NEW QFC STORE HEAPS ON THE BRAND NAMES IN FOOD SERVICE

SEATTLE -- Brand names are big in the food-service areas at Quality Food Centers' newest store here.The 66,000-square-foot unit that opened in University Village is packed with concepts that mix the chain's own proprietary food-service names with outside brands well known either in the Northwest or nationally.The naming of names starts right away, with a Starbuck's coffee bar and a Cinnabon bakery

SEATTLE -- Brand names are big in the food-service areas at Quality Food Centers' newest store here.

The 66,000-square-foot unit that opened in University Village is packed with concepts that mix the chain's own proprietary food-service names with outside brands well known either in the Northwest or nationally.

The naming of names starts right away, with a Starbuck's coffee bar and a Cinnabon bakery flanking the two corner entrance doors at the northwest corner of the store.

No fewer than eight food-service brands are in prominent play in the store, having stand-alone concepts or occupying significant chunks of other sections. That roster is supplemented by other branded products sprinkled among the deli and food-service product assortments.

Bellevue, Wash.-based QFC officials were not available to comment on the presence of branding throughout the fresh prepared food areas. But a walk through the store made it apparent that the chain is at least testing the waters on the power of food-service branding.

At Starbuck's, coffee beverages are made to order and select promotional and seasonal whole beans are available prepackaged by the pound. A dedicated cash register at the counter speeds shoppers into the store.

At the Cinnabon cinnamon bun bakery counter there is an open kitchen production area. Cinnamon buns are available by the half dozen in prepackaged boxes, which can be scanned at the unit's front end. Additionally, cinnamon buns are available at the service counter, which also boasts a Rubymoon Coffee bar and again a dedicated cash register.

Adjacent to the Starbuck's stand is QFC's own Juvanescence Juice Bar, where customers can request freshly made fruit juices, vegetable juices, smoothies and vegetable juice blends made to order or select prepackaged juice and cut fruit items. Fruit juices and smoothies are available in three sizes: 10 ounces, 14 ounces and 20 ounces. Prices range, depending upon size, from $1.29, $1.79 and $2.99 for juices to $2.50, $2.99 and $3.99 for smoothies.

A carpeted seating area is adjacent to these food-service concepts, with the unit's bakery department just beyond. At center stage of this seating area is a natural-gas fireplace surrounded by cozy couches with convenient cocktail tables on one side and more traditional round tables with chairs plus a bar-style seating area on the other.

Down the store's line, across from the front end, is a Noah's Bagel store and Vivo, an Italian-style gelato and sorbetto stand.

The Noah's Bagel operation offers a full array of bagels, shmears, sliced and toasted bagels with a variety of fillings, knishes and Jewish-style smoked fish items. All orders are rung up within the store within a store and can be eaten on premises or taken home.

At the Vivo stand there is a strong tie-in with Saleh al Largo, a popular Seattle restaurant whose recipes are used to create the 16 gelato and sorbetti flavors made on premises. Coffee drinks are available at Vivo. A dedicated cash register is also in this department.

Noah's and Vivo are positioned to share a separate 25-seat table area situated directly in front of the front-end checkout.

QFC's deli department also capitalizes on a strong brand image. Center stage in the department is a walk-around, center-staffed section featuring menu items from Cucina! Cucina!, an Italian cafe chain located in Washington and Oregon.

In this section, grilled panini sandwiches are made to order. A self-service pasta bar features a choice of three sauces and Italian-style breads including fresh focaccia.

Additionally, three of Cucina! Cucina!'s popular salads are available in a self-serve salad bar format, the most famous salad being a chopped salad of chicken, salami, lettuce, basil, garbanzo beans, tomatoes, scallions, provolone and mozzarella with a vinaigrette dressing.

A Caesar salad and the restaurant's Pollo Orientale, a combination of chicken, almonds, mixed greens, tomatoes, cilantro, crisp noodles and basil with a sweet-sour dressing are also on the QFC menu.

Cucina! Cucina! has a reputation for offering all its restaurant menu items to go and for understanding what it takes to create and prepare foods that are not going to be immediately consumed.

Other concept areas within this section include deli sandwiches made to order, and a traditional salad bar and a soup bar where Stock Pot branded soups are merchandised within a self-serve four-kettle bar. The walk-around staffed section has a dedicated register.

The day Supermarket News visited the location, three soups and chili were available either in a cup or a bread bowl. To go with their soup or chili, customers had a choice of four rolls including two-olive roll, ciabatta roll, Yukon Gold potato roll and sourdough. Temperature gauges are attached to the kettles so that the staff can easily monitor the soups for both safety and product quality.

Adjacent to this section, a self-service walk-around refrigerated case offers specialty pizzas from Cucina! Cucina! and My Brother's Pizza, another local neighborhood haunt.

Also in the product mix are branded wraps including black beans and rice and exotic flavors from Vietnam, Thailand and the Middle East. British pasties, prepacked Caesar and Asian chicken salads, burritos and chimichangas round out the international self-service offerings.

Occupying the left wall as you enter the department is QFC's own service deli with both a cold case and a hot case. Traditional favorites offered in the service hot food case on the day Supermarket News visited the unit included ribs, baked chicken, fried chicken and burritos.

In the service cold case, featured entrees include Yakitori chicken, grilled vegetables and a selection of wraps ranging from Baja chicken to barbecued steak. Traditional deli sliced meats and cheeses are present in addition to signature salads such as Asian Ginger Chicken, Blue Cheese Potato Salad and Cranberry Rice.

Meal solutions are conveniently grouped in a featured Gourmet Hot Dinners, available as daily specials priced at $6.99 each. The meal concept is merchandised by attractive signs hanging over the case and behind the staff work area. For Monday, Chicken Cordon Blue is on the menu with Basmati and Wild Rice and fresh asparagus.

On Friday baked salmon is the center of the plate selection with the same two side dishes. Prime Rib is featured on Wednesdays with mashed potatoes and gravy and green bean bake.