PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Streamlined handling of Thanksgiving dinner pick-ups at Joseph’s Classic Markets this year is expected to drive up sales for the whole holiday season, owner Joseph Acierno told SN.
A strong believer in the value of word-of-mouth advertising, Acierno turned what could have been an overwhelming, chaotic morning — with a record number of customers picking up their Thanksgiving orders — into a fun event.
“I hired a guitar player, set out about 30-dozen cider doughnuts and had coffee urns outside” on the store’s covered patio.
The combination of music, free freshly-brewed coffee and fresh doughnuts kept people patient as they waited for their turkey dinner orders to be brought out, and they seemed to be having a good time, Acierno said. Indeed, he added that he had received a number of testimonials by email, and some handwritten notes, telling him what a positive experience the Thanksgiving pick-up morning was and how good their dinner was.
And, the system kept them outside, so they weren’t jamming up the aisles, making shopping difficult.
The process, newly adopted this year, began with a numbers system. This year as customers put in their Thanksgiving dinner orders they were given a number. Then, that number was stickered onto their dinner box. So when they came to pick up their order they gave their number to an associate who could quickly find the numbered dinner because the boxes and packages were organized sequentially.
“The numbers system really helped a lot in expediting. The pick-up was seamless, and the doughnuts and coffee and guitar made a stress-free environment,” Acierno said.
He also had lots of associates working to help speed things along.
Between 9 a.m. and noon, a total of 800 dinners — between the company’s three locations — were picked up. Total prepared food sales for Thanksgiving week soared 20% to 25% over the same period a year ago, and Acierno expects the same percentage increases at Christmas.
New kitchen equipment, too, has helped keep everything going smoothly.
“I upgraded to high-production equipment, and I have plenty of room to expand the kitchen,” Acierno said.
The stores will be geared up the same way, with a numbers system and doughnuts and coffee, for Christmas dinner pick-ups.
“That’s a little more complicated because everybody orders something different for their Christmas or Christmas Eve dinner. For Thanksgiving, turkey is pretty universal.
“We sell a lot of lasagna at Christmas. People actually bring their own trays or casseroles and we bake it in those,” Acierno said. “We encourage that. Our motto is ‘We do the work. You take the credit.’ Then, there’s prime ribs and seafood, and our specialty items.
“Our homemade prosciutto bread is popular and pizza rustica. That sells like crazy during the holidays. It’s more like a quiche, only higher, more than three inches high. It’s made with dry sausage, prosciutto, ricotta, mozzarella and Romano cheeses.”
Joseph’s Classic Markets has a baker who hails from Italy and he’s geared up for making struffoli e cassate cake now right up through Christmas.
Christmas tree sales out front bring a festive, holiday feeling right now at Joseph’s.
Acierno is so heartened by the feedback he got after Thanksgiving that he said knows he’ll be getting some new customers during the holidays.
“Just think about it. We sold 800 Thanksgiving dinners, but they feed a lot of people. So you can multiply that number by 10 or 12. It’s the best kind of advertising.”
When Acierno, a veteran of the food business in New York, opened his first store here in 2006, he introduced himself and his store to the community with what amounted to a New York-style block party.
“We had Italian music and we gave away food all weekend,” he told SN in an earlier interview. [See “Florida Fresh ,” October 3, 2011].
“A thousand pounds of sausage, 500 pounds of lasagna, 2,000 cannoli. We wanted people to taste everything we make.”
They apparently liked what they tasted because Acierno has since opened two more Joseph’s Classic Markets in nearby communities, and his sales have grown steadily each year, sometimes up to 40% and 50% year-to-date.