Want to take out a bank loan, get hors d'oeuvres for the bridge club, rent a movie video or have some gefilte fish made? Check out the latest customer services offered by your supermarket.
To answer the ever-increasing demands of consumers with fast-paced life styles and work habits, the nation's supermarkets are adding more and more specialized services under one roof.
Still they don't go the extra, extra mile for the customer, as do many small independent groceries and specialty markets. For example, at Huntington Market in San Marino, the store's chefs will cook the roast you buy at no extra charge in its Dinner at Six program, prepare diet lunches, or fix a wide variety of quick dinner entrees that can be finished at home. The market, which delivers free within the San Marino community, charges $4 for delivery to neighboring Pasadena, South Pasadena, Alhambra or San Gabriel if you order a minimum of $25 worth of groceries.
"People really want convenience," said Bruce Hotra, co-owner of Huntington Market with his brother, Jim. "There are things you can do, services you can offer in a market our size that you can't do in a large supermarket."
But the big markets are trying hard to compete with their own specialty services.
"The days of self-service are just about gone," said Vons spokeswoman Vickie Sanders. "People want to be waited on. They want the option of knowing somebody personally took care of them. They want the luxury of having a butcher cut their meat they way they want it, or of getting an already-prepared nutritious meal to take home."
Indeed most of the major market chains already have installed or are adding special services such as delis with hot and cold entrees, salad bars, gourmet wine counters, butcher shops where you can get meat cut to specification, fresh seafood shops, and bakeries with items ranging from fresh-baked pizza to wedding cakes. Some have video rental machines and pharmacies; others, frozen yogurt and ice cream stands or sushi bars.
* Ralphs is installing full-service banking at some of its 139 Southern California supermarkets. "Customers find them very convenient," said Roger Borneman, Ralphs' senior vice president of administration. Ralphs currently has banks, affiliated with Citicorp Savings and Union Bank, in three West San Fernando Valley stores, two under construction and 15 more in the planning stage.
In two of 340 stores, Vons is testing mini-markets--similar to 7-Eleven stores--that offer express service, so customers who only want a quart of milk or a couple of cans of cat food can get it in a hurry without having to go through the long regular checkout lines. There are also express parking slots in front of the stores.
* All of Lucky's 350 stores have checkout machines that enable customers to use their ATM bank card to pay for their groceries or just get cash." Other chains also offer ATM machines for banking purposes at the front of the store.
* Quality Foods International, which owns 78 Boys Markets, Viva and Market Baskets, offers a smoked meats shop on-site at its Baldwin Hills market and has plans to expand to other stores.
* At all full service fish market counters in Hughes' 46 Southern California stores, customers can get a whole fish boned or fileted--except during special fish sales--or have gefilte fish cakes made for no extra charge.
And, if industry analysts are correct, there are more new supermarket services to come in the 1990s.
In a recent study done for the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council, which studies grocery wholesaling and retailing issues, representatives of the consulting firm of Booz-Allen & Hamilton Inc. predict that consumers will likely see dry cleaning and shoe repair services available in markets, perhaps even travel agencies and specialty pet shops, including all-natural and/or gourmet pet food.
In the future, even child care and handyman services may be offered by the markets.
Video merchandising has already entered the big markets. Vons is now testing a VideOcart at its Hermosa Beach store. Shoppers can ask the video monitor on the front of their shopping card where a particular item is located in the store. The monitor will alert customers about a good buy on an item or provide a recipe on the screen.
Lucky stores have installed video monitors in the produce department that tell shoppers how to properly select vegetables. For example, they will explain what to look for when choosing an artichoke. Said Lucky's spokeswoman Judy Decker: "Grocery stores are much more service-oriented than they were 10 years ago."
What about delivery service from the big markets?
"All the research says that at some point in time, we have to find a way to offer delivery service of some sort, like the small independent markets and specialty stores," said Harland Polk, vice president of sales and merchandising for Hughes Markets. "But no one has found a way to do it yet. You can't raise the prices just to deliver groceries."