TINLEY PARK, Ill. — Eurofresh Market, already having made its way through the recession unscathed, launched right into a redo that has raised sales by double digits — in its deli, in its meat department and in total store revenue.
Starting with service prepared foods, which had lines forming at 5 p.m. every evening that ran into lines at the adjacent slicing deli, the company took quick measures to remedy the traffic jam.
“People were waiting in line twice, to get hot, homemade food dished up, and then at the cold deli. They didn’t like that,” Frank Fortini, Eurofresh manager, told SN.
The company solved the problem by taking an inexpensive route to stop the jam-up at the 16-foot hot case, and got immediate results.
“We took one of the glass sides off the hot food service case, the side nearest the customer, instantly turning it into a self-service counter,” Fortini said. “Customers now can reach right in and pick up hot food, which we have packaged up. Right away, sales went up.”
Within days, hot food sales had increased significantly and within a year had jumped by more than 10% and have stayed there.
“We also saved on labor, and made our customers happy. It made it more convenient for them. They didn’t want to stand in line twice when they’re in a hurry to get home after work.”
The deli, spanning 68 feet across the back of the 63,000-square-foot store, became even more of a draw than it had been before.
The hefty menu of items cooked in the store’s kitchen has always been a hallmark of this store. A menu of 30 to 40 items is tailored to a customer base that represents several ethnic groups. Between 12 and 15 entrees and sides are prepared fresh daily in the store’s kitchen by a team of cooks, who draw most of their ingredients from within the store.
“We have a large produce department that has, depending on the season, about 450 different items. Our owner goes to the market every morning to buy fresh produce,” Fortini said.
The produce assortment also reflects the multi-ethnic customer base surrounding the store here.
Items in fresh produce include Indian karella/bitter melon, methi leaves, tindora peppers, Thai chili peppers, taro root and opo squash, as well as Serrano peppers, daikon and baby bok choy.
The international selection has served Eurofresh well in a very competitive market that includes three Jewel-Osco  stores, a Wal-Mart  supercenter, a Super Kmart, a Sam’s Club, a Meijer  and several specialty stores, all within a three-mile radius.
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The hot food menu is a tremendous draw, Fortini said.
“We have a lot of Italian food, and just comfort food like stuffed peppers and meatloaf, and homemade chicken fajitas, and on Sundays we make carnitas. Just Sundays, because they take longer to make, but our customers know they can count on us having them on Sunday.”
Meat Sales Increase
Right across from the hot counter, tiered refrigerated cases were added for packaged, store-made salads, sandwiches and chunk cheeses.
The store’s reputation for having a huge selection of imported grocery items has not been diminished even though some grocery aisles have been eliminated. The items have just been consolidated, and as a result of eliminating some grocery aisles, Fortini said, customers are shopping more of the store.
“Now, we’re bringing in new customers, too,” Fortini said. Heightening visibility of the huge deli has helped.
Adjustments made in the remodeling — which took four months in the spring of 2011 — opened up aisles, making all the perishable departments more visible, Fortini explained.
Three entire dry grocery aisles were taken out and others were cut in the middle, making for shorter aisles, more endcap displays and an airier feeling to the store.
The remodel also added 8 feet to the fresh meat service counter.
“Our meat sales were lagging so we wanted to make the department bigger, more visible, and add more service. We also have changed the lighting, so there’s more of a spotlight on meat. It has worked,” Fortini said, noting that sales are up double digits since the changes were implemented.
“We’re above the national average now for meat sales. We wanted meat to be our strength, second only to deli.” The remodel has done a good job of making that a reality, Fortini said.
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The last aisle in the store, which the owners wanted to attract customers to, has been made attractive with a bank of jet-black-trimmed refrigerated cases. That area now houses an expanded selection of wines and beer, and also a new dairy case with a door.
“People used to ask where the milk was, now they see it right away, and also all our other dairy items.”
With meat, deli and total store sales up by double digits thanks in large part to the remodel, Eurofresh’s owners are still not satisfied.
“There’s a small area at the front of the store that used to be a bank, and we’re thinking about putting a coffee shop in there. I see people walking in here with a cup of Starbucks in their hand, or sitting in the parking lot, drinking Starbucks coffee before they come in. We could have that business,” Fortini said.
A Starbucks store sits directly across the street.
The proposed Eurofresh coffee shop is next on the horizon.
“We’ll start with just coffee, different flavors, and put in some seating. We might add pastry, something from our bakery.”
Actually, before the coffee shop redo gets under way, the two-unit independent is putting some new touches on its 33,000-square-foot store in Palatine, Ill.
“We’ll do some of the things we’ve done here. For instance, making everything more visible and easy to shop,” Fortini said.
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