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You See L.A.


Westwood is a densely populated and culturally diverse neighborhood in the Westside region of Los Angeles. This area is home to a vibrant arts community, upscale retail destinations and the University of California, Los Angeles.

The community is reflected in the offerings and ambiance of Ralphs’ Westwood Village supermarket, which, following a 50,000-square-foot expansion last year, is the largest store in Southern California for the historic Kroger-owned grocery banner.

“You’ve got a very diverse population in this area, culturally or otherwise,” Kendra Doyel, Ralphs VP of public relations and government affairs, says during PG’s recent visit to the store. “Westwood is really the heart of L.A., and everything is concentrated in this community.”

Ralphs worked closely with local community organizations and residents to determine which new and expanded offerings, services and products would best meet the area’s needs. Based on shopper requests and input, the remodeled Westwood Village Ralphs has been uniquely designed to create an outstanding overall shopping experience.

Shoppers now find an expanded selection of products and services, including an abundance of fresh produce; a fully staffed meat department; a fresh seafood department; a full-service bakery featuring fresh breads, rolls and desserts; a service delicatessen with fresh items for shoppers on the go; a full-service pharmacy; and a wide variety of organic/natural and gluten-free offerings.

Occupying much of the new footprint is a vast food court featuring hot and cold offerings, a restaurant-size sushi bar, custom sandwiches, pizza, entrées and other fresh prepared foods. A wine and beer bar serves hot and cold appetizers along with drinks, while a juice bar whips up smoothies featuring organic and local ingredients.

“I’m looking forward to showing the residents of Westwood our newly remodeled store and all it has to offer,” says Don Jansen, a Ralphs team member since 1988 who was named Westwood’s store manager in May 2015. “Our goal is to be the best supermarket in the area by offering our customers great service, selection and quality foods at exceptional value.”

Green Room

Doubling in size, by taking over the space vacated by a former Best Buy location next door, gave Ralphs plenty of room to boost the visibility of its fresh offerings.

“You see everything from traditional produce to an expanded organic section,” Doyel says. Call-outs like “ready to eat” and “ready to heat” for cut vegetables, an expanded cut-fruit selection, and “Authentic Asian Food” play up selections designed to address demands for convenience and authenticity, along with many local products. “We tell a little of the farmers’ stories,” Doyel notes.

An expanded juice bar, trumpeting organic, Fair Trade and non-GMO ingredients, reflects a “healthy California lifestyle,” Doyel says, with smoothies made to order and cross-merchandised with protein boosters available as add-ins or for home use.

An enhanced floral department, up front by the entrance, offers grab-and-go arrangements and gifts, as well as a staff florist “who can do custom arrangements for weddings and funerals,” Doyel explains.

The fresh area also features a large bulk food section highlighted by a customer request: a fresh nut-butter machine. The bins of fruits, nuts, snacks, candies, coffee, tea and spices are proving to be “very popular,” Doyel says. “We keep a close eye on this to make sure we’re giving customers what they really want.”

For All Tastes

Westwood Village’s reimagined meat and seafood department has upped its game as well. From fresh and frozen, to organic and natural, to heat-and-eat entrées, there’s something for every demand.

The meat counter features a host of seasoned, marinated and value-added items, many called out as “great for grilling,” along with proteins less often seen, such as lamb and venison.

Boldly lettered signs proclaim, “Prefer your fish fried? Just ask — it’s free,” and “Easy-for-you Seafood” with side dishes and wine pairings suggested for different types of fish.

“One of my favorite things is they’ll season fish for you, put it in a foil pouch and you take it home for the grill,” Doyel says. “We want to inspire customers to make that ‘what’s for dinner?’ question easier to answer.”

The store also calls out its sustainable seafood policy, which Doyel says customers feel strongly about: “Kroger has a long-standing commitment to sustainable seafood, and we want to make sure our customers know that.”

Opposite the meat and seafood counters is a cooking demo station featuring a “recipe of the day” prepared each afternoon by a chef, adding an element of theater and offering shoppers a chance to interact with the store’s culinary staff.

The demo station is adjacent to the store’s extensive wine and spirits department, which provides items for every price point, from entry level to premium vintages showcased in their own room.

But the highlight of this area is Cork & Tap, a wine- and beer-tasting bar (the second such location for Ralphs) offering spirits along with appetizers, cheeses and light meals from a tapas-style menu. “We’ll do beer and wine flights, simple tastings, pairings with a great menu,” Doyel explains. “We make sure we fit everyone’s palate and budget.”

Craft beers, including numerous California-made brews, dominate the end wall of the wraparound beer section. For those in a hurry, the specially designated “Hydration Station” dispenses grab-and-go beverages like single-serve water, juices, wines and beer.

Café Society

Westwood Village’s food court-style restaurant with seating is a first for Ralphs. The store is packed daily with hungry shoppers, work commuters, UCLA students and others partaking of made-to-order burgers, deli items (with prominent Boar’s Head branding), custom sandwiches (including “stupid good” grilled cheese, Doyel quips), fresh Italian and Mexican foods, pizza, salads, sushi, and desserts.

The large restaurant-style sushi bar, a focal point in the food court, is “always very busy,” Doyel notes, with sushi chefs preparing items to order alongside grab-and-go choices for those who can’t wait.

Alongside an extensive organic salad bar, the “Chef on the Run” hot bar features regular favorites and rotating entrées and sides, including pot roast, lamb shanks, bourbon beef ribs and eggplant parmesan. A “Taste of Asia” end cap offers grab-and-go rice bowls, with signage cross-promoting other Asian items throughout the store. “We’ve done this at a couple stores, and consumers tell us they really like it,” Doyel says.

A sandwich counter offers custom selections with a choice of bread and toppings, next to a station hawking “ooey-gooey” quesadillas in six varieties, including mashups like taco and Reuben, plus burritos and tacos.

More choices abound: six burger varieties; chicken by the piece, meal or party pack, fried, baked or Mexican style; 10 kinds of pizza, whole, by the slice or catered for parties; and two Coke Freestyle machines.

“You can be on a strict diet and eat here, or you can drown your sorrows,” Doyel remarks.

Other unique food court offerings include “SlimSoul” bistro boxes and salads by “Biggest Loser” celebrity trainer Jillian Michaels, exclusive to this store, in a dedicated case, and tortilla chips and salsa made by Homeboy Industries, a local gang reduction program with which Ralphs partners that trains exgang members to acquire such life skills as cooking and baking.

“It’s the No. 1 chip and salsa in our stores,” Doyel notes. “We’re always looking for ways to help lift up the community.”

The store also features a Murray’s Cheese counter, which has been popping up in many Kroger banner supermarkets across the country. The cheese shop offers more than 175 types of cheese — including dozens of local varieties — plus a wide selection of complementary specialty items, including crackers, dried fruit, and an olive and antipasto bar. Options are hyperlocalized, Doyel says: “The choices here are different than you’d see in, say, Orange County.”

A dessert bar offers self-serve frozen yogurt, gelato and caramel apples, with hand-dipped chocolate apples and pears a prominent specialty.

The bakery offers cakes and pies whole or by the slice, and custom-decorated cakes for all occasions. As a further step toward meeting every need, the department posts its daily product count for organic, local and gluten-free items.

Making Magic

Center store is highlighted by prominent shelf tags calling out products that are natural, organic and gluten-free, including Kroger’s Simple Truth brand.

Westwood also features a dedicated Live Naturally wellness section offering more than 3,500 natural items, among them vitamins, supplements, personal care, probiotics and beverages. This section, at the rear of the store, adjoins the 24-hour pharmacy — a key shopper demand, Doyel notes.

Rounding out the store’s services: the Money Shop, which provides a variety of financial services, including money transfers, money orders, payroll and government check-cashing, bill payment, and pre-paid debit cards and phones; an upscale housewares section; a Starbucks café; free Wi-Fi; and a selection of UCLA spirit wear.

In all, according to Doyel, Ralphs Westwood Village prides itself on offering “unique items, [being] a price leader and making sure we have everything from kids’ lunches to gourmet meals.”

Donna Giordano, president of Compton, Calif.-based Ralphs, adds, “We’re excited about the new products and services we are offering in our Westwood store, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with the community.”

Part of that partnerships includes jobs: The expansion saw ranks swell to 340 positions, including 150 new associates needed to deliver the market’s enhanced services. For Ralphs, a fixture in California retailing since 1873, the human touch is essential.

“The magic in this store is the people,” Doyel asserts, “focused on delivering a friendly shopping experience and great service.”

“The magic in this store is the people, focused on delivering a friendly shopping experience and great service.”
—Kendra Doyel, VP of PR and government affairs, Ralphs

“Our goal is to be the best supermarket in the area by offering our customers great service, selection and quality foods at exceptional value.”
—Don Jansen, store manager

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