Mariano’s Gary Zickel tells packed audience at NRA Show
Four points stood out in an NRA Show main stage discussion between Gary Zickel, Manager of Foodservice Operations at Mariano’s, and moderator SupermarketGuru Phil Lempert:
- The prepared hot foods bar is the second-biggest traffic draw at Mariano’s in Chicago after pharmacy products.
- Rather than wait for customizable made-to-order sandwiches, customers increasingly choose pre-made grab-and-go options. Despite slowing made-to-order sales at his chain, Mr. Zickel sees a benefit of keeping a sandwich-making staffer in this spot shoppers can see – it makes people think the pre-mades were prepared recently and are fresh.
- Sampling prepared foods is effective – 80% of the time, shoppers will buy after trying, said Mr. Zickel.
- To sustain the 12%-13% annual growth rate in the foodservice-at-retail sector requires operations staff skilled at working with perishables beyond produce or deli. Mr. Zickel urged that higher-up supermarket director, co-director and management teams get behind the right acquisition of talent, including chefs with “a passion for food.” The challenge of securing qualified staff has led Mariano’s to decide to phase out its oyster bars, he added.
That is one step Mr. Zickel has taken to continually adapt Mariano’s foodservice operations to market shifts in consumer demand and the limited availability of skilled labor. Mariano’s is one of the industry’s leading operators of well-developed restaurant-quality concepts. Among its most popular are sushi; Todd’s BBQ smokehouse; pizza; sandwiches; hot bars with 28 half-pan choices; gelatos; wine bars; Veg/d, raw vegan and vegetarian bars; and Squeez’d smoothies bars that use fresh fruits from the produce department.