PEARL RIVER, N.Y. -- Nearly a year after it introduced a limited selection of ready-to-heat meals, a ShopRite unit here has launched a "Meals to Go Center" that spans 30 feet and offers a wide variety of takeout lunch and dinner fare.
The meals center has evolved from its tentative beginning last fall, when the store began merchandising a handful of in-store-packed meals, along with a selection of side dishes sourced from outside. The 4-foot, double-tiered cooler space was situated at the end of the meat case and adjacent to the service deli against the back wall of the store.
The space for the new Meals to Go Center has been carved from a spot at the end of the produce aisle, which is the first aisle in the traffic pattern. The meals center, which consists of a series of five-tier refrigerated cases running along the wall, displaces bulk potatoes and onions and an assortment of bulk and packaged items such as pistachio nuts and dried apricots. Now, over rows of sandwiches and chilled meals and components, two signs proclaim, "Dinners" and "Cold Sandwiches."
The 4-foot space at the end of the meat section, which had displayed a handful of deli-generated meals, has been turned back to the meat department. Now it displays prepacked cooked ribs and barbecue and some prepacked potato salad.
The new meals center was launched with a full-page ad that was sent via direct mail to residences in the market area. The ad was also wrapped around the in-store, weekly ad circular.
The centerpiece of the ad is a drawing of a place setting with these words superimposed on it: "Introducing Our New Meals to Go Center. Featuring fresh store-made sandwiches, salads and more!"
Dinners to go "to microwave at your home or office" are touted in the ad. It lists meat loaf, roast beef, turkey, roast pork loin, all for $3.99 each. At the top of the ad, hot rotisserie chickens are spotlighted for $3.99 each, and croissant sandwiches are advertised at $2.79 each.
In addition to the ad, the store's public address system is used extensively to call attention to the meals center, said Jason Worob, assistant store manager.
"We've moved the green salads and the entree salads like Caesar chicken salad from the farthest end of the case to the beginning in order to keep them with the cut-fruit salads, and we're selling more of them now. It's the same customer for both of those items," said Worob.
"It makes it easier for the consumer. We did have them at the end of the meals section [beyond the sandwiches and individual meals]. I think maybe people didn't see them there," he said.
The most recent addition SN noted on a visit to the store is a 6-foot, self-service, island hot case. The rectangular, stainless steel, flat-bottomed fixture, with heat lamps attached, is set at an angle to the meals center, which is against the wall. At one end of the island fixture is a display of nacho cheese dip in 1-pound packages; at the other end are plastic eating utensils and napkins.
An upright case at the other end of the service deli counter also displays hot rotisserie chickens and turkey breasts. The island hot display case displaces a Brothers Coffee display, which has been moved near the store entrance.
In the meals center lineup, the first 10 feet, after the produce displays, show off a variety of cut fruits and green salads in single-serving packages. Next come single-serving meals in dome packages. They include an entree, potatoes and a vegetable. Chicken dinners also are offered there. They include half a rotisserie chicken, potatoes and macaroni salad, for $2.99. Whole rotisserie chickens, in dome packs in this case, are $3.49 each.
"We had them [cold rotisserie chickens] before, but they were sort of hidden at the end of the meat case where we had had some meals," said Worob.
Chicken tenders, wings and drummettes as well as 8-piece packs of fried chicken are offered in the meals center as well. All are priced by the pound. Fried chicken is $2.49 a pound; drummettes, $4.49 a pound. A huge array of sandwiches takes up about 5 feet on three to four tiers. They include whole subs for $3.99, roast beef on a roll for $2.99, turkey on a roll for $1.99 and a large assortment of croissant sandwiches for $2.99.
The dinners are assembled in-store, but most components -- with the exception of the rotisserie products -- are brought in frozen in bulk and then thawed and portioned out, another store-level source told SN. In addition to the store-assembled meals, some prepacked, branded items such as Rhoda's Quiches and Mallard's dinners for two are offered.
Pearl River ShopRite, which is supplied by Wakefern Corp., Elizabeth, N.J., is owned by Glass Gardens Inc., Rochelle Park, N.J. Officials at Glass Gardens, which owns seven ShopRite stores in New Jersey and in Rockland County, N.Y., could not be reached for comment.