TWO BIG BEAR UNITS EMBRACE MEAL VARIETY TO PRESS FRESHNESS

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Big Bear Stores here has turned up the spigot of its meals marketing by touting the variety of its chef-prepared meals every week in ad circulars."We want to call attention to all the variety we offer. We've been running similar ads on a weekly basis since we opened the new stores this spring," said Karen Bennett, Big Bear's director of consumer affairs.The strategy behind showing

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Big Bear Stores here has turned up the spigot of its meals marketing by touting the variety of its chef-prepared meals every week in ad circulars.

"We want to call attention to all the variety we offer. We've been running similar ads on a weekly basis since we opened the new stores this spring," said Karen Bennett, Big Bear's director of consumer affairs.

The strategy behind showing a meal of the day is to underscore the variety in the chefs' repertoires, but the choices are not limited to what is featured in the ad, Bennett said.

One recent advertisement, for example, spotlighted a different meal for each weekday, using a row of five miniature color photos of whole meals.

For Monday, the ad showed a meatloaf dinner priced at $4.99. For Tuesday, there was sauteed chicken dinner, $5.49, and Wednesday featured roasted pork tenderloin dinner at $6.99. For Thursday, the chain recommended carbonara alla orazio dinner, priced at $5.99, and for Friday, prime rib dinner, $7.99.

The prices listed are the everyday prices for the items.

Under each picture, the meal was identified and the side dishes that go with it were listed. In addition, a blurb under the carbonara alla orazio photo offered a description: penne pasta with bacon, in a sauce with parmesan and romano cheeses, garlic and cracked pepper and fresh broccoli.

Bennett pointed out that Big Bear's chefs prepare at least three entrees and several side dishes each day.

For the first week of this month, the chain's ad circular had a wrap-around offering more details about the fresh meals program. The meals, shown in photographs, were tagged, "Chef's Specials for this Week," an effort to make it clear these were not the only meals offered on any particular day. The page was headlined, "What's for Dinner? Fresh, Never Frozen. The Best Take Out Restaurant in Town!"

Beside each meal photo was the price and a description of the meal. Starbursts at the edge of each plate told the day of the week that particular meal was featured. In addition, three side dishes were spotlighted in the ad with color photos of each on a platter. The featured sides were sauteed portabella mushrooms, $8.99 a pound; twice-baked potatoes, $1.39 each; and asparagus with butter sauce, $5.99.

A blurb over the meal selections called attention to the variety offered. It read, "Choose from a variety of appetizers, over 15 salads (everything from fresh mozzarella balls and tomatoes to sweet potato salad), 20 side dishes (our specialty is twice-baked potatoes) and over 25 entrees. Our items are made fresh daily by our staff of professional chefs."

Another blurb at the top offered this: "In a hurry? Need an entree for a quick dinner or a side dish for that special dinner and a great dessert to top it off? Let us do all the work for you." Made-to-order Caesar salads, the store's cappuccino bars and juice bars were also touted on the same page.

The fresh, chef-prepared products are offered packed as whole meals, and also in individual servings so customers can mix and match entrees and sides, Bennett said.

The page of the chain's circular that features the meals is distributed only in the marketing areas of the company's two newest stores.

The chain introduced a team of chefs at its two newest stores -- at the Sun and Perimeter shopping centers here -- which are the only ones at this point that offer on-site, chef-prepared meals and components.

The meals and meal components are offered only chilled, from a self-service case, but chefs can be seen preparing the meals just behind the case at an open prep area.

Keeping the chefs in full view of customers is purposeful to keep the freshly prepared perception in customers' minds, Bennett said.

Howard Solganik, president of Solganik & Associates, Dayton, Ohio, a consulting firm that works with supermarkets, said the ad campaign appears to be aimed to enhancing the stores' "image" and to raise consumers' awareness that the stores now offer meals.

"Showing pictures of different meals is a good way to get the idea of variety across to consumers. I don't think they will consult the ad to see what meals are available on a particular day anyway; but it works well to tell them the chefs are creating a lot of different items," Solganik said.