EDINA, Minn. -- Lund Food Holdings, parent company of Lunds and Byerly's Supermarkets, has opened a trendy signature soup and sandwich bar at a remodeled Byerly's unit here and is already spreading the concept out to additional stores.
Blazing Beef Barbecue on the company's own "bundle" bread, and cold peach ginger soup are among the standouts currently featured on the menu.
Full service, variety and fanciful names are major ingredients in the venture that's been designed to catch customers' attention and then woo them with freshness.
The project began with the thought of launching a service soup bar, using a menu that would include cool, summertime soups to ensure the bar's year-round appeal. Then, the program was expanded to include imaginative sandwiches on a unique bread developed for the chain.
"The company's owners did some research [into current trends] that included trips to New York. There, they found that soup bars are really hot, and they decided to bring that trend back and add a twist to it by including gourmet cold soups like peach ginger and strawberry cream. Then, adding sandwiches created an obvious synergy," said Michelle Croteau, spokeswoman for the Minneapolis-based company, which owns eight Lunds and 12 Byerly's stores.
The store here offered sandwiches and soups prior to the bar's launch this spring, but the selections were more limited and self-service only -- just as they were in most other Lunds and Byerly's units.
"We had sold just grab-and-go sandwiches. That's why this is unique for us. And we did want to reposition both our soup strategy and our sandwich strategy," Croteau said.
By adding service and calling attention to the soup and sandwich bar, the company is able to promote the fresh ingredients and the large variety of soups and sandwiches it is offering, she explained.
The expanded repertoire includes 40 different kinds of soups and 28 varieties of sandwiches, which are rotated on and off the menu. Most of the sandwiches are built on the company's signature bundle bread -- a flat bread that looks like a cross between a tortilla, a pocketless pita and a slice from a loaf of rustic Italian bread. Indeed, an associate at the store called it "fried Italian bread." It's crispy on the outside, but pliable enough to fold over. A manufacturer produces the dough exclusively for Lunds and Byerly's, and it's pan-fried on-site with special seasonings.
All sandwiches and some of the soups are made in-store. Others are produced in the chain's central kitchen. Retail prices for the soups are $2.95 for a cup, $4.75 for a bowl and $7.95 for a quart. Sandwich prices range from $4.25 to $5.95.
While bundle bread sandwiches create a destination here, sandwiches on other breads are offered, too. Some are made on focaccia and other fresh-baked varieties, but all have unusual combos of ingredients.
For example, the Blazing Beef Barbecue, which features slices of Texas-style barbecued beef, with a tangy homemade barbecue sauce on bundle bread, is finished off with Tabasco cream cheese and fresh cilantro. A Dixie chicken sandwich on the unique bread contains curried chicken salad, pecans and Roma tomatoes. Then there is a Tuscan sandwich that features grilled chicken breast on focaccia with Roma tomatoes and olives.
Platters of the stuffed sandwiches are displayed in a service case. When a customer orders a bundle bread sandwich, associates fry the bread, heat the filling separately, then put it back together.
One consultant who visited the store shortly after the soup and sandwich bar was launched was particularly impressed with the concept as a destination-maker.
"In particular, I like the idea of the bundle bread sandwich. It's different, very interesting-looking and still it's a short jump. People understand what it is," said Howard Solganik, president of Solganik & Associates, a Dayton, Ohio, consulting firm that works with supermarkets.
And Solganik said he considered it a smart move for the company to spotlight their sandwiches, soup and service in this way.
"They've always had a great reputation for their soups and despite what anyone thinks, the sandwich business is huge. It's a very important part of the overall food-service business. It's how America likes to eat lunch, and putting this twist on it makes it a destination" [see "Glam on Rye," SN, July 16, 2001].
The soup and sandwich bar, which occupies at least 1,000 square feet in this 62,000-square-foot unit, is set up to emphasize service. It's in the deli area directly across the aisle from the traditional meats-and-cheeses deli, and is immediately visible to the right as one enters the store. It's in line with a Leean Chin Chinese food station, an outpost of the local Leean Chin restaurant chain, which Byerly's has had a long-term relationship with in most of its stores.
A Mexican concept had previously leased the space that's now occupied by the sandwich bar at this store.
"When [Baja Tortilla] closed we had the space to put the service soup and sandwiches in and it coincided with the remodeling of the store," Croteau said, explaining why the concept was launched at this particular location.
She added that the company will roll out versions of the concept to select stores.
One such version of it anchors the deli aisle at the newest Lunds, where it's billed as a New York-style soup and sandwich bar.