"This is without a doubt our flagship store," says “Jack” Treuting, executive director of culinary operations.
Pizza, Panini & Pecorino
Treuting offered a rundown on what’s most popular at lunchtime. Pizza is big and so are panini, but ethnic bars are becoming more and more popular.
“We have a Vietnamese pho noodle station, and great pulled pork with an Acadian twist — with Cajun seasonings. And we have a huge hot bar that has a lot of Indian food.”
Sampling and demos have been ramped up at this location.
“Often we bring the back of the store to the front. For example, we might bring out a huge block of pecorino or cheddar and cut it up front,” Treuting said.
Such attention-getting demos are scheduled at least every two weeks, but five chef’s stations on the floor feature chefs or culinary-trained associates cooking every day.
“In addition to that, we’ve asked each department to do something, sample or demo something, every shift, every day,” Treuting said.
“We’re trying to raise the bar. We want activity going on all the time, and associates out on the floor to help people. From 11 to 2 p.m., we have a chef available, walking the floor, talking to people. In fact, at lunchtime, we have several culinary-trained people in chef’s jackets on the floor, ready to help. We conducted intensive training in customer service.”
There’s a lot of experimenting going on with ethnic food. Thai is in grab-and-go case right now, but could become a hot item.
The traditional regional items sell very well, Treuting said. Crawfish etouffee, gumbo, jambalaya, quail and Cornish game hens stuffed with Rouses’ own boudin stuffing.
Always during the season, Rouses here, as well as at its other stores, boils shrimp and crawfish, and shucks oysters. “I boil more crawfish than anyone around,” Treuting said.
It’s Treuting’s opinion that the Food Channel Network has done wonders for the sale of prepared foods, especially new things a customer may not have tried before.
“Customers are going to grocery stores more than they are to restaurants and they’re willing to try just about anything.” That’s why demos and sampling are so important, he said, pointing out that people are getting more adventurous.
“And we want to create that opportunity for them.”
Treuting, a graduate of Johnson Wales, knows a lot of chefs, he said, and that has helped him recruit some of them for Rouses.
The chain has been having New Orleans’ renowned chefs shopping its stores for ingredient for years. So it was not a big task to recruit chefs and sous chefs for the store here, Treuting said.
“It’s a natural transition.”
Until this store opened last fall, the Thibadoux, La.-based, family-owned chain’s presence in New Orleans was epitomized by a small store in the French Quarter that Rouses bought when A&P was selling stores in its southern division in 2007.
But this store, which is called one of a kind, on Baronne Street, just six blocks from the convention center, is the store to see, Treuting said.
“This is without a doubt our flagship store, at least until we do a really major remodel on one of our other stores.”