EATONTOWN, N.J. — Super Foodtown of Ocean Township, N.J., recently got a chance to promote its newly honed catering capabilities at the first Women's Expo sponsored by the Asbury Park Press at the Eatontown Sheraton.
The 10-unit chain, owned and operated by family-run Food Circus, Middletown, N.J., revved up its prepared foods programs a couple of years ago and is working this summer to build a clientele for a new, related catering business. (See “Community Caterers,” SN, May 28, Page 31.) Women's Expo 2007, which attracted more than 2,000 attendees, was a perfect kickoff site, officials said. Foodtown was one of 52 area vendors that showed off their wares — everything from health care to cosmetics, food and other services.
“We got a lot of attention and good comments,” said James Conroy, the company's new director of fresh foods. “We had a tuxedoed server walking around, offering eight of our most popular appetizers to people as they came in, and then continued offering them all evening,” Conroy said.
“I stayed at the demo station, where we dished up little plates of grilled chicken and broccoli alfredo on shell pasta. Our chef/fresh foods manager, Robert Dumont, walked around with the server. That was important, because he could tell people more about what we offer and could answer any questions they had.”
Super Foodtown had a preferred spot right up front for its demo station, where Conroy and assistant fresh foods manager Mark McCue offered samples, talked to people and handed out catering menus.
“I think with all the cooking shows on TV, people like to watch food being prepared. They asked us questions like how we keep the broccoli so bright-looking and crisp. We told them a bit of sea salt helps. People loved that dish — all the appetizers, too.”
Bearing in mind that Expo attendees would be walking while eating, Conroy and his team made sure they chose items that were easily portable and easy to handle, such as finger sandwiches on mini potato rolls and sausage-stuffed mushrooms.
Super Foodtown's floral department got involved as well. It donated an elaborate centerpiece as a door prize and distributed 500 daisies, the Expo's logo flower, to attendees.
The store promoted the Women's Expo in-store with signs at its food-service counter and with a poster in the front window. Consequently, a lot of its employees got interested, and many did attend the Expo, Conroy told SN.
Community activity is not new to this Super Foodtown team, nor to any of the stores owned and operated by Food Circus.
Indeed, recently one of its stores donated all the food that was served at a house tour run by the community as a way to raise funds for the local high school.
“That was the kind of event where people buy tickets to tour these big, beautiful houses on the shore, and all the proceeds go to the local school.”
An event at another Foodtown store just recently attracted a big crowd. A chef at an area restaurant, author of a cookbook that spotlights 20 Jersey Shore restaurants and their most popular recipes, was signing copies of his book, which the store was selling.
And, this past weekend, the catering team had a big presence at a jazz and blues festival in Red Bank, N.J., where its highest-traffic store is located. At the festival, associates dished up Super Foodtown's own store-made jambalaya, as well as grilled chicken sandwiches.
“We always have some live cooking going on,” Conroy said.
Next up is an annual seafood festival nearby, where Super Foodtown will be selling steamed clams, corn and grilled shrimp on baby greens at a value price — and Conroy and Collins will be talking to attendees about catering.
“Nearly every single weekend, we're involved in some kind of local fund-raiser. We get involved with PTA and other groups' events, donating food or gift cards as door prizes or for drawings,” Conroy said.