Upscale grocery stores are consistently improving the quality and variety of prepared food and made-to-order meals. Some consumers might not believe that a restaurant-quality meal could be made in a supermarket, but the versatile grocery store format actually helps operators to capitalize on industry trends.
Consumers have been vocal about their desire for “real” and “fresh” products and are increasingly distrustful of additives, preservatives, and excess calories found in pre-packaged offerings. In top tier supermarkets, many meals are made onsite, which promotes the notion of real chefs preparing real food. Customers can watch the construction of made- to-order sushi, deli sandwiches, pizza, and more, assuring that only natural ingredients are being used. Additionally, as shoppers wander through a supermarket overflowing with brightly colored produce and robust protein stations, one naturally assumes that these beautiful ingredients are being incorporated into their meal.
The product diversity of supermarket deli counters, salad bars and hot bars also appeals to very different palates. Supermarkets can vary regional flavors and dishes by location. Although a chain might carry roughly the same products in its stores, supermarkets can cater to the tastes of the local community by adding unique spices, vegetables or condiments.
Vegetarian offerings are another area of opportunity, with high-end grocery stores expanding their deli cold case salad options with pre-packaged superfoods and organic ingredients. Finally, we’ve seen many hot bars incorporating ethnic cusine; Chinese, Mexican and Italian products are popular, with Vietnamese, Korean, and Mediterranean offerings showing signs of growth.
Although supermarkets may never mimic the ambiance of fine dining or equal the experience of enjoying a drink at a raucous neighborhood bar, their convenience and quality make retail foodservice a powerful industry force.