WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. -- Right down the road from a brand-new Wegmans, a Tops' Market B-Kwik convenience-store franchise, under the banner of Dash's B-Kwik Market, is luring the meals crowd with a chef-prepared, ready-to-heat foods menu that rivals the best, local observers told SN.
The deli, next in line after nicely merchandised floral and produce departments, features a 16-foot chef's case that offers an average 40 items daily. The all-fresh, from-scratch dishes are both created on-site and merchandised by a team of three chefs recruited from fine-dining restaurants.
"Presentation is important. We want to do things a little different. For example, everybody does twice-baked potatoes, but we do twice-baked, ginger-stuffed sweet potatoes. After we bake them, we cut off the ends, stuff them and stand them on end," said executive chef Sean Van Volkenburg, who came to Dash's B-Kwik from Oliver's, an area four-star restaurant.
Another attention-getter in the prepared-foods display is a seven-layered potato pave, made with sweet potatoes, Yukon golds, pecorino romano cheese, clarified butter and fresh thyme. The potatoes are steamed, cut thin, layered, chilled, weighted down and then cut with a 5-inch ring mold, making two-inch-tall rounds. They're $6.99 a pound.
"If you're having dinner guests, you can show off a little with these. They're about the same size as a filet mignon, so you could stack the filet right on top," Van Volkenburg said.
He went on to explain why he feels it's important to offer such intriguing sides in addition to the usual mashed potatoes and rice.
"We have at least as many sides as we do entrees to emphasize variety. We tell customers they could create 50 different meals with what we offer."
Van Volkenburg said the store's owner, Joe Dash, who has two additional B-Kwiks (currently operated as conventional c-stores), has given his chefs free rein with the menu as long as they maintain a balance between meeting the needs of a broad customer base and keeping the category's profit where he wants it.
In that regard, everything on the menu is not as labor-intensive as potato pave nor is it as "with-it" as the most recent menu addition: lavender-honey duck legs stuffed with chestnut risotto. Pork chops, flank steak and turkey loaf are right up there, too. "We sell so much turkey loaf, and it doesn't take long to make it," Van Volkenburg said.
He said it's important to have something for everybody. This bedroom suburb of Buffalo, N.Y., is mainly middle class but it's bordered by a very high-end residential area. The store's focus is on fresh foods, with prepared foods and value-added meats taking center stage. A variety of hot items is next on the agenda, but right now the chilled-foods presentation creates a panache that's quickly evident.
"It looks like a mini Wegmans. It makes a good, fresh statement. The prepared food is high quality, and we also made note of the value-added meats because they were so reasonable. There was a very nice, stuffed chicken breast for $3.49 a pound," said Mark Leenhouts, president, Retail Food Design, a Rochester, N.Y., consulting firm.
Area residents told SN that Dash's, at 24,000 square feet, provides a terrific convenience for customers, especially for evening meal-seekers.
"You can get in and out quickly, and for a small store, the selection is good. They know what people want. I'm a major Wegmans fan, but it's just a real pain to get around their [larger] stores" said Kitty Grace, a resident of adjacent Snyder, N.Y.