OKLAHOMA CITY -- When introducing restaurant-style concepts into supermarkets, retailers must have more than the right chef and menu; they need well-designed and attractive service cases as well.
At least that's what Jim Snyder, owner of Snyder's Food Mart, an IGA member here, believes. Snyder found case quality to be a significant contributor to the success of his new food-service program.
The food-service operation, "Chef's Cupboard," is a multipart turnkey fresh-food concept with components that focus on bakery, deli sandwiches and soup, fast-food chicken, pizza and other Italian specialties, and cinnamon rolls. It was developed by wholesaler Fleming Cos. here.
Snyder's Food Mart, a 48,000-square-foot upscale store, became the test platform for Chef's Cupboard. Up and running for more than half a year, the much-watched experimental program has since encouraged Fleming to roll the concept into other stores.
Snyder told SN that to install the new food operations, the front of the store was redesigned to accommodate the equipment created specifically for the project.
And it was important to have attractive and functional cases, he said, because this was the first time for grab-and-go, or any other form of food service, in the front of his store.
The pre-existing in-store bakery and deli continue to operate at the rear of the store. According to Snyder, the inability to generate substantial impulse takeout business from Sam's Deli in the back held down sales of programs such as barbecued chicken, ribs and the salad bar.
The redesign, and the equipment that accompanied it, allowed him to merchandise ready-to-eat products in the front of the store to attract customers in a hurry, especially patrons of Snyder's busy front-store check-cashing business.
"They make a real nice presentation and are really functional," Snyder said of the merchandising equipment.
Sales have been strong in all the new food-service departments, he noted; indeed, he said he is seeing sales increases even in items previously stocked in Sam's Deli at the back of the store and now being sold up front.
"The custom-designed equipment was beyond my expectations. The new equipment allows our employees easy access to the cases to stock sandwiches and subs, making first-in, first-out easier to accomplish," said Snyder. "And it's attractive."
The independent retailer said he also likes the custom-designed cases because their low profile creates better display and merchandising opportunities.
"It allows the customer to see a great range of products. They can see us preparing 100% of the products. And they're modular, so if the trends continue to change, we could move the case out and redesign the entire area without too much difficulty or expense."
Locating work areas directly behind the low-profile cases also encourages customers to observe employees at work and to see the freshness of meals being made.
The retractable work counters positioned at the rear of the units are as sturdy as those in the deli, Snyder added.
A number of the other design details appeal to Snyder. The lower portions of the cases, for instance, are lined with a narrow bumper that protects each unit from shopping cart collision damage, he explained.
Snyder also praised the cases' quiet cooling fans, attractive color contrasts and effective lighting fixtures.
The equipment holds a variety of subs and sandwiches, takeout salads, rotisserie chicken, pizza and soups, among other items.
Officials at Fleming and equipment manufacturer Amtekco, Columbus, Ohio, encouraged Snyder's input on the design of the cases.
"They accepted my ideas very easily," he said. Officials from both companies visited the store, and Snyder joined Fleming officials at the furniture-manufacturing facility to consult on how best to configure the units.