MIXING IT UP AT MARTINS

The components and ingredients in the meals program at the 16 stores operated by Martin's Super Markets come from a mix of sources, including Martin's commissary, in-store production and outside suppliers, Slott of Martin's said. ers, uses 20 varieties of breads either baked in-store or in the commissary bakery. Eight breads are available at any one time, and rotated, keeping the mix fresh, Slott

The components and ingredients in the meals program at the 16 stores operated by Martin's Super Markets come from a mix of sources, including Martin's commissary, in-store production and outside suppliers, Slott of Martin's said.

ers, uses 20 varieties of breads either baked in-store or in the commissary bakery. Eight breads are available at any one time, and rotated, keeping the mix fresh, Slott explained.

Martin's currently outsources 20 salads from a supplier who provides daily 9 a.m. delivery to stores -- a system that allows early shoppers to pick up both breakfast and lunch in the morning. Slott cited the freshness and consistency of the outsourced salads as a determining factor for Martin's in deciding to go outside.

Made-to-order sandwiches, meanwhile, come from the Side Door Sandwich Shoppe, where the daily changing specials are noted on a framed set of blackboard menus. In three stores, panini sandwiches have become well accepted; but Slott said operators have found that panini, like other specialty products, are ideally suited for stores with slightly upscale demographics.

Martin's meals are focused on homestyle meals, an important distinction for a retailer with operations that are not primarily upscale.

In addition to its current assortment of meals, Martin's will shortly develop and test 18 to 20 "exceptional" homestyle meals in three stores.

Slott also said the retailer is looking to expand its meals program by packaging breads, salads and desserts together in complete meals.

Like DLM's Fox, Slott said that the most important decision his company has made was to hire a knowledgeable food-service professional, executive chef Scott Erwin, to build its Side Door Deli program.

In a supermarket setting, "It's a slow process to develop this business and change the culture and attitudes," he said, sounding the frequently heard complaint from meal officials that the industry needs to abandon the "grocer's mentality."

And also like at DLM, Martin's decided to insure that the delis were convenient, by moving them to the front of the store and as near the front door as possible.The move paid off; as a result, sales rose 10% to 15%, Slott said.

In the evening, Slott said, the stores are de-emphasizing meals in individual servings and leaning toward combined meals. They also reset the deli cases with more room for dinner selections. The cases, in fact, are reset twice a day; after lunch, the cases are re-arranged to limit shrink and selection, and are expanded in the evening to accommodate dinner customers.

Martin's also plans to add sit-down cafeterias in half of its stores.

Slott said he, too, is trying to combine the efforts and skills of deli and bakery to make Martin's meal program work.

About 70% of Martin's baked goods are supplied by its commissary, which Slott said helps maintain product consistency from store to store.