Publix Opens Make-Ahead Meal Assembly Stores

Discussion
May 18, 2007

By George Anderson

Publix Super Markets has announced that it is hopping on the meal assembly business bandwagon with two pilot stores operating as Publix Apron’s Make-Ahead Meals stores.

The two locations in Jacksonville and Lithia, Fla. will allow consumers to register online to take part in meal assembly sessions. When consumers come to the locations, they will find ready-to-cook ingredients waiting for them to assemble. Consumers then put the ingredients in a package ready for freezing. For consumers that are too busy, Publix will also take orders and do the assembly itself for a later pickup.

The new meal assembly offering will build on consumers’ awareness of the Publix Apron’s program, which includes providing consumers with recipes and cooking classes at locations in Florida and Georgia.

Of the two new meal assembly locations, one is located in a building that houses a cooking school while the other is in a Publix store. According to a Publix press release, the company intends to operate a stand-alone Make-Ahead Meals unit at this same location.

Maria Brous, Publix director of media and community relations, speaking about the Make-Ahead Meals pilot and the opening of two Publix Greenwise Markets, said, “We are always looking for ways to offer a variety of products in convenient locations. These programs will allow us to provide our customers with more value and convenience.”

Discussion Questions: Is the demand there to support all the meal assembly businesses sprouting up in markets across the country? Does Publix have an advantage moving into the meal assembly business versus competitors without a grocery store background?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

Join the Discussion!

12 Comments on "Publix Opens Make-Ahead Meal Assembly Stores"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 7 days ago

Like any new business category, the first meal assembly businesses got a lot of publicity, followed by dozens of copycats. The coming shakeout is inevitable, as participants struggle for profitable margins and volume, and battle high costs and each other. This business is much too easy to copy, so the margin pressure will be fierce.

Dr. Stephen Needel
Guest
15 years 7 days ago

While new chains abound in meal assembly, they are also not fairing very well. I speak from personal experience here–a wife working at a meal assembly store. The business models are often weak, the recipes often have problems, quantities are often strange (you make meals for 3 or 6 people, not 2, 4 or 8) and the price/value equation is often not there. Financially, this is analogous to a restaurant, in that seller has to do a lot of prep work that may not get used–spoilage rates run high as a result. Publix’s advantage – cost of goods may be lower. Publix’s disadvantage – using floor space (and considerable amounts of floor space) that might be better used.

Liz Crawford
Guest
15 years 7 days ago
“We’re always hearing that eating dinner together is the cure for obesity, learning disorders, drugs, divorce and every kind of problem we have in society,” [one customer] said. “But what no one tells you is how to do all that cooking.” NYT 3.26.06 Meal Assembly Centers to the rescue. These centers are opening at the rate of about 40 a month, mostly in strip malls and near office parks. They provide a “girl’s night out” serving wine and refreshments to groups of women who gather to assembly dinners for their families. These centers help moms achieve the goal of getting a “homemade” dinner on the table without breaking the bank. Take out meals solve the problem of dinner many nights. But Meal Assembly centers allow for a personal touch, possibly a healthier meal and importantly, a cheaper alternative. The average cost per meal is around $3.50. This compares very favorably to take-out. Further, storage in the freezer means time-savings (save a trip) too. Will these centers have longevity? Well, the answer probably lies in the… Read more »
Stephan Kouzomis
Guest
Stephan Kouzomis
15 years 7 days ago

Bravo to Publix. This superior consumer marketing supermarket corporation has taken its many and various test market situations and secured the proper, consumer focused information.

Not to forget, it has secured an enormous amount of meal operations experience and the needed,’how to systematize the accounting and tracking practices’, if you will!

This could be be a whole new business segment for Publix. With the proper decor and ambiance, it may rival Eatzi’s and other publicized meal shops.

Another question for this new business venture could be “Does Publix take its tested liquor store experience business and combine it with the potential stand alone meal business?”

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

jeff jones
Guest
jeff jones
15 years 7 days ago

My wife and I own a meal assembly business in Naperville, IL. We are watching competition open every month or so. There are 3-4 within a 30 block area on Rt 59. That said, this is a fabulous industry that does provide a valuable service.

We agree completely that there will be a major shake up soon, whether it is from the Meal Prep industry, or competition such as Publix. The major issue with most of the franchise businesses is that they have but one stream of income and can not grow their business without continued organic customer growth. They are also constrained by the recipes sent to them from corporate as well as having limited suppliers, which limits buying local, fresh ingredients.

We have tremendous respect for our competition and hope that we all do well. The concept is sound and it is fun watching the different tacts that each of us take to insure success.

Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
15 years 7 days ago

Publix has a distinct advantage due to their reputation with their customer base. Publix customers know that Publix is dedicated to serving them and will provide top flight food and service. Anyone trying to compete with Publix will have to advertise heavily to stand a chance of overcoming Publix’s excellent reputation.

Eliott Olson
Guest
Eliott Olson
15 years 7 days ago
In as much as most of the product in the franchised or mom & pop make and take stores comes from food service suppliers it is another class of trade invasion of the supermarkets space. Since the success of the concept seems to be hit or miss, this would suggest that location and lifestyle factors come into play along with the charisma of the joint. Will a supermarket be as convenient as a store in a small strip center? How many can’t-cook professional women with feelings of guilt are there in the neighborhood? How many lonely single people who are tired of cooking alone are there in the neighborhood? How many people want to skip the preparation as just pick up the ready to cook meal? Why do people choose Papa Murphy’s when most supermarkets have take and bake and frozen? Is the person interested in make and take the same person who would take cooking classes? The concept is here to stay. Because the entry threshold is low stores will sprout up like dandelions… Read more »
David Livingston
Guest
15 years 7 days ago

This seems to be getting a lot of press and I’m not sure why. I don’t ever second guess Publix. I admire them for experimenting with new (and old) ideas. I also admire them for not bragging how successful these experiments are when they turn out to be sour. Meal assembly? That sounds like work to me. I recall visiting some stores called Eatzi’s in Dallas and Houston a few years ago. I think they are gone. They had something like this.

Personally, I think I would be more inclined to spend the money on a Banquet Hungry Man frozen dinner. Mmmmmmm…Banquet TV dinner.

Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D.
Guest
15 years 7 days ago

The only advantage Publix has is easy and probably less expensive access to the ingredients. Choosing recipes, making sure they are easy to follow so they turn out the same way when made by different people is still a challenge. Some businesses like this actually create products that can be frozen so that you can assemble 4 dinners at a time which seems sensible since you are still putting in time. Freezing them may limit the recipes but cut down on spoilage. The results have to taste good as well. Getting the rest of the model right is just as much a challenge for Publix as for any other company that enters this space.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
Guest
15 years 7 days ago

Publix is a great example of an innovative retailer who is constantly seeking differential advantage. Also, it is a company that carefully researches every option. Therefore, I would expect that given their reputation as a great food retailer this extension makes sense.

One related comment. Can’t we call these options “convenient meal involvement” instead of “meal assembly”? Meal assembly sounds like something you do in a factory, like automobile assembly. “Convenient meal involvement” recognizes the love and affection of a harried parent who is getting some assistance in preparing the evening meal.

Bert Vermeulen
Guest
Bert Vermeulen
15 years 6 days ago

The entry of a major grocery retailer into meal prep retailing is part of the continuing evolution and maturing of the meal prep industry from its origins as an idea by moms for moms. A grocery retailer has some advantages in this segment as has been identified by some of the previous people who have posted. In particular, they can do well in providing convenience and in helping the customer combine the purchase of assembled entrees with other grocery items.

It will be more difficult for a grocery retailer to position themselves and provide the atmosphere found in the more social and personal segments of the meal prep industry, such as group parties. In the future, we will see other combined formats just like we now see Starbucks coffee shops inside of other retail establishments.

Odonna Mathews
Guest
Odonna Mathews
14 years 11 months ago

A successful make-ahead meal program takes coordination and dedication. It can offer a point of differentiation for Publix, because it is a respected supermarket seeking to satisfy more consumers.

Why not more retailers?

wpDiscuz

Take Our Instant Poll

What do you see as the growth potential for the Publix Apron’s Make-Ahead Meals service?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...