by Kate Quackenbush
Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes Inc. (Canastota, N.Y.) is no foodservice novice. The company has culled its expansive family of proprietary brands under the Easy Street Eatery umbrella, which remains a popular foodservice destination in its upstate New York market. For this reason, the 84-store chain will be honored by Convenience Store Decisions with its Best in Class Foodservice Awards for 2007 at the Foodservice Show in Fort Worth, Texas June 4 – 6.
Food has become a cornerstone of Nice N Easy’s operations, and the company is capitalizing on the important morning daypart with a precision bakery program that complements its upscale coffee program. Nice N Easy sometimes uses local bakeries for some of its products and complements its fresh baked items with thaw-and-serve items from its direct-store-distributor (DSD), such as half-moon cookies so popular in upstate New York. The company bakes fresh muffins, cookies and its most recently added scones to its repertoire. For these items it uses a scoop-and-bake premixed batter.
“If you want your coffee program to grow, then you have to have a good bakery program, and vice versa. It’s a synergy between those two areas,” Jack Cushman, executive vice president of foodservice, told CSD. “Scones really appeal to our market – good flavor, good treat and it’s not too sugary sweet. We buy the mix, scoop it in a muffin pan and bake away.”
Since expanding its fresh baked items, Nice N Easy has seen a tremendous lift in overall sales, which includes its coffee program. To that end, the company has the luxury of assigning a staff specifically to baking, but even with that it is working smarter, not harder.
“We don’t have a dedicated person, we have a dedicated staff,” Cushman said. “Our coffee host is a real multi-tasker. He does the bulk of our baking while servicing the coffee bar and talking to customers. It comes down to economies of scale–volume cures a multitude of sins.
“Nobody can satisfy everything and trying to do everything will be the end of you,” he added. “Like with our bagel program, we don’t have the space or staff to boil our own bagels. So we have a par-baked program. We receive them frozen, heat them at 350 degrees for 12 minutes and its enough to caramelize the surface. Some call it ‘fake and bake,’ but it’s what works for us. Thaw-and-serve and scoop-and-bake are methods that let us satisfy our customers without breaking our backs.”