WESTBURY, N.Y. -- King Kullen Grocery Co. here has opened its first full-blown cafe -- dubbed Kullen's American Cafe -- in a new store that opened earlier this month in Commack, N.Y.
The cafe, with seating for 60 to 70 people at wooden tables and chairs, is meant to set the tone for the entire store, said Tom Cullen, vice president of government and industry relations for the 48-unit chain.
"It sets the mood immediately for what's going to happen throughout your visit to the rest of the store," Cullen said. "It's the first time we've had brick-oven pizza, the first time we've actually cooked pizza on-site. And we're making bagels right on the premises."
The cafe's seating, situated to the left inside the store's entrance, is visible through the front window. Cullen pointed out open production is featured in all the fresh-food departments in the new store, which King Kullen built from the ground up.
Starting off the traffic pattern at the 60,000-square-foot store, the cafe represents an unprecedented attempt by any King Kullen store to capture hot-food customers, Cullen said.
"Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner to this extent is new for us. It starts in the morning, with such things as ham and egg sandwiches and french toast and pancakes.
"People can get whatever they want, whether it's pizza or a meal or chicken," he said.
At the new store, the hot-food program has a stronger identity as a cafe compared with the limited hot-food programs in other King Kullen units, Cullen said. Seating in the chain's other units typically accommodates no more than 10 to 20 people, and there is no designation as a "cafe," he said.
"The cafe is very successful. We're finding that people start off their shopping trip by going into the cafe and feeding their children, having a meal, whether it's breakfast, lunch or dinner. Then, they begin shopping the perimeter of the store," he said.
The entire store is one of the prototypes that will be used for newly constructed King Kullen units, Cullen said.
"This is one of the formats we'll use, based on the particular demographics and geography," he said.
Some form of the cafe program will be installed in all new King Kullen stores, Cullen said.
"All our recent stores have some seating, but not to the magnitude of this," he said.
"We want to give people the opportunity to sit down and enjoy their food. They don't want to carry it around the store with them as they shop," he said.
"This store brings everything together that we've learned elsewhere. The cafe is one example."
The design of the whole store is the result of the company listening to its customers, Cullen said.
Cullen said the company has carried out formal market research studies to poll its customers, but declined to comment further on that subject.