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By Joel M. Albrizio, President

'This article was written for and will appear in the March edition of the Shelby Report & Griffin Reports"

Don't forget the Shelby Report & Griffin Reports for the latest in supermarket information!

"Supermarkets Battle Casual Dining & A Customer With Limited Time"

Single people, older couples, the mom or dad with two kids at Little League, Dad working late....who is exempt from the prepared food target customer base?

As a society we are all so busy it is almost viewed negatively should we have a little down time. Do we really want to go home and cook every night after work? When will we find the time? What will everyone like?

So now the supermarket introduces the prepared food concept and with it.....

A broader appeal to customers with limited time.

The supermarket shopper not only saves time & the stress of "how the heck do I cook this" is gone. Just think for a second....How many people do any of us know under the age of "40" who really knows how to cook or actually enjoys cooking or baking?

We are all in such a rush in every aspect of our lives we have little exposure to the talents of cooking. It was only a number of years ago where "Sunday Dinner" was such a big part of all of our lives.

Back in the day when not only food retail but most retail was closed on Sunday...There was something we referred to as "Sunday Dinner"

The Supermarket retailers marketing plan revolved around a diverse meal plan or two for the customer to enjoy one stop shopping for Sunday Dinner. This was the one day of the week where we could all count on sitting down to dinner as a family. In most every culture this was a family tradition.

In shopping and preparing for Sunday Dinner Mom not only cooked for the family but we were all together and learned a little something about cooking every Sunday. So over time as we grew older we understood, perhaps not as experts, but we knew our way around the kitchen. This familiarity allowed us to be comfortable preparing easier meals at home during the week.

It was how any meal was to be prepared.

We never thought of what was then referred to as "Take Out" as any form of regular meal option.

Couples were comfortable and enjoyed cooking together. It was fun and a part of our daily lives sometimes even as a date. When Sunday became another day to promote and drive retail food sales we lost what was our weekly cooking lesson.

Only a generation later we are now a society with lessened cooking skills and certainly less patience to learn about cooking. We have limited interest after a long day to wait for or even worse to actually cook dinner in the evening.

Now lets consider casual dinning and its place as a supermarkets competitor.

Without realizing it the casual dining restaurant slipped into the retail food offering. No we can get in and out of breakfast, lunch or dinner quickly and affordably rather than cooking ourselves....."Casual Dinning" has become the supermarkets latest threat.

Its quick, its affordable, the kids get to bed on time and there is no cleaning up after dinner.

So to remain relevant the supermarket was forced to answer the customers needs and demands with prepared foods.

Without an answer to casual dining the supermarket retailer faced diminished retail sales especially the "Center Of The Plate" sale....or what is commonly referred to as the proverbial big ring.

Quality meals must be prepared in store designed to taste great, cost less and help the supermarket retailer reduce their shrink. The perfect answer for everyone, retailer and customer alike.

The supermarket salvaged otherwise lost retail sales in a hope to maintain the customers attention and continued shopping dollars.

"In Comes Wegmans With Prepared Food Dominance"

When we think about retailers diving into prepared foods its impossible to overlook Wegmans. Is Wegmans a supermarket, a food court or a legitimate supermarket?

While we ponder this retail delineation of who they really are, Wegmans pounds food retail supremacy with every prepared food option beyond compare. Wegmans is also known for a restaurant environment where you can sit and enjoy your meal.

Add to that the ability for the retail customer to sample almost anything within reach.

Wegmans encourages sampling anything you might want to purchase.

Looking forward as supermarket retailers, we must be careful for the hidden trap in prepared foods. Meal planning is absent in this advertising equation. Without marketing and their subsequent advertising programs centered toward meal planning we stop enlightening shoppers how to shop the entire store.

Remember, we branded this how ever many thousand square foot retail food facility to entice the customer to meal plan. To use the meat or seafood department for the center of the plate protein. With well executed meal planning the supermarket could sell the customer everything else they must have. This process of meal planning builds basket size and its resulting renewed customer loyalty.

So once we embark toward retail success via prepared foods lets not forgetWithout meal planning and its full carriage of groceries our average retail sales targets change....we are now running two retail food business entities within one retail location.

Thank-you for your support and ideas....