SUMMERVILLE, S.C. - A Bi-Lo location here was the first supermarket this season to get a visit from Johnsonville Sausage's Big Taste Grill.
The event, featuring the 65-foot-long Big Taste Grill, which is carried on a brightly painted, semi-trailer truck, attracted lots of attention, officials at Mauldin, S.C.-based Bi-Lo, told SN.
“Customers lined up before they even started serving,” said Stacey Couch, the 207-unit supermarket chain's director of meat & seafood. “The team sold 1,000 brats with all proceeds benefiting Bi-Lo Charities.”
“Additionally, there was an increase in store sales for the day,” Couch added. “The store team feels that this was because the Big Grill was on-site.”
The grilling of bratwurst and selling of brat sandwiches went on from 11 in the morning till about 4 on a Sunday afternoon this month.
Johnsonville's team set up a patio and a serving stand in the parking lot, fairly close to the grill.
The biggest challenge probably was finding space in the parking lot for the huge mobile grill, and the selling stand, without inconveniencing Bi-Lo shoppers, said Big Taste Grill Master Ryan Allison.
“But all our feedback from Bi-Lo customers was positive. They were excited about the Big Taste Grill. They loved it, telling us it was just an ideal family event, and they, of course, liked the brats,” Allison told SN.
“We had some trivia contests and gave away some Johnsonville tee-shirts to the winners, and there was music in the background. We had a Charleston classic rock station on and broadcast it over our speaker system.”
Allison did the grilling, and then the brats were brought down to the selling stand where they were slapped on buns and sold for $3 apiece.
Johnsonville supplies the brats for the Big Taste Grill events, and does the grilling. Proceeds from sales go to a local charity of the supermarket's choice. In this case, proceeds went to Bi-Lo's pick: Children in Crisis.
“Bi-Lo employees worked the stand for us, and we sold a lot of brats,” Allison said. “Some folks bought as many as seven at a time. Maybe to take home, but also there were some families just hanging out in front of the store, eating brats.”
This was the first time this Bi-Lo location had had a visit from the Big Taste Grill, and it did what Bi-Lo's Couch expected, she said. It increased total store sales as well as Johnsonville sausage sales. It also provided some spring-day entertainment for Bi-Lo customers.
The Summerville store had alerted customers to the upcoming visit with POS materials and a big sign at the store's entrance.
The weekend of the visit, the Johnsonville product display in the meat department was expanded, Couch said.
“We built a bunker display of Johnsonville products at a value [price] to encourage trial.”
This Big Taste Grill visit to Bi-Lo and to a nearby charitable event co-sponsored by Bi-Lo was the first of the Big Grill's 2011 touring season.
Next stop will be a Food Lion charitable event and then a visit to a Food Lion store in Charleston, N.C.
The Big Taste Grill visits hundreds of supermarkets across the country each year and, according to Grill Master Allison, has raised $3 million for charity over the last few years.
The grill, owned by Sheboygan Falls, Wis.-based Johnsonville Sausage, is no ordinary grill, a company representative pointed out.
Weighing more than 53,000 pounds and measuring a total of 65 feet, the giant grill requires its own semi-truck to haul it from one location to another.
The grill has the capacity to cook more than 750 bratwursts at a time — approximately 2,500 per hour — and can accommodate more than 12 grill masters.