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PG’s Grocerant Summit: Keys to Foodservice Success


From the insights of some of the industry’s top retail chefs to the ergonomics of store design to the offerings of some of the category’s leading suppliers, the second day of Progressive Grocer’s Grocerant Summit continued to draw a road map for success in retail foodservice.

This first-ever summit dedicated to grocery prepared foods continued Wednesday at the Hilton Chicago Northbrook Hotel, hosted by Stagnito Business Information, publisher of PG.

Kitchen cred

A panel of retail chefs agreed that corporate chefs bring a high level of culinary integrity to grocers. The panel included Jacki Novotny, corporate chef of Midwest grocery chain Heinen’s, Deanna Stephens, corporate chef of Southeastern Grocers, parent company of Bi-Lo and Winn Dixie, and Charlie Baggs, chief innovation chef of his own culinary innovations firm; the panel was moderated by Jeremy Johnson, education director for the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association.

Echoing other summit speakers, Baggs said retailers need to focus on staff training to enhance the customer experience. Stephens said culinary professionals give consumers confidence, while Novotny said chefs elevate the level of trust they have in retail banners. Panelists asserted that retail foodservice needs the same level of detail and attention as restaurants.

Chef Steven Petusevsky, principal of Culinary Innovation for the Food Service Industry, spoke on “Forging Your Culinary Path.”

A good grocerant program can make all the difference for a supermarket, building loyalty and profit, Petusevsky said. He presented examples of visual merchandising – including vibrant produce, deli and bakery displays – that he asserted is critical to successful grocerants. Preferring the term “culinary foodservice” to “deli,” Petusevsky said grocers need to create a culinary culture for their banner.

People, places and things

Janet Hoffmann, principal of HRF Aligned Design, stressed the importance of investing in people with her presentation, “People Platform: Recruitment, Training, Retention.”

“Hire for attitude, train for skill” was Hoffmann’s advice for maintaining a customer service-savvy work force that’s responsible for the shopper experience. It costs more to hire and retrain grocery talent that to retain it, and staffing retention begins with great hiring decisions and continues with proper training, feedback, reinforcement and reward. Hoffmann recommended looking to the hospitality industry to recruit a service-oriented foodservice staff.

Bringing a unique point of view was Juan Martinez, principal of Profitality, with “Ergonomics and Engineering: The Secret Ingredients to Efficient, Profitable Retail Foodservice.”

Martinez said retailers should not assume that grocery techniques will work in foodservice. In regards to store design, retailers should ask themselves what is getting in the way of employees delivering better hospitality; Martinez recommended retailers “walk in your employees’ shoes” to better understand their ability to deliver on the banner’s brand promise.

Along these lines, Angelo Grillas, director of marketing for Electrolux, discussed optimum kitchen design in “Grocerant Footprint: Adaptation and Evolution,” assisted by Electrolux corporate chef Chuck Hoover.

Retail foodservice kitchen should “minimize footprint and maximize firepower,” Grillas said. Grocers should use a systems approach in which all equipment works together, understand the needs of their customers, organize a system that guarantees hygiene and safety, and aspire to a fully integrated and connected kitchen environment.

Henry Pellerin, VP of marketing for Hillphoenix, spoke on “Five Critical Factors for Executing a Successful Grocerant.”

Those factors are menu, layout, equipment, merchandising and talent, with multifunctional equipment delivering maximum potential for grocerant success. Further, a dedicated chef can help drive sales with passion and education, Pellerin said, introducing the corporate chefs who ran the company’s summit booth, a culinary concepts joint venture of Hillphoenix and Unified Brands.

Meat of the matter

Meghan Pusey, senior director of integrated communications for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, joined by Technomic’s Wade Hanson, discussed “Beef: Adding and Creating Value.”

While beef is a consistent taste preference and makes up half the sales of the grocery store meat case, Pusey said, it’s less than 3 percent of fresh prepared sales. Grocers will need to do better to meet the demands of Millennial shoppers, who are showing a strong preference for beef. In any case, the future is bright for grocerants; Hanson noted that supermarket foodservice grew five times that of traditional foodservice during 2006-14 and is expected to continue this upward trend.

Offering a solution to improved and consistent preparation of proteins was Lance Layman, VP of business development for SugarCreek Foods, with “The Sous Vide Solution.”

Sous vide – a process involving water-bath cooking, a French term meaning “under vacuum” – can save time and labor, and boost consistency in food prep, Layman said. He was joined by Ampac’s Millie Nuno, speaking on the benefits of flexible packaging.

Return to the box

SW Branded Concepts’ Susan Weller returned to the dais to present the results of the previous day’s ideation sessions, in which attendees split into groups to develop concepts inspired by subscription recipe services.

The concepts included a curated “Bene Box” geared toward GenY college students; dietary specific “Comfort Cuisine” for seniors; “Crock Pot Meals” for suburban boomers; “What’s For Dinner” recipe boxes for GenX’ers in Middle America; “Family Made” meal kits for urban GenX families; and “From Our Kitchen to Your Car,” curbside pickup meals for aging, health-conscious Boomers.

PG Editorial Director Joan Driggs closed the summit, announcing next year’s event, scheduled for Oct. 25-26, 2016, in Schaumburg, Ill.

See more about the #GrocerantSummit on Twitter, at @pgrocer, @jimdudlicek and @JoanPGrocer.

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