Bret Thorn | Restaurant Hospitality | May 24, 2018

Americans eat all day long — grabbing snacks on the go, having food delivered to their homes and workplaces, responding to changing technology and the increased availability of fast, customizable meals with increasing fickleness and growing demand for speed. No wonder foodservice in retail is growing faster than both retail and foodservice.

In a discussion during the NRA Show with Gary Zickel, manager of foodservice operations at Mariano’s, supermarket expert Phil Lempert said foodservice in retail was currently growing at around 12 percent to 13 percent annually. But to run those operations successfully, you can’t just promote your deli manager or augment that roast chicken you already offer with macaroni and cheese.

While grocers understand center-store dynamics, they don’t necessarily understand how towork with perishable items, and if they do, that knowledge usually stops with produce or maybe the deli, Zickel said.

“They’re terrified” to try anything else, he said, adding that to offer proper foodservice at retail, you need to have buy-in at higher levels, getting the supermarket director, co-director and management teams to embrace it. On top of that, you have to hire actual cooks, who “have a passion for food.”

“You can’t expect logistics or receiving people to execute well in the kitchen,” Zickel said.

They payoff makes it worth the effort, however, he said, noting that at Mariano’s, a higher percentage of customers get containers from the hot bar than anything else besides pharmacy products.

“It’s a draw. It will bring people into the store,” Zickel said.