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In Images: Kroger Combines Concepts for Houston Store

The newly renovated Kroger on Buffalo Speedway in Houston was developed to impress shoppers, including the potential customers of the brand new H.E.B. supermarket across the street, who are passionate about their eats. Kroger isn't using the fresh fare designation for the store, which is officially a signature format, but what it has done is add operations as developed for fresh fare including an extensive cheese shop with 300 specialty cheeses. The Kroger in Houston might be a bit different than one of the fresh fare locations in say Michigan for offering a tortillaria. Yet, it shares quite a bit with its fresh fare cousins as developed in that state and California, and recently expanded to Ohio and Georgia. With its recent initiatives, Kroger has demonstrated that it intends to develop fresh fare as a concept and as an agency of departmental development that it can use to upgrade food operations in a range of supermarket formats.

Among those departments, notes Rebecca King, consumer affairs manager for Kroger's southwest division, and a centerpiece of prepared foods is Chef on the Run. She noted:

We have a variety of hot prepared foods in store in Chef on the Run, which is all kinds of take home and heat meals. And, in the store, we have sushi, a hot soup bar, a sandwich bar. We offer a premium selection of Boar's Head meats and cheeses.
The Bistro at Kroger prepares take out meals, combining a carving station and chicken by the piece operation with ready-made side dishes to allow shoppers to quickly assembled lunch or dinner as their tastes dictate.

Among the other differentiating elements the Buffalo Speedway Kroger offers is a dessert destination, expanded organic, vegetarian and gluten-free assortments and a pharmacy that King said is the first in Texas to do its compounding, where the pharmacist actually prepares pills, in the store. Perishables areas also are scaled up and include traditional butcher shop services in the meat department that range to less traditional fare, permitting shoppers to have their buffalo cut or ground in store, for instance. The meat department extends to a service seafood operation emphasizing shrimp from the nearby Gulf of Mexico, wild caught species and services including free steaming of shrimp and lobster.

Still, the idea is to be more than a destination for gourmet food in the market, said King: "We have good pricing, variety, a really clean store and we offer solutions." By taking those specialty departments and including them with a wide ranging grocery operations, one that is extensive but carefully tailored to the community, Kroger wants to give shoppers at its hybrid Houston store the widest range of choice, from everyday grocery to exotic cheese to sushi to full hot meals. It even added a mezzanine and a Seattle's Best coffee shop where its customers can luxuriate while considering the edible splendor. Okay, that's a lot like what Wegmans does with the dining area in its new generation stores, but it makes for a nice view no matter what.

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