ShopRite at a glance
Parent company: Foodarama Inc.
Bakery Manager Dawn Traegler (left) and Cake Decorator Alex Fernandez of ShopRite's Hamilton store
ShopRite's refrigerated table-top merchandiser's optimal height draws customers' eyes to World Class pastries.
Sales associates slice and bag crusty breads for customers upon request.
(From left) Corporate Pastry Chef Vincent Tursi and Bakery Director Fred Baatz
Corrugated boxes with an adjustable front panel improve product handling. Price tags are applied with a protective tissue underneath, so customers can remove them without ripping the box.
Macaroons, made with almond flour and roasted cocoa beans, serve as a base for tortes.
Fine patisseries begin with quality ingredients and experienced bakers who know how to use them. Fine patisserie businesses carry the details through to product presentation and the end sale. Foodarama's ShopRite stores bring both elements together-upscale products and sales-in a supermarket setting.
Foodarama Supermarkets Inc., based in Freehold, N.J., operates 24 ShopRites, 20 of which are designated World Class ShopRites. Most ShopRite supermarkets are owned by co-op members who purchase their products from grocery wholesaler Wakefern Food Corp., Elizabeth, N.J. When Foodarama began to upscale its ShopRites fifteen years ago, it added "World Class" to its name to help differentiate its stores.
Until four years ago, World Class ShopRites had operated a basic in-store bakery program. But, Chief Executive Officer Richard Saker wanted his bakeries to represent the out-of-box thinking the company had used in the rest of the supermarket. Added features of most World Class ShopRites include pizza stations, sushi bars, hot buffets, Caribbean grills, submarine sandwich shops, juice and melon bars and stir fry stations.
With remodeled in-stores, a new production facility and well-trained staff to support a gourmet pastry program,ShopRite's World Class Patisseriesnow lead the stores' brand image. Bakery Director Fred Baatz helped guide ShopRites' transition to an upscale design, which includes a more open, inviting bakery department with custom-made, Europeanstyle curved glass showcases. The traffic-stopper, however, is a refrigerated marble-topped merchandiser and its colorful array of desserts, prepared centrally under the direction of Corporate Pastry Chef Vincent Tursi.
Developing gourmet desserts
Production in the main baking plant occurs from 5 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for the first shift and 4:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. for the second shift. The night shift is responsible primarily for mixing and packaging, and the day shift performs most of the baking. Five days a week, trailer trucks deliver product to ShopRite's 24 in-store bakeries, which are located a maximum of an hour away from the commissary.
Patisserie production incorporates much jaconde decorative siding, flavored mousses and chocolate work. The Ecstasy torte, one of the patisserie's top-selling desserts, consists of dark Belgian chocolate mousse layered between chocolate sponge soaked with Cointreau, an orange-flavored brandy. The cake is covered in a Belgian chocolate glaze and garnished-with imported marbled chocolate pieces.
"I try to keep the sweet level on balance, so it is less sweet and more flavorful," Tursi says.
Demonstrate your bragging rights
Supermarket bakery operations may have Certified Master Bakers or Pastry Chefs among their ranks, but do customers know that? Foodarama's ShopRite Supermarkets, Freehold, N.J., advertise the fact. Executive Pastry Chef Vincent Tursi, CMB, sports a prominent position in the company's weekly advertisement that is mailed to area households. Along with featured pastries of the week, ShopRite prints Tursi's photo, a description of his qualifications and the bakery's brand name, World Class Patisserie.
The advertisement not only encourages customers to associate a friendly professional face with ShopRite's World Class Patisseries, but readers' eyes are naturally drawn towards other people in print, particularly on a page busy with food products and prices.
During Tursi's store visits, customers occasionally stop him. "They say, 'Hey, you're Vinny. I know you,'" Tursi says.
Along with promoting some of the brains behind the product, ShopRite further differentiated its World Class Patisseries with an official logo. The logo features a classic cursive font and a fleur de lis. It is displayed in traditional ways, such as on print ads and uniforms. In addition, the patisserie uses transfer sheets to apply its logo to small imported chocolates. Most items from World Class Patisseries are garnished with the chocolate logos, further ensuring that customers remember where their gourmet cakes originated.
In addition, demonstrators travel to the Freehold commissary to get a sense of the hands-on production techniques and quality ingredients used for the patisserie product line.
Tursi and his team introduce new products to its in-stores seasonally and focus heavily on training bakery sales people about the cakes' ingredients. For the winter season, the patisserie introduced its popular Jack Frost torte, which features a light chocolate mousse layered between imported chestnut crðme brulee, topped with candied chestnuts and a layer of almond crispy praline.
"At first, they said, 'Vinny, you're crazy. People don't eat chestnuts in America,'" Tursi says. "But, I say, 'just taste it.'"
To differentiate World Class products, Tursi also makes a point to create distinctive names for each dessert. Monet, Caribbean, Romance and Samba are just a few examples.
Tursi's delectable desserts, despite their intriguing names, were not going to sell themselves. These types of high-end cakes were new to ShopRite customers and pricey ($14.75) compared to other in-store bakery products. But, Baatz and his team were confident they could hook customers once they tasted the cakes.
Learning to sell "upscale"
"We knew this (upscale patisserie) was going to be something we were going to have to grow into and teach our customers about," Baatz says.
So, ShopRite trained its salespeople to train their customers by dedicating at least one patisserie demonstrator for each store.
Demonstrators work from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily and actively demonstrate products during ShopRite's prime customer traffic. They are positioned in front of the patisserie to offer customers samples and explain the weekly featured product.
ShopRite trains demonstrators about each patisserie product, so they are knowledgeable enough to suggestive sell. The demonstrators are required to study each product's tip sheet, which includes serving sizes, description, product handling tips and serving and accompaniment suggestions. The tip sheets also feature underlined "buzzwords" for demonstrators to remember.
Tursi regularly visits the stores and their demonstrators to ensure they are comfortable selling the new products.
The right package
Packaging, along every phase of World Class Patisseries' products, has been a key element to their success. Getting products intact from the commissary to the in-stores required custom corrugated packaging. The patisserie designed boxes that fit the product sizes and avoid handling damage. The front panel of each box slides open to an angle, allowing personnel to insert and remove product more easily.
Once products are securely boxed, they are shrink wrapped for further protection and longer freezer shelf life. A shrink-wrapped cake can last more than six months while frozen and only two months without the wrapping, according to Tursi. (See photos p. 38)
At store level, World Class Patisseries package customers' desserts in gold-colored "tulip" boxes. The boxes top off the products' upscale appearance, and they have a convenient handle for customers to carry the product home safely. In addition, the sales staff is trained to gently apply one corner of the price sticker to the tulip box. They attach a tissue beneath the rest of the sticker, so it does not adhere to the box. This allows customers to easily remove the obtrusive price tags after checking out. Tursi says customers prefer to present their desserts at parties without price tags or torn box surfaces, and they like to reuse the boxes.
"Packaging could be the most expensive ingredient, but the customer deserves it when buying a $17 dessert," Baatz adds.
Two more World Class ShopRites will open this spring; one of which is a replacement store. The new stores' will include Tursi's plans for an expanded tart program in the patisseries. A pistachio crðme brulee tart with caramel and chocolate ganache is currently on the drawing board, according to Tursi.
With ShopRites' established sales training and demonstration program, its in-store bakeries are well prepared to roll out any new World Class products. Customers, too, are prepared to expect World Class quality.
"At the retail supermarket level, it's a little scary at first to sell (upscale desserts)," Baatz says. "But, we found that we can sell them, we most certainly can."
|A sampling of ShopRite in-store bakery prices|
|Fruit tart, 3 1/2 ins.||$2.75|
|Italian round, 1 lb.||$3.49|
|Country white sourdough, 1 lb.||$3.49|
|Wholegrain, 1 lb.||$3.49|
|Pudding cake, 1 lb. 2 ozs.||$2.99|
|Cherry pie, 8 ins.||$2.99|
|Fancy raspberry chocolate mousse cake, 8 ins.||$11.99|
|Lemon meringue pie, 8 ins.||$3.99|
|Carrot cake, 10 ins.||$22.99|
|Decorated cake, 1/4 sheet||$17.99|
|Bagel, 5 ozs.||46|
|Donut, glazed yeast-raised||50|
|Muffin, 5.5 ozs.||99|
|Cannoli, 4 ozs.||$1.49|
|Fancy brownie, 10 ozs.||$1.99|