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Bakery-without-walls is major Megamarket attraction.

WHen Malone & Hyde drew the plans of its Memphis Megamarket, the in-store bakery came up with something missing--its walls! This intentional deletion has presented Megamarket customers with an unexpected bonus of live entertainment (bakers in action, mixers mixing, ovens baking, slicers slicing) to accompany their bread and pastry shopping. The result: the on-premise bakery has become a "must-see" attraction in the 66,000 sq. ft. super warehouse store.

Immediately upon entering the building, shopper attention is drawn to the bakery corner by a giant 15 ft. wall graphic of a running baker--the department's logo--and by neon script on a red wall that advises customers to "Let Them Eat Cake."

The gleaming equipment in the wide-open preparation area is like a stage set. To identify the cast of ovens, proofers, slicers and mixers on display, Malone & Hyde's design department has suspended signs over each piece of equipment, explaining its function and production capabilities. Over the oven, For example, the sign informs customers that, "The oven can bake 2 million cookies every day, but usually it is used for rolls, bread, cakes, and cookies. During baking the racks revolve inside the oven for even cooking of the dough."

If the sign copy doesn't satisfy the shoppers' curiosity, they're offered a personally conducted tour by bakery personnel at the slightest hint of interest. "The bakery has become a real attraction in the store," says Randy Golden, Malone & Hyde's bakery/deli products manager. "Besides the individual tours, we have a lot of requsts from school classes and senior citizen homes.

To provide maximum activity in the bakery during the heaviest shopping hours and to fully capitalize on the selling power of the fresh-baked aroma, Megamarket's production schedule was dramatically altered from that of most operatins. Instead of the standard practice of baking the majority of products in the very early hours of the morning, Megamarket's bakery does it when the store traffic is heaviest--from 3 p.m. to midnight each day. From 6 a.m. until 3 p.m., the concentration is on better items such as pound cakes, cup cakes, and cookies.

Setting up this kind of operation isn't cheap but Golden has no qualms about the cost of going first class. "We spent over $250,000 on equipment," Golden says, "but it's all part of our commitment to produce the highest quality of product. And that goes for ingredients, too. We use nothing but the best . . . like real chocolate chips and the finest oil. We just won't comprise on quality!"

Golden is convinced that, with the high quality level they maintain, they could charge more without an adverse effect on business. However, all bakery pricing is kept in line with Megamarket's low-price policy. "Across the board, our bakery prducts are cheaper than the price of anybody else," he says.

The department's service counter is open for business from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and until midnight on weekends. The store is a 24-hour operation. The staff of bakers and counter personnel includes four full-timers and 17 part-time employees. With efficient scheduling and effective use of personnel, Golden has benn able to keep labor costs at 25% of department sales--about 10 percentage points below the average of most bakeries according to Golden.

"None of our employees had any baking experience before joining us," Golden says. "With the cooperation of our supplier, J.W. Allen and Company, they were given a week's training before we opened and two additional weeks after we opened. Training new people hasn't been any problem because we've had practically no turnover." The effectiveness of this relatively short training period is evidenced by the bakery crw's ability to operate successfully even though nearly half of its products are prepared from scratch.

While shoppers are interested spectators during the baking performances at Megamarket, what's even more important to the bottom line is that they also buy. One of the hottest-selling areas of the department is its self-service gondola of buns, bagels, and breads offered in bulk from plastic bins. An average of 17 different varieties are offered each day including French, sourdough, cloverleaf, buttermilk, rye, cracked wheat and cloverleaf rolls . . . and French baguette bread. The bakery also has developed two distinctive types of bread: Dixie bread and rolls which are similar to Hawaiian bread and a Megaman roll, a combination of whole wheat and white dough. Both are best-sellers in the bulk section.

Separating the preparation area from the shopping area is a 20-foot service display counter offering donuts, party cookies, pastries and cakes. An open cake decorating stand is busy much of the time filling special orders. "We'll decorate cakes for any occasion . . . but not for weddings," Golden says. "There are too many problems involved to make them worth the effort. When we get a request, we just refer them to someone who specializes in weddings."

Because of the bakery's large production capacity, Golden says that now, in addition to covering their own needs, the Megamarket bakery is also beginning to supply other stores.
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Publication:Progressive Grocer
Date:Nov 1, 1984
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