NEW YORK -- EatZi's opened inside Macy's flagship store here in midtown Manhattan right on schedule -- October 16 -- with some new touches.
Marinated, "restaurant-style" meats to take home and cook have been introduced at this location. They're displayed in oval-shaped crockery bowls. Box lunches, showing off the colorful EatZi's logo, are given new prominence in a large display at the end of the chef's prepared food case. A self-service olive bar with six varieties displayed in huge crocks is a feature here, too.
A pasta station, launched in Atlanta earlier this year when EatZi's opened there, is highlighted in the chef's case at Macy's.
Not surprisingly, there's also more seating -- for 180 people -- at this location than at other EatZi's sites where customers are more apt to arrive by automobile and take their food home or back to the office.
"There are a lot of shoppers in here who don't plan on going anywhere [else to eat]. So we added more seating. That's an accommodation to the fact that we're in Macy's," said Lane Cardwell, EatZi's president, in an interview on-site on opening day.
Macy's particularly sees the large seating area as a plus.
"We get 30,000 people in the store on an average day. At Christmastime, more than 100,000 a day. Now, we have the opportunity to keep them here longer. They can shop, and eat, and then shop some more," said Neal Goldberg, senior vice president, Macy's, and general manager of its flagship store.
EatZi's, the hybrid restaurant-supermarket concept launched two and a half years ago in Dallas, by Dallas-based Brinker International and restaurateur Phil Romano, has made Macy's Cellar department on the department store's basement level its fifth site. Other EatZi's, freestanding buildings, are located in Dallas, Houston, Atlanta and Westbury, on Long Island.
Locating the concept within Macy's presents a unique opportunity, Cardwell said.
"We're only here in Manhattan because of Macy's. We would not have come here without a partner who has a vested interest in our success," Cardwell added.
Asked why he thinks the concept will work in a venue so different from the other EatZi's sites, Cardwell said the concept can take advantage of the enormous amount of foot traffic Macy's itself generates. But equally important is Macy's history of selling fresh takeout food in its Cellar department, he noted.
"They were doing a very large volume in carryout food before we got here. Ottomanelli's butcher shop and TriBeca Ovens bread were here. The Cellar had pastries, deli meats and cheeses, a variety of fresh products, caviar.
"So the Macy's shopper and residents nearby are already used to coming here for carryout food. We're just putting the theater and the on-site preparation behind it," the EatZi's executive said.
The previous fresh-food vendors, including Mangia, a respected Manhattan restaurant/catering company, left Macy's Cellar department prior to EatZi's arrival.
Cardwell believes the vast majority of EatZi's customers will be people who are already shopping in Macy's, "just because there are so many of them." But once they do visit EatZi's, they will also see that the concept is also open hours that Macy's isn't, Cardwell said.
"We're open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., while normal hours for Macy's are 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.," he added. A separate entrance has been constructed on 34th Street to enable consumers to get into EatZi's when Macy's is closed.
"We're counting on getting not only the commuter walking past but also residents in the surrounding area," Cardwell said. No supermarkets are located nearby. "I'm sure that was one reason Macy's always did a huge volume in takeout sales from its Cellar. People couldn't get those products close by," Cardwell said.
Cardwell pointed out that specific measures have been taken to attract passers-by into EatZi's.
For example, in addition to the separate entrance, a 10-foot-by-10-foot video wall, occupying a full panel of Macy's display windows facing onto busy 34th Street, shows live action going on downstairs. That, a colorful awning with EatZi's logo over the window, and EatZi's signature upbeat music piped out onto the street, are aimed at grabbing the attention of passersby. Prior to opening day, the video wall was used to announce EatZi's impending arrival. Tapes showing action at other EatZi's locations were shown [as reported in SN 9/14/98]. "But now we've gone live. You see real chefs doing real things. We have several cameras down here. One shoots across the chef's case, showing the platters of food," Cardwell said.
Macy's officials expect all the EatZi's hoopla to bring in new Macy's shoppers. The stretch of sidewalk that hugs the department store's 34th Street side is traversed by an estimated 100,000 people a day.
"We believe EatZi's will be a great draw to bring additional traffic in here," Goldberg told SN the day EatZi's opened.
The EatZi's experience itself remains pretty much the same as that at the company's other locations, Cardwell pointed out.
"We didn't want to change anything about the experience itself. As you enter, you pass through the production areas just as you do in the others," he said.
At EatZi's here, huge glass walls allow Macy's Cellar department shoppers to look right in on the bakery and the cooked food production.
"Both areas should attract them, but the bakery [with its completely open production] is what's unique to most people, so they pay more attention to it," Cardwell said.
Structural changes currently underway on Macy's basement level will benefit EatZi's, Cardwell pointed out. He showed SN how walls are being broken down to make a through passage from the Broadway side of Macy's to its Seventh Avenue side, routing shopper traffic by EatZi's.
Previously, when The Cellar department housed a variety of fresh food vendors, the department dead-ended on the Broadway side of the building.
"You came to the department, then had to turn around and go back. If you wanted to go to Macy's Seventh Avenue building, you had to take the escalator up to the first floor. Now, shoppers in The Cellar [where Macy's also sells cookware and other dry goods] will literally have to walk through EatZi's," Cardwell said.
EatZi's, however, is looking to cover all bases. In addition to pulling Macy's shoppers in, the EatZi's-Macy's partners also have made layout changes to accommodate the characteristically in-a-hurry New Yorker. EatZi's coffee bar, for instance, is situated in a more separate area than at other sites; it's right at the bottom of the steps leading into EatZi's from the outside.
"Positioning it there gives us a way of trying to accommodate people who want a quick meal without really going through the store," Cardwell said.
Pastries and muffins are sold at the coffee bar in the morning and sandwiches, sides, and salads can be purchased there at lunchtime.
On opening day at lunchtime, when SN visited EatZi's, it was packed. Customers lined up at EatZi's lively grill and crowded around a table where a chef-garbed employee was cutting and wrapping wedges he cut from a huge, table-long sub sandwich.
The chef's case, with its 70 platters of prepared foods, was getting its share of attention, too. And a line formed at the pasta station where customers can choose from a variety of noodles, toppings, and sauces.
Cardwell said he expects traffic patterns at this EatZi's location to differ from those at other others in the fact that there will be big spikes in activity associated with seasonal and other sales and promotions that Macy's generates.