This article takes a look at retailers who pioneered the Home Meal Replacement (HMR) category and have raised it to an art form.
Zingerman’s Delicatessen, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Anyone who has been to Ann Arbor, Mich., has probably been to what Inc. magazine dubbed, â€˜The Coolest Small Company in America,â€™ Zingerman’s Community of Businesses.
The original Zingerman’s Delicatessen opened in 1982 with a limited sandwich menu and traditional Jewish dishes in a small historic building near the Ann Arbor Farmers’ Market. Beyond the soup and sandwich menu, the deli began offering items often found in gourmet food shops: farmhouse cheeses, estate-bottled olive oils, varietal vinegars, smoked fish, salami, coffee, tea and more. The breadth of menu items and the variety of high-quality ingredients that go into them have made Zingerman’s an internationally-known foodie hot spot.
While other entrepreneurs would have sold out long ago to a large corporation and franchised the concept, partners Ari Weinzweig and Paul Saginaw shunned that route and instead defied conventional wisdom and created a unique business model of multiple, varied interdependent businesses. These individual concepts, each of which is owned and run by its own set of managing partners, range from the original deli to Zingerman’s mail-order and Zingerman’s Online, from which customers anywhere can choose from the hundreds of artisan and imported foodstuffs available in the gourmet shop.
Zingerman’s Creamery is where many of the farmhouse cheeses and gelatos sold in the deli are produced, using milk from Michigan cows. You’ll also find the Zingerman’s brand on the bakery that supplies the deli with bread and pastries, plus a catering operation, and even a business consultancy unit. ZingTrain conducts management and employee training business seminars, working with its own and outside companies.
Zingerman’s Roadhouse, a full-service restaurant, is the 7th business under the corporate umbrella. The partners’ long-range plan envisions a network of 12-18 individual Zingerman’s businesses by 2020. Each business will be developed to function independently and interdependently with the other businesses.
Wegmans Food Markets, Rochester, N.Y.
It’s not that big a surprise that Wegmans Food Markets has been named one of Fortune magazine’s â€˜100 Best Companies to Work Forâ€™ in 2010 and each of the twelve years the list has been published. Its dedication to service makes it a standout.
The 75-unit regional supermarket chain services the mid-Atlantic region including New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Northern Virginia and Maryland. It brought to life the â€˜superstoreâ€™ or â€˜megamarketâ€™ model of retailing by establishing itself as a more upscale grocery market and offering in-store dining areas known as Market CafÃ© in many of its units. Taking the cafÃ© one step further, Wegmans has emphasized service and convenience, creating online ordering for a number of different prepared foods menus including a sub shop, pizza shop and express lunch and dinner menus.
Wegmans also brings an educational dimension to HMR by offering online reference guides to shoppers with menus for different types of themed meals. These guides include sample shopping lists, suggestions for wine and beer pairings and dÃ©cor ideas. The store also offers cooking classes taught by networks of local chefs as well as cake decorating classes so shoppers can put a personal touch on what they purchase. Under an â€˜Eat Well. Live Well.â€™ heading on its website, the store provides information on choosing foods suitable for special diet needs; how to involve kids in making healthier food choices; and recognizing appropriate portion sizes. The site also features how-to videos, and recipes from its in-store magazine, Wegmans Menu.
Whole Foods Market, Austin, Texas
Whole Foods is best known as an eco-focused grocery store, offering organic vegetables, fruits and meats and environmentally-friendly household products. If you have not visited a Whole Foods Market in a while, you may be surprised to see not one, but several sit-down, mini-restaurants spread out within the store. Whole Foods Market has taken the concept of a prepared foods department and, if you will, â€˜super-sizedâ€™ it.
Depending on the location and square footage of a store, its prepared foods department may seem more like a food court than a grocery. It’s pretty common to find a deli in a Whole Foods, but now many units also boast an ethnic restaurant, and service areas based on concepts such as a burger joint, neighborhood diner or Parisian cafÃ©. Some stores may feature sushi, seafood or raw foods bars, pizza joints or BBQ shack concepts, while others offer concepts from a more mainstream taco bar, salad bar or sandwich bar to an olive bar or wine bar with a European flair.
But here’s where the Whole Foods brand makes its mark: all of the ingredients are natural or organic and as many as possible are locally grown. All of its prepared foods are created by trained Team Members under the supervision of an experienced chef. The result is pure, fresh, flavorful foods that consumers simply can’t find anywhere else.
With such focus on quality, variety, flavor and service, it’s not surprising that restaurants are fighting hard to win back consumer dollars from these types of retailers.