Variety adds spice to Dierbergs deli sales.
"Our emphasis at Dierbergs is on variety," Albrecht says. "In salads we offer at least 29 different kinds of salad. Within that lineup we'll make changes to tie in with the season or with a new trend. But there are some basic favorites that we always display ... like the six different potato salads (including American, Kosher, Green Goddess, German, Egg and Mayonnaise) and our four varieties of cole slaw." Albrecht indicates that the deli likes to experiment with new ideas even though they aren't always successful. Pasta salads and fresh pasta appeared to be an exciting new development but he reports that local acceptations. But salad sales indicate that Dierbergs shoppers are finding plenty in the varied assortment that satisfies them: The Creve Coeur store sells an average of over 300 gallons of salads a week. During the summer, albrecht says that this jumps to more than 500 gallons weekly.
The deli cheese cases offer an average of 100 varieties of cheese with the bries, Swiss and blues among the imported best-sellers. All cheese displayed in the department's eight-foot case are sliced on order. One of the hottest selling locations for both domestic and imported cheese is the deli's self-service, island case located in Dierbergs' Party Center. This center-of-store area, highlighted by a colorful, backlighted stained-glass ceiling, features all the basics for entertaining, including a large section of domestic and imported wines, soft drinks, snacks and specialty foods. Cheese has sold so well in this ultimate example of related-items merchandising that the party section's cheese display space has been doubled in the newest Dierbergs in St. Peters, Missouri.
Albrecht has found that the party tray business can be good throughout the year, although the real surge of tray activity comes during special holiday periods. "We'll average about 30 to 40 trays a week from this deli. But during the Christmas season, we'll do over 200 a week with a lot of large orders," he said. "Most of these will sell at an average of $25 or $30 each. All of these special orders are picked up by the customer ... we don't deliver."
Party trays are promoted by Dierbergs with a small four-page folder that also offers buckets of fried chicken, heat-and-serve hors d'oeuvres and bulk salads. Albrecht reports the another popular party items is their 6-foot sandwich that retails for $51.95.
"To build business, more customers have to know more about the deli products we offer and how to serve them," Albrecht says. "That's why we do a lot of sampling and demonstrating." But Dierbergs' educational effort goes beyond this traditional approach. Five of the company's seven stores have resident home economists and on-premise cooking schools. The schools offer an average of 20 to 30 well-attended cooking sessions a week--charging from $6to $18 for each class--with subjects ranging from "Low Cholesterol, Low Sodium Cooking" to "Mastering the Microwave." A number of sessions like those entitled "The Delectable, Collectible Appetizer," "The Appetizer Tray," "Brunch Time," and "Traditional French Cuisine" often make use of cheese or refer to other deli products in the preparation instructions.
The home economists at store level and at headquarters promote the deli in other ways, too. Each week a different deli recipe is printed by Dierbergs for free distribution from counter-top dispensers. Also, they have developed a new monthly series of storewide promotions, called the "Cook's Tour" of the world of food. The cuisine of a different country will be spotlighted each month with special recipes and taste demonstrations in every department. Albrecht expects his deli to be particularly active in this effort.
"We're excited about the 'Cook's Tour,'" Albrecht says. "It's a real chance to introduce customers to new and different foods...and that can only mean more business."
The Creve Coeur deli, located in Dierbergs' highest volume store, does approximately 4.5% of total store sales. The counter is manned from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. seven days a week during the store's 24-hour operation. With 16 full-time and 14 part-time employees on the deli staff, Albrecht reports productivity at $40 per man hour in his department.