Kroger Deep Sixes Salad Bars

Discussion
Apr 14, 2010

By George Anderson

Salad bars are labor intensive. Packaged grab-and-go meals are not.

Carl York,
a spokesperson for Kroger’s Mid-Atlantic region, told The Roanoke
Times
, “You’re constantly working it. It’s not like grocery, where
you put it on the shelves.”

Salad bars are popular with some customers. Grab-and-go
is even more popular.

Mr. York added, “Our business is dictated by our customers’ wants and desires.”

Simply put, salad bars no longer make business sense for Kroger in many locations
and the chain has moved many of them out of stores and replaced them with packaged
meals or expanded produce sections.

According to Frank Dell, president of Dellmart & Co. and a member of the RetailWire BrainTrust,
salad bars are a relic of the twentieth century. Mr. Dell told the Times,
salad bars were part of “first generation home meal replacement.”

He also pointed out that steps such as the elimination of salad bars and the
rising popularity of salad bags is part of the evolution of supermarket produce
departments.

Consumers, Mr. Dell said, “don’t want to chop up a head of lettuce. They
want to grab a bag.”

By replacing salad bars with heat-and-eat items, Kroger is tapping into the
trend that has seen prepared food sales grow between six and eight percent
in grocery over the past year, based on research by Technomic.

Discussion
Questions: Are salad bars on the way out at grocery stores? What are your observations
on the evolution of the produce department in food stores?

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16 Comments on "Kroger Deep Sixes Salad Bars"


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Charlie Moro
Guest
Charlie Moro
11 years 1 month ago

Are salad bars done? Not sure, I think they are gone the same way private label, everyday low prices, full service meat departments, bulk foods, and so forth have ebbed and flowed over time. A good retailer like a Kroger is adjusting, moving and building new businesses as they should to prosper and grow.

This is cyclical, not final.

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

Ahh, visions of sneeze screens dancing in my head! Salad bars are a great idea if you are a closet-sized shop in Manhattan where the bar is the main feature and busy commuters stumble in practically by default. In a grocery store? Not so much. I know plenty of people who won’t touch salad bars due to hygiene concerns and the perception of wasteful excess and I see the elimination of salad bars as a logical extension of clean store policies. Much better to attractively package (and brand) pre-made offerings.

Liz Crawford
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

These days, salad bars in grocery usually attract a different trip mission: an immediate consumption trip.

If a smaller, neighborhood grocer is getting a lot of daytime traffic, especially during the week, having a salad bar for a lunch occasion can work. In our neighborhood, we have two independents who host very successful salad bars. But these are catering to the local business crowd and stay-at-home spouses. Customers go in, grab lunch, and do a fill-in shopping trip for dinner. However, these smaller stores are not destinations for the big stock-up missions.

The answer about salad bars depends on the types of trip missions they want to attract.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
11 years 1 month ago

No, salad bars aren’t dead, just cyclical and specific. But if the lettuce in a store salad bar wilts, take it off its stilts. A stagnant/unproductive salad bar isn’t a valuable asset. Kroger isn’t inclined to do anything stupid. They go where the demand exists. And as the consumer climate changes, Kroger will be there to accommodate it. Thus, if salad bars return in cycle, Kroger will offer good ones.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
Guest
11 years 1 month ago
The wilting of salad bars should come as no surprise to anyone. However, neither the salad bar nor the bagged salads ever addressed a missed opportunity for supermarkets. A few years ago while conducting a focus group, a woman remarked, “I want to cook like Emeril!” I replied that we all would like to cook like Emeril. What she was referring to was whenever he cooked something the ingredients were already chopped, measured, etc. and all he did was reach for a cup of shallots for example. It occurred to me that everything needed to “cook like Emeril” was already available in the supermarket. However, it was disguised as a “salad bar.” If retailers had changed the name from “salad bar” to “salad and ingredients bar” and modified the packaging/pricing to accommodate cups versus pounds, perhaps we would not be retiring this concept. Going forward, as more families are preparing meals and eating at home, it seems that this concept of prepared fresh ingredients could provide a real differential advantage to the fresh section of… Read more »
Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
11 years 1 month ago

Salad bars are dead, long live salad bars! What about Whole Foods? Seems to me they have great salad bars and hot food bars and still sell a lot of groceries! I think upscale, higher-spending shoppers are still looking for salad bars that are well executed.

David Livingston
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

I think they only work in certain areas where there is a lot of nearby daytime population. Generally for the plain vanilla conventional grocery stores like Kroger, they don’t work unless the customer count is really big.

Roger Saunders
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

Salad bars make a superb merchandising presentation, and have great potential for added ‘trips’ and revenue, which are appealing to grocers.

However, to make them work, you have to have volume transactions taking place, make it easy for the consumer to get in and out, have a box that is sized properly to accommodate the bar, and devote labor to keep it restocked, fresh and merchandise appealing.

That leads to a plan that points to making them part of the store in select locations, at select times of day. A well run salad bar is going to do business between 11:00 – 1:30 and 4:30 – 6:00. Can the station then be transformed to other merchandise use on the other hours, at a profitable level? The right stores can pull it off, but it’s not a play for all locations.

Jonathan Marek
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

Salad bars aren’t dead. Others have noted both Whole Foods and high daytime population areas. Here is downtown San Francisco, there are plenty of salad bars.

What may be dead is the plain vanilla undifferentiated salad bar in a suburban supermarket. It seems like a hard sell versus a bagged salad. More interesting are the salad bar extensions/additions: prepared food bars, soup pots, olive bars, and the like. The key is targeting. Not every store need have these items. They may work better in certain demographic areas, competitive environments, store format, etc. They also may have a different effect on growing trips and changing basket composition in different stores.

The best supermarket chains will figure out exactly which particular stores are right for each of these concepts, to maximize overall ROI.

David Biernbaum
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

I do not necessarily agree that salad bars in supermarkets are now an antiquated idea, however, I fully believe that certain characteristics and values have become increasingly relevant to fit today’s purposes.

Warren Thayer
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

Gene Hoffman nailed it: cyclical, and niche. Good retailers like Kroger and others will be there when and where it makes sense.

Anne Bieler
Guest
Anne Bieler
11 years 1 month ago

Salad bars, like many grocery areas, are evolving. In busy supermarkets grab and go makes so much more sense. Variety is available and appealing, good choices in products and sizes.

Keeping product fresh is a real challenge; no one will want to take from containers less than half full, a lot of waste and lost margin. And thinking about food safety and sanitation, there are many reasons why shoppers will prefer packaged products–time, shelf life, convenience–all good to go!

Janet Poore
Guest
Janet Poore
11 years 1 month ago

The biggest problem with supermarket salad bars is that they’re not maintained in many stores. The lettuce is wilted, the salads with mayo are crusted and the veggies look old. In many cases, the salad bar itself is not clean, as people spill dressings or salad items that lay there for hours. And the assortment of items. It looks like a petri dish and no wonder people aren’t buying.

Whole Foods and Wegmans do a great job with their salad bars–in maintaining them and in variety selection of items. They both do brisk salad bar business.

As for bagged, chopped salads, it was recently in the news that these harbor more bacteria than whole heads of lettuce.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

I don’t think I’d group the salad bar with the produce department any more than I’d place a can of tomato juice or a bag of frozen peas in it: in my mind it really belongs with the deli counter, as it offers prepared food–albeit prepared by the consumer. Anyway, wherever you place it, I think we’ll continue to see them in more specialized and higher-end stores…and Wendy’s.

James Tenser
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

Salad bars may succeed best in stores with high walk-in traffic rates, and then only at the lunch and pre-dinner hours. That means supermarkets in less-dense residential areas are not the best prospects.

Several issues come to mind: Is a salad-bar self-service visit compatible with other trip missions that involve loading up a cart with packaged products? Is the store able to justify the continual labor and shrinkage costs of the program in terms of incremental profits? Is the store able to consistently master the detail and implementation work required to make the salad bar into a shopper experience enhancement?

I’m a skeptic on most of those points (but especially the implementation challenge) within the supermarket environment. But salad bars have great profit potential in a convenience store or urban corner market setting.

Steve Montgomery
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

Not dead but dying might sum it up. Salads bars will work in some locations for selected retailers, but with the labor intensity, the limited life, and the health issues, many grocery stores are likely to follow Kroger’s lead.

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