Thursday, February 7, 2008

Food & Community Memo: Coming to a Supermarket In-Store Cafe Near You: Live Theatre?

Innovative British upscale supermarket chain Waitrose believes good food retailing is all about creating theatre in-store with its merchandising activities. But on February 14, retail theatre won't be the only form of drama occuring at the Waitrose store in Wymondham, England. On Valentine's Day next week, its in-store cafe and coffee shop will be presenting a 10 minute play called "Loney Hearts" as part of an experiment to make live theatre more widely-available to the general public.

The Valentine's Day production with the appropriate title was written by a local resident and store customer Tony Vale, who is an amateur playright. Vale says he's thrilled to be able to bring his script to life at the Waitrose in-store cafe and gives the grocer "three cheers" for what he calls "their innovative approach to supporting community projects of this kind."

Vale's play, "Loney Hearts," focuses on a couple who find mutual companionship while waiting in a restaurant for their respective blind dates to arrive. Keeping the production in the family, the female lead in the play is played by Georgette Vale, the author's wife. The male lead is played by Richard Crawely, who is a professional writer, amateur actor and friend of the playright.

Their will be two performances on Tuesday, February 14, Valentine's Day: one at 2pm and the other at 2:45pm. And of course, their will be plenty of coffee drinks and sweet treats available to sip and eat before, during and after the play. Maybe even a heart-shaped cookie or two.
Vale hopes to see couples, single people, and even a few "lonely hearts" at the Waitrose in-store cafe performances of his play. Since upscale Waitrose sells fine champagnes, organic and Fairtrade flower arrangements, fine chocolates and more, the performances might just be the perfect way for couples to begin a romantic Valentine's Day adventure. And for those who are single, we suggest it might be an excellent venue to meet your future girlfriend, boyfriend, husband or wife.

We think this is an excellent example of using a supermarket to help encourage and build community. A grocer after all is more than the sum of its product offerings. It's also smart retailing. By creating events and activities which bond and strengthen communities, grocers offer more than mere product sales to residents and customers. They add value. This extends their brand and helps bond them to the people they sell to and serve. We join playright Vale in giving the Waitrose store in Wymondham "three cheers" for their innovative efforts.

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