LAKELAND, Fla. -- Publix Super Markets here is experimenting with ethnic fare in the deli and brands in the in-store bakery in two separate link-ups with outside sources.
The chain, which has more than 400 units in the Southeast, began serving up Chinese food at one of its larger stores here this month, thanks to an arrangement with a local franchisee of China Max restaurants. Sales at the in-store location are already exceeding what he had expected, said Robert Lee, franchisee of local stand-alone units of China Max, Little Tokyo and Buddy's Buns.
Also this month, Publix, which is known for its from-scratch bakery, is spotlighting the Krispy Kreme Doughnuts brand in a test in nine of its units in the Tallahassee, Fla., market.
The Chinese operation, dubbed The Chinese Kitchen, is located in the deli department adjacent to the store's made-to-order sub sandwich station. It occupies space that at one time was a Publix-operated hot food counter. The Chinese fare is prepared there at a wok and grill and is held on a steam table. Seating to accommodate 60 people is close by.
The Chinese Kitchen, which opened inside the 50,000-square-foot-plus Publix unit here on April 10, is serving only ready-to-eat food at this point, but plans call for possibly packing up some entrees, chilling them and making them available for self-service, said Robert Lee. Best-sellers are bourbon chicken and General Lee's chicken, the same as at Lee's stand-alone China Max unit here, he said. Full dinners range from $5 to $7 and most entrees are $3.69.
According to Publix spokesman Lee Brunson, this is an experiment.
"We want to see how our customers respond," Brunson said in a statement to the consumer press earlier this month.
After testing The Chinese Kitchen for two months, Publix may consider expanding the operation to other stores, Brunson said in the statement.
The arrangement with Krispy Kreme is also a test, according a spokesman at Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Winston-Salem, N.C. The test involves nine stores in the Tallahassee market where they're merchandised in the in-store bakery, according to sources at Krispy Kreme. They said the results of the test will be evaluated this summer.