The new Austin store is a customer destination with seating provided in and outside the store.
Details, like star-cut pie crusts, differentiate Whole Foods' baked products.
IF A JAMMED PARKING LOT is any indication that customers are looking for a better grocery shopping experience, then Whole Foods' has hit the jackpot with its latest incarnation in Austin, Texas. An early innovator of organic and natural food stores, Whole Foods, now with 168 stores, has achieved success on the belief that most people want to eat well and will pay for quality if they can get it. Its new showpiece store attempts to put the "fun" back into grocery shopping, and its in-store bakery is no exception.
The store opened this spring to "oohs and ahhs" from foodies and average Joes alike. The 80,000-sq.-ft. store includes a scratch instore bakery that is 10 times larger than that of the old store it replaced. Beyond its large size and shiny new interior design, Whole Foods' in-store is its own bakery. Shoppers won't find in Whole Foods' bakeries what they find in other supermarket in-stores. This original identity makes Austin's Whole Foods an In-store Innovator.
Like its other departments, such as the seafood department where seafood hawkers wear fishing waders and display fish as if they worked in Seattle's Pike Market, the bakery is alive with activity. During Modern Baking's visit around noon on a weekday, about ten employees were working the bakery department. Most of them were pastry chefs, bakers and production employees. Some also handled customer service. Dressed in white coats and cropped baker's hats, the bakery staff presented a professional appearance and were attentive to customers.
The bread sales person, after finding out a shopping family-was from out of town, offered the customers bread samples and made recommendations for their dinner bread and a "snacking bread" for their long road trip home. The salesperson knew Whole Foods' bakery products well and made a bigger sale by asking the right questions.
The entire store bustles with culinary activity and offers seating throughout where customers have opportunities to taste Whole Foods' products. And, bakery is incorporated into most opportunities. A retail bakery, called Downtown Desserts, is positioned separately from the instore bakery near the coffee bar at the entrance of the store. A revolving pie case, an updated twist on 1950s diners, displays home-style pies sold by the slice. The bakery also offers dessert cakes, such as chocolate mousse and German chocolate cakes, as whole 10-in round cakes for about $20 or by the slice. Rolls, bagels, muffins, cookies and other portable baked products fill a large display of self-service cabinets.
The fish grill and prepared salad department position rustic breads prominently in baskets where customers dine. Even the salad bar features two sliced full sheetcakes, red velvet and carrot, so customers remember dessert.
Whole Foods' bakery products are not extravagant. Fruit tarts, bownies, cookies, cakes and European-style crusty breads pack the in-store bakery. Whole Foods prefers to put new spins on classic products. An entire table display,
for example, was piled high with individually wrapped crispy rice treats in a variety of flavors. Whole Foods' bakers cut star shapes from the tops of fruit pies to show the natural fruit fillings. One of its breads, called the Seeduction Loaf, features sesame, pumpkin, poppy, millet and sunflower seeds.
Promoting foods' natural goodness is proving a winning strategy for Whole Foods Markets. Although the company declined interviews for this article, an average supermarket earns less than $400 per square foot, and a Whole Foods store exceeds $800, according to a report in USA Today. Its in-store bakeries, which combine onpremise baking with central baking and finished products supplied from specialty bakeries, continue to innovate store designs and products.