The once great but lately struggling Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (A&P) seems to have found a success story in its 29 store Food Emporium upscale gourmet and prepared foods supermarket format, which it's in the process of taking even more upscale and gourmet.
Most specifically, a key ingredient of the format's success is coming in the in-store fresh, prepared foods category, with a concept and store section called "Food to Go," which the food retailer launched in its busy Food Emporium location in the Trump Palace building in Manhattan's Upper East Side.
A&P operates 16 of its 29 upscale Food Emporium stores in Manhattan; nine of the gourmet-oriented supermarkets are located in New York State, and four are in nearby Connecticut.
The "Food to Go" in-store fresh, prepared foods section has been doing so well in the Trump Palace store that A&P plans to roll the concept and department out to as many of its other 15 Food Emporium stores in Manhattan as is feasible, according to Hans Heer, who's the general manager for Food Emporium as well as a senior vice president for A&P.
Heer says the rollout of the "Food to Go" departments will be slow, and that they might not go into all of Food Emporium's New York City gourmet supermarkets because of space limitations. The fresh, prepared foods departments are decent-sized. Therefore, most of the stores will need some expansion in order to accommodate the departments.
Space is at a premium in Manhattan. Therefore, it's not clear if there will be additional space to expand in all 15 of the stores so the in-store fresh, prepared foods sections can be added. However, Food Emporium plans to put the gourmet prepared foods sections in as many of those Manhattan stores as it can.
According to Heer, Food Emporium has thus far earmarked two Manhattan locations (yet to be named) where the retailer plans on adding the "Food to Go" departments later this year. More should be on the way early next year.
Additionally, A&P is looking at a second strategy for the Food Emporium "Food to Go" concept. That strategy is to open standalone small-format "Foods to Go"-style prepared and specialty foods stores in the city. The stores would feature fresh, prepared foods made in-store, along with selling a limited assortment of other specialty and gourmet grocery items, cheeses and various other upscale products. Prepared foods are the centerpiece of the concept though.
When we say small-format, we really mean small. After all, 15,000 square feet is considered a good-size supermarket in dense Manhattan (Whole Foods Market's huge food emporium in the city aside). It's likely the stand-alone "Food to Go"-style stores would be in the 1,500 -to- 3,000 square foot range.
We call the standalone fresh, prepared foods stores "Food to Go"-type stores because Heer says the retailer won't use the "Food to Go" brand on those stores like it does in its Food Emporium stores. ("Food to Go" inside Food Emporium is sort of a store-within-a-store department.) Instead, the new, small-format fresh, prepared and specialty foods markets will operate under a separate name and have a separate and distinctive logo, according to Heer.
Food Emporium is targeting the opening of two or three of the stand-alone "Food to Go"-type stores in Manhattan for this year, according to Heer. Additionally, the goal is to open up to five of the stores in 2009 in Manhattan.
The "Food to Go" shop inside the Trump Palace Food Emporium store offers a myriad of gourmet, ethnic, specialty, natural and organic prepared foods items. The ready-to-eat and ready-to-heat prepared foods' selection ranges from New York Deli-style sandwiches and gourmet soups, to sushi, ethnic cuisine entrees and side dishes, healthy gourmet foods, and complete gourmet dinners to go, along with much more.
A&P recently decided to take its current 29-store Food Emporium "gourmet 2.0," from what was already a fairly upscale format. This added upscaling and further gourmet emphasis includes new design packages in and outside the stores, a more upscale and eclectic specialty, gourmet, ethnic and natural foods product offering (including its own gourmet private label), the "Food to Go" store-within-a-store fresh, prepared foods sections, and other higher-end touches and merchandising options.
Additionally, the Food emporium stores feature old fashion butchers shops which carry prime cuts of beef and the highest quality poultry and pork available. The Food Emporium stores also offer shoppers a gourmet prepared foods catering service.
The upscale markets also sell specialty and high-end wines, craft beers, artisanal cheeses, fancy deli meats, gorgeous floral arrangements, it's own line of specialty and gourmet grocery products and other specialty offerings.
According to Heer, the Trump Palace Food Emporium, which contains the first of the "Food to Go" fresh, prepared foods sections, is the first of its 29 stores to get the retailers "gourmet package" makeover, which it's in the progress of giving all the other stores, starting with the remaining 15 Manhattan units.
The Trump Palace Food Emporium also is the 29-store gourmet banner's highest sales-performing store as well currently, according to Heer.
The Trump Palace Food Emporium, which opened in 2004, is 25,000 square feet on two levels. There's an escalator to get to the second floor as well as an elevator.
Food Emporium also recently gave its website an upscaling . The site looks very gourmet and lists all the upscale features the stores offer in a very attractive presentation.
Food Emporium also offers online gourmet grocery shopping on the website. Shoppers can order online and either pick up their purchases at a store location they designate or have the order delivered to their home or office. Food Emporium offers free delivery for orders of $50 or more, which doesn't take much when one is buying gourmet groceries and prepared foods.
The new A&P/Food Emporium stand-alone small-format fresh, prepared and specialty foods stores will be interesting to observe when the two units open sometime this year. After all, as we write about often on Natural~Specialty Foods Memo, there's a small-format food and grocery retailing revolution going on internationally and in the United States.
This small-format food and grocery store revolution is happening across all formats in the U.S. for example--Save-A-Lot and Aldi as no frills, discount grocers, Trader Joe's as small-format specialty and natural foods grocer, Tesco's Fresh & Easy as hybrid basic grocery and fresh foods retailer, Safeway's new "The Market" format as hybrid upscale basic grocery, fresh and specialty foods grocer--and many more.
A&P's Food Emporium small-format fresh, prepared foods spin-off will fit in at the upper-end of this small-format food retailing revolution: gourmet prepared foods as the store's centerpiece with a limited assortment of specialty, gourmet and natural food and grocery products along side.