NEW YORK -- Gristedes Supermarkets here has opened a new store in Midtown Manhattan that features a cafe and touts lunch specials on an A-frame sign out front.
The 18,000-square-foot store opened May 7, directly across the street from a unit of Food Emporium, a Bronx, N.Y.-based division of A&P, Montvale, N.J.
The Gristedes Cafe, to the left inside the store's entrance, includes a round, stand-up eating counter, a Nathan's hot dog operation and a tiered self-service case displaying single-serve salads, sandwiches and a limited selection of prepacked entrees. A nearby reach-in case displays bottled and canned sodas and packaged fruit salads. There is a cash register adjacent to the hot dog counter.
Like some other retail stores in Manhattan, where real estate is at a premium, the new Gristedes has departments situated on two levels. The cafe is on street level, just inside the entrance. Down one floor, via escalator, are the bakery, traditional deli, produce and other departments, as well as checkouts. As part of the deli downstairs, a 15-foot length of refrigerated self-service case displays an assortment of packaged chilled meals, such as meat loaf with sweet potatoes and grilled chicken with macaroni and cheese.
"We don't have the cafe the way we want it yet. Ideally, we'd have bakery up there, but space is limited. We're experimenting with some things. Nathan's is an experiment," said John Catsimatidis, chairman and chief executive officer of the Red Apple Food Group, which operates 45 stores in metro New York under the Gristedes and other banners.
A Nathan's hot dog with a 12-ounce can of soda was featured as a lunchtime special for 99 cents. That, along with another special offering a choice of a turkey, ham or roast beef hero sandwich with a 12-ounce can of soda for $2.99, was listed on the A-frame sign outside the entrance. The menu also listed a pizza bagel for 99 cents and a breakfast special of coffee and a muffin for 99 cents.
On a recent lunchtime visit to the store, SN noted that the tiered self-service case alongside the hot dog operation displayed an eclectic mix that included a single-serve portion of stuffed cabbage for $2.99, two crab cakes for $3.99, a large variety of wrap sandwiches for $3.99 and a random-weight grilled chicken cutlet packed with a side of potato salad and priced at $5.99 a pound. A half rotisserie chicken with baked beans was $2.99.
There was no visible production area. Staffers behind the counter were making hot dogs and ringing up purchases on the cash register, but nobody was making sandwiches or packing up meals. In fact, a customer who had been looking for a roast beef sandwich in the self-service case was told by an associate at the cash register that there were no more roast beef sandwiches.
A store-level source on the lower level told SN that sandwiches are made in store, but most of the prepared entrees, such as stuffed cabbage and meat loaf, are made to the company's specifications by a third-party manufacturer.
Officials declined to comment further on the store, other than to say a similar cafe at a Gristedes unit uptown in Manhattan was also in an experimental stage. The new store here sits in the midst of towering office complexes and high-rise apartment buildings. Just across the street from the store, adjacent to Food Emporium, is a tiny park with benches and trees where lunchers can be seen eating takeout when weather permits.