GIANT FOOD, U.S. FOODSERVICE MULL COFFEE BARS

LANDOVER, Md. -- Dutch retailer Ahold is promoting discussions of ways in which two subsidiaries -- U.S. Foodservice, Columbia, Md., and Giant Food here -- could work together to open turnkey concepts such as coffee bars inside Giant stores, according to officials.Under such a plan, U.S. Foodservice would supply select Giant units with its premium Rituals coffee program as part of an upscale coffee-bar

LANDOVER, Md. -- Dutch retailer Ahold is promoting discussions of ways in which two subsidiaries -- U.S. Foodservice, Columbia, Md., and Giant Food here -- could work together to open turnkey concepts such as coffee bars inside Giant stores, according to officials.

Under such a plan, U.S. Foodservice would supply select Giant units with its premium Rituals coffee program as part of an upscale coffee-bar venue. Bonna Walker, vice president of marketing and public relations for U.S. Foodservice, said the distributor already produces point-of-purchase materials used by food-service customers participating in the Rituals program.

"They are POP items like danglers that promote the flavor of the day, or stickers for airpots with the Rituals name on them, so it's not a generic, back-of-the-house brand," she told SN. "Because we're in the food-service business, the name is not widely known in the retail industry, but that doesn't mean it can't be."

U.S. Foodservice supplies more than 130,000 customers around the country, from restaurants and corporate cafeterias to public schools and hospitals.

Both companies are relatively recent acquisitions for Ahold -- Giant was purchased two years ago, and U.S. Foodservice was acquired in March -- and observers noted the discussions about the coffee-bar concept represent Ahold's first major attempt at introducing food-service models in the retail setting. Walker said the idea is still in preliminary discussion, however.

"There are a number of things that we do very well that the retail stores are looking to get expertise on," she said. "There may or may not be synergies there. We don't know that yet. We're just exploring those possibilities."

To date, most discussions between food-service distribution companies and retailers have revolved around fresh-meals programs and restaurant-style concepts in supermarkets, of which coffee bars are an extension (see "Dinner Date?", SN, June 1, 1998).

Barry Scher, Giant Food vice president of public affairs, declined to comment on the discussions, but told The Washington Post that the coffee-bar idea is the "first of many synergies" under examination by both companies.