WEST BEND, Wis. -- Prescott's Pick 'n Save Supermarkets here has put customers' convenience at the top of the menu as it rolls out its chef-prepared meals program.
Dedicated parking spaces, an automatic revolving door, a refrigerated case up-front that offers staples such as milk and eggs, and a soon-to-be-launched pizza delivery program are new twists at a remodeled unit here that will have its grand reopening on September 22.
Chilled prepared foods, too, have been moved closer to the front of the store and a pizzeria-type hot pizza station has been added. The propriety-branded "The Pizza Barn" anchors the lineup in the fresh foods aisle. It's the first element seen upon entry and it is adjacent to a seating area that accommodates about 50 diners.
"In addition to offering top quality food, our biggest concern is making everything consumer-friendly," said Gregg Wozniak, executive chef, for the six-unit retailer which is a member of the Pick 'n Save network of stores supplied by wholesaler Roundy's, Pewaukee, Wis.
The meals program is the backbone of the remodeled store, Wozniak said. In fact, of 20,000 square feet that were added to the store when it was remodeled, about half has been devoted to fresh foods. And major changes in the store's layout have been specifically designed to get meals customers in and out quickly.
"[The meals section] feels almost like a separate store. It doesn't have a separate entrance, but the automatic revolving door into that area gives that impression," Wozniak said.
The revolving door installed at the store here is the type one sees at airports. It has large compartments and is activated by an electric eye.
Why is such a door needed here? Wozniak said it's particularly to accommodate women who might be carrying a large bag or anyone who has packages or a child or a child and a stroller with them.
"Everything is for the convenience of the customer, like the 15-minute parking spaces right up front," Wozniak said.
The company has designated about 30 parking spots smack up against the front of the meals side of the store for 15-minute shoppers.
Two long island cases, which together total over 30 feet in length, show off chilled meals and components just beyond the chef's sampling station, the first element straight ahead in the fresh foods power aisle. At the first store to get the chef's prepared foods program, the items are further toward the back.
"That's just because of the existing layout and space limitations there. Here, at the remodeled store, we're able to do more of what we want to," he said.
At the remodel, which got an addition of 20,000 square feet as well as a renovation this summer, the meals traffic pattern is "sort of like a horseshoe," Wozniak said.
A customer can park in a dedicated parking space, come in, and buy hot food, or choose from a huge variety of ready-to-heat and ready-to-cook items, grab a gallon of milk, and be out of the store within 15 minutes, the chef pointed out.
"People have less and less time. They want to get something for dinner quickly and so they can have more quality time to spend with their families. Here, they can make a full circle [in the fresh aisle which includes the deli and bakery] and be out in minutes," Wozniak explained.
Everything is cooked or prepared for cooking in-store and the freshness of the fare offered is underscored by "The Pizza Barn," Wozniak pointed out.
The aroma and the theater presented there -- as associates toss fresh pizza dough -- grab the customer's attention and at the same time deliver the "fresh message" loud and clear, Wozniak said. The company will continue to offer deli-made pizzas in its deli just as it does at its other units, but The Pizza Barn uses a different recipe, Wozniak pointed out.
"She'll use her years of experience and her knowledge to create her own dough and sauces. And we have an authentic pizza oven with pizza stones," Wozniak said.
"So this provides more variety we can offer our customers," he said, adding that the new pizza program also is expected to attract people who hadn't shopped the store previously.
Chef Wozniak stressed that the changes at the remodeled unit here in West Bend reflect the fact that the company "is taking the next step up" with its meals program which, as reported in SN, got its send-off last year at the company's flagship store here.
"Our customers love our home-cooked food. What we're doing now, is adding more variety, more home-cooked meals for them to choose from, and making it as easy as possible for customers to get in and out," Wozniak said.
The variety of prepared foods and ready-to-cook foods has been increased by at least 25% from the original menu, Wozniak added.
More casseroles have been added in time for the cold weather season here and Chef Wozniak is also beefing up his seafood menu.
He said he has a mission. It is to wean people away from heavy fare and fast-food items and entice them with healthier, light entrees.
He said he has nothing at all against meat and potatoes, but he enjoys introducing consumers to new foods and new ways to prepare foods.
Toward that end, he does a lot of demos and sampling in-store and, except for the summer months, has been holding monthly cooking classes at the Prescott's flagship store here. This fall, he will extend those classes to the remodeled unit here and also to a remodeled unit in Oshkosh, Wis., where he added the chef-prepared program this summer.
Wozniak said the cooking classes also underscore the freshness of the huge array of homemade items he offers in the refrigerated cases because he talks about those items.
While he declined to offer figures or percentages, Wozniak said the chef-prepared foods program at the company's flagship store here has seen a steady increase in sales.