entrées could be turkey, pot roast, Asian cuisine, shepherd’s pie, meat loaf or a KFC Chicken style bowl.
“Now we’re looking at that whether we should raise the retail because we’ve been $10 for two years now,” Mazzacco said, noting that commodity prices have gone up.
The Wednesday meal deal has proved so popular that Mazzacco is looking into a way to offer shoppers a standard meal deal every day, possibly starting in late spring.
It’s not just foodservice departments that are enticing shoppers with family-size packaged meals. Darren Tristano, executive vice president at Technomic, said he’s been seeing more restaurants getting in on the family bundling.
For an example of a newcomer to the family bundle arena, Tristano pointed to Burger King’s family meal campaign. For $9.99, the BK Bundle includes a Whopper sandwich, a Whopper Jr. sandwich, 10 chicken tenders, three small French fries, three small drinks and two pies, according to a Burger King representative.
While restaurants like Boston Market have offered family packages for a long time, Tristano said he’s hasn’t seen much of it in the quick-service restaurant segment before.
There’s also been a continuation of value pricing with bundling, as seen in chain meal deals like Chili’s $20 Dinner for Two that includes an appetizer and two entrées, Tristano said.
These two-for meals have become a big draw for casual-dining restaurants, with Applebee’s and TGI Friday’s each offering their own variations.
Price Chopper takes advantage of chain restaurants’ marketing power to highlight the value of its own meal combos, according to Mazzacco.
Subway has widely promoted its selected $5 foot-long subs, so customers know the value of Price Chopper’s $5 complete sandwich meal when they see it.
“I have the same thing with soup and sandwich or a sandwich and a kettle chip we fry in-house and a fountain drink,” said Mazzacco, who said Price Chopper puts more meat on its subs than Subway.
Because checks generally average at $12 to $13 at casual-dining locations, Tristano said a $10 priced meal is what resonates value to consumers.
Depending on the product and the location, bundled meals in deli and prepared food departments often remain lower or close to the $10 mark.
“In the last couple years, several of the upscale retailers have focused on bundled meals with an entrée and sides from their chef case areas to reinforce value,” Anderson explained. “Establishing and promoting a set price (often lower than a comparable restaurant alternative) is such a clear message for reinforcing that.”
Wegmans Food Markets, Rochester, N.Y., keeps its entrée-and-two-sides bundled meals at price points of $6, $8 and $10, depending on which items are selected.