Today’s Foodie Friday features and interview with Mr. Neil Golub, chairman of Price Chopper, on the success of their innovative supermarket concept Market Bistro and its first 100 days since the grand opening.
After the passing of the first 100 days of operation, what is your overall perspective on this new concept?
Customers love it. They enjoy the fresh food offerings and the experience of the store. We’ve gotten some marvelous feedback from customers—fortunately, in the high-90s percent, quite positive. We’ve had some good feedback on things we needed to look at, but for the most part the comments have been extraordinarily positive. According to customers, Market Bistro is a wonderful experience. The assortment, choices, and options are exciting. People constantly stop us and tell us how much they enjoy their experience there.
What unexpected challenges have you and your team faced during the opening?
We needed to add more seating capacity, which we did almost immediately. We’ve now got that up to somewhere around 170. The original layout which we thought was quite generous was not generous enough, so we had to drop back and punt as we went along. We came up with a solution almost immediately, and now we’re going back and massaging that so that it’s much easier.
Are there any key insights that you or your team members have gained as a result of introducing this concept?
We started with centralized checkout, but have ended up with cash-out at each service area. That’s been one of the most important things that we’ve done. There are a number of places where we’ve seen centralized checkout, but in this particular environment, customers were uncomfortable with it, so we had to change it.
What ongoing benefits do you see for your customers and your team as a direct or indirect result of launching this new concept?
The store is quite unique. I don’t think there’s anything else like it in the United States today. It has a personality that people and customers really enjoy. I’m in there so often, and many of our customers come back often. Wherever my wife and I go, we’re presented with customers who remark about the store. I don’t think I’ve ever heard so many positive comments wherever I go in our region about anything we’ve ever done before. It’s become a favorite place to go and certainly sets a standard that we don’t think other stores are going to easily facilitate in their own situations.
Can you share a few of the Market Bistro merchandising or operational approaches that customers might expect to see in existing or future stores?
We’re in the process of redoing a few stores and expect to transport some of our ideas into the new stores. This particular facility is large and requires space. When you go into the foodservice business, it requires a different kind of activity and it requires different support functions and facilities and designs, and you have to have enough room to do that. We’ll do similar situations in other stores where we have the space. For smaller stores, we’ll migrate some of the good ideas but in a more limited fashion.
What other thoughts would you like to share from the journey from concept development to the launch of this unique, industry-leading venue?
The first is that you’d better be committed to doing what you say you’re going to do. You’d better have the right resources and deep pockets, and you’d better be committed to the idea.
You’ve certainly shown that you’re committed to it. How has the community responded?
We get a lot of comments about the quality of service from our teammates, which is really wonderful. We are preparing outside services for dining, and our cooking school is going very nicely. All seems well. Everywhere we go, people—strangers to us—will come over and comment about how special Market Bistro is. This gives us a nice warm feeling, as you can imagine. The restaurant reporter from our local newspaper, the Albany Times Union, gave our service restaurant Chef’s Grill a wonderful report. As a result, sales have picked up there significantly. For breakfast, the Custard French Toast has become a big hit!
Congratulations on a beautiful concept and launch. It was a pleasure walking through the store and being greeted by friendly and knowledgeable associates and having the time to enjoy some of the great food that they offered. I look forward to being there again soon.
Happy Foodie Friday!