THE STORY IS THE EXPERIENCE
Wikepedia defines a foodie as, “a gourmet, or a person who has an ardent or refined interest in food and alcoholic beverages. A foodie seeks new food experiences as a hobby rather than simply eating out of convenience or hunger.”
Recently, I encountered a new retail experience that is sure to provide foodies of all kinds a rich menu of goodies to share, to learn from, evaluate, and yes, to celebrate.
My memorable engagement was touring a new grocery market located in Upstate New York. This distinctive experience was designed by Price Chopper Super Markets, an 82- year old chain, headquartered in Schenectady, New York.
It is called Market Bistro.
You do not have to be a foodie to read on.
This place is original for sure.
“Story is about originality, not duplication.”
There is a story to be told here.
The Market Bistro Experience is the result of “challenging ourselves beyond anything we’ve ever done. Jerry Golub
This store is not your typical Price Chopper or ordinary grocery store.
It is a food experience that reflects a 50-year career in the food business and the heart and soul of the projects visionary, Price Chopper, Executive Chairman of the Board, Neil Golub. The initiative, four years in the making, had a grandiose vision: to set new standards for grocery retailing not only in Price Chopper’s Marketplace but Nationally, while incorporating a sampling of America’s favorite menu items .
The backstory of this new offering also includes, a long-time successful business, challenging itself to dream about new possibilities. Jerry Golub, CEO, states that the Market Bistro Experience is the result of “challenging ourselves beyond anything we’ve ever done.”
The story also includes the Price Chopper Team journeying to some of America’s best food adventures searching for ideas and principles, to apply to and redefine, their own authentic version of tomorrow’s grocery store.
Significantly, from a business standpoint Market Bistro is Price Chopper’s answer to the question: how do we differentiate in an economy where goods and services are commoditized? In case you don’t know, The food industry is historically one of the most competitive business environments.
I remember the competition clearly…bidding to win 8 weeks of Peanut Butter Business, for Price Chopper’s Good Til Program. Margins were thin. Penny’s mattered.
Before sharing additional observations on this new adventure, I would like to establish some context for my experience audit of Price Chopper’s Market Bistro.
In my previous career, I devoted the better portion of twenty years, working as a sales manager in the food industry, for one of the world’s leading food manufacturers. My early business days consisted of making ten visits per day to grocery stores. Throughout my days in food industry, the grocery store was central to my business success. This was the place where the rubber met the road so to speak – where all my company’s brands found their way into grocery bags, heading for America’s kitchens. During my food days I logged many hours in Price Chopper Stores and also at their corporate offices.
The point is, I am no stranger to the grocery industry retail operation or the Price Chopper Brand. Additionally, I have toured many grocery stores from coast to coast while traveling. (Maybe I am a true foodie and don’t know it ! )
CUSTOMERS WANT MORE THAN GOODS & SERVICES
The other important perspective that I bring to this mini “thinkAbout”, is a decade long, deep involvement, in the growing discipline of customer experience design-“The Experience Economy.” The learning, research, and application of ‘Experience Economy’ principles during the last ten years, has helped me develop an excellent toolset to evaluate experience encounters .
There have been numerous reviews on this new experience so I’d like to take a somewhat different approach, by connecting a few dots between The Price Chopper Initiative and Experiences. In communications on Market Bistro, Price Chopper is openly declaring an engaging experience awaits store guest.
“An experience. An adventure. A celebration of food.”
“At Market Bistro, we believe in not just eating food, but in experiencing food to the fullest.”
Many businesses claim to offer wonderful customer experiences through their advertising and marketing claims. Very few deliver on their promises.
What I would like to do is to give you a flavor for this new offering, using a few of the many principles and frameworks that should be considered, when designing a compelling experience. To reiterate, this is not your typical “food taste great review”. (Quality products and services alone are not enough to differentiate today.)
Let’s get to it.
Expectations are important elements that determine how consumers judge experiences. I admit being biased entering the new Price Chopper Offering. One of my ‘Experience Economy’ colleagues, and a longtime career food executive, shared one thought with me after his own guided tour: “Market Bistro is one of the most compelling food experiences I’ve encountered in my travels across the US.”
He would not reveal any additional details, simply saying: you just have to experience this place yourself.
I was left in suspense for a few days prior to my tour.
“EVERY BUSINESS IS A STAGE”
On tour day, approaching the Market Bistro location, I observed an electronic LCD marquee. In addition to providing a very attractive guide into the experience, the sign highlighted a few Market Bistro’s attractions. My immediate thought was this resembles an entertainment venue announcing upcoming shows. The market’s outdoor signage, unique to grocery shops, provides store guest a clue that something special awaits them during this shopping trip. I was reminded of one of my favorite business phrases, “Every Business is a Stage.”
A side note: In all my years making sales calls in grocery stores, I can not remember being so charged prior to entering a store.
ROCK YOUR CUSTOMERS
After a two and a half hour visit, Price Chopper earns my “Rock Your Customers” rating. Even entering the experience with very high expectations, Market Bistro delivered many surprises and delights. I wanted to spend more time but couldn’t because of a prior commitment.
WORKER PERFORMANCE A CRITICAL EXPERIENCE FACTOR
Despite the fact that my employee engagement audit was not an extensive, I would like to note worker engagement as one of Market Bistro’s distinctions.
The energy I sensed from my interactions with employees was palpable. It was evidenced by the enthusiastic behavior I observed. I witnessed many smiling faces along with a willingness of the front line workers to engage and be helpful to customers.
During my visit, I had a number of conversations with front line employees, team leaders and department heads. Without exception I would define these individuals as: engaged employees inspired by their work , employees that are proud to be a part of The Market Bistro Experience and group driven to make the experience rock.
The employee behavior I observed is uncommon in today’s workplace, with a mere 30% of all employees being engaged by their jobs. The employee experience is intrinsically linked to the customer experience. It is the frontline employees who have direct contact with customers that ultimately make or break the customer experience.
Bravo Market Bistro for a good start !
A SENSORY EXTRAVAGANZA
Captivating Experiences stimulate customer’s senses in a way that grabs someone’s attention and keeps it. The customer becomes totally immersed in the experience.
Market Bistro grabbed my attention from the moment I entered until the time I left. This foodie venue is chock-full with sensual stimulations. The signage along Bistro Blvd. gave me a feel for a scaled down visit to Times Square in NYC. The lighting and ceiling design evoked a happy emotion. I had a sense that this space was designed as a place to have a little fun, while you explored how to satisfy your current and future taste buds.
There was an ample supply of other sensory encounters sprinkled throughout my food adventure. I still have visions of a rack of baby back ribs I spied. Those baby’s must have been six feet long !
There were rows, columns and bins of well merchandised pasta, meet, cheese, fish, breads and desserts, ready for a trip home or immediate consumption in the food lobby. The aromas made my stomach growl. I commented to my tour host. “I have gained twenty pounds looking at all of these delights. The signature moment (Every Great Experience has one) for me was the sights, sounds and smells, entering Bis
MARKET BISTRO = PLACEMAKING
The Market Bistro is an example of Placemaking.
Have You ever heard of this concept made famous by architect, Jon Jerde?
“Placemaking is not about an architect or their building designs, it’s about making places people love.”
The essence of “Placemaking” is to create a place that’s so engaging that it captures people’s attention, attracts them to your offering and entices them to spend more time with you. The more time people spend with you is directly proportionate to the amount of money they will spend.
Price Chopper’s Market Bistro converts plain space (an ordinary grocery store) into a distinctive place, by incorporating key experience realms.
The centerpiece of the experience is Bistro Blvd. It is a big WOW !
It offers 12 specialty shops and unique setting to hang out and feast on a sampling of world-wide foods. Additionally, there’s a full fare Restaurant with a bar (Chef’s Grill), Deli (Ben & Bills), Cheese Shop, Italian Market, Cafe (Starbucks), Fish Market, and Growler Station. The produce department added a touch of originality of its own by including a hydroponic tomato display, a sentimental favorite of mine.
Another favorite; a cooking school for those interested in sharpening their culinary skills. Price Chopper calls it, a learning experience to “Nurture Your Inner Chef.” The school has a wide variety of learning programs for all culinary skill levels and ages. I loved the place and energy of it’s team leader. Check out more details here- THE COOKING SCHOOL
Yes, Market Bistro is a distinct place, an experience that offers an ESCAPE from the ordinary, an ESTHETIC delight of sorts with its bold design, an ENTERTAINING place to explore anything food and finally, an opportunity to EDUCATE one’s self in the fine art of cooking.
There are many BEST PRINCIPLES of engaging experiences present in the Market Bistro Offering. It’s an excellent exemplar for all classes and sizes of businesses, to begin understanding the critical role of experiences in differentiating goods and services.
I hope you found this article helpful. If you’re in The Albany Market and want to take an experience excursion with me, give me a shout.
Thanks for the visit !
Until next time.
Always… Rock Your Customers!!!