Foodservice@Retail: Grocerants discusses challenges and opportunities of grocerants in wholesale clubs with Regina McCartney-Mackay, Senior Buyer—Home Meal Solutions, Rotisserie Chicken and Sushi at Sam’s Club. Practically all clubs have foodservice cafes with 80 seats on average. Nearly 100 offer sushi, with more planned. Sam’s operates 655 wholesale clubs in 47 states.

Foodservice@Retail: Grocerants:  What inspires you to pursue the grocerant opportunity today?

Regina McCartney-Mackay, Sam’s Club: The vision for the Sam’s Club home meal solutions (HMS) category is “table-worthy meals” – meal solutions that anyone would be proud to feed to their family. We want to offer ready-to-eat meals such as rotisserie chicken and sushi, and ready-to–heat meals such as chicken enchiladas and lasagna stuffed shells. We also aim to showcase minimally processed items that are ready-to-cook such as Beef Wellington; it has raw filet mignon members can cook to their liking.

New this year, chefs make sushi in almost 100 Sam’s Clubs, with more planned. Almost all clubs offer home meal solutions. We are gaining share across the whole market.

Sam’s Club offers high-value quick meal solutions in our seated café areas. One convenient offer is a hot pizza to feed a whole family.

FRG:  Which three words come to mind when you think of your grocerants? Why?

McCartney-Mackay: Convenience-with-comfort. We offer members meal solutions that give them more time to do other things. Our members take comfort in feeding their families restaurant-quality meals at great value.

Seasonal. We have the right items at the right times. This can also apply to day part merchandising, especially with rotisserie chicken. Our clubs are prepared for peak selling periods.

Menu. When members shop for home meal solutions, we want them to experience offerings that compare with restaurant menus. We offer vegetarian and pescatarian items to appeal to a larger member base.


FRG:  Please describe your grocerants.  

McCartney-Mackay: Our 80-seat cafes offer high-value, quick meal solutions throughout the day in practically every club; only three don’t have a café. Customer favorites are pizza, hot dogs and our Triple Berry Sundae. Also, our home meal solutions for dinner are in most clubs, and we’re expanding sushi wherever we can be successful.


FRG:  What special challenges and advantages do you have offering foodservice in a club setting?

McCartney-Mackay: The club’s limited SKU environment can make it challenging to offer wide-enough variety to accommodate every appetite. Also, as a warehouse club, we focus on larger-quantity items at significant savings. But not every member needs a large tray of fettucini alfredo that feeds four to six people. It’s all about balance.

Rotisserie chicken is a great product for us, and the value is amazing – a three-pound rotisserie chicken for just $4.98.


FRG:  What sets your efforts apart to win meal share vs. many kinds of eateries and food retailers?

McCartney-Mackay: We offer better value than eating-out and retail HMS competitors. Sam’s Club products are high quality, our recipes have excellent ingredients, and in some items we add ingredients at club level to provide the freshest produce and meats.


FRG:  Describe the importance of the grocerant to the rest of the club.

McCartney-Mackay: The “table-worthy” meals we offer generate more frequent member trips. Rotisserie chicken is the item bought most frequently in the entire Sam’s Club chain. Sushi attracts more affluent members, and adds potential to grow basket size.  Our cafés offer small versions of leafy salads, which members can try for lunch, and then buy a larger size in HMS for their family dinner.


FRG:  In your experience, can a grocerant change how shoppers view a club?

McCartney-Mackay: Yes, the grocerant concept in the club shows members we are relevant and fresh. By offering dinner solutions, we improve members’ experience by checking one more thing off their list – “what’s for dinner tonight?”


FRG:  Share with us your own food background, and how you see the role of grocerant chef enhancing a club's success.

McCartney-Mackay: I am a trained Pastry Chef. Going to culinary school, it was my goal to be the first woman master pastry chef, so I never thought I would work in retail. The industry’s hiring freeze after September 11, 2001, was the reason I went into retail. I have been at Sam’s Club for a year now, after 11 years at a smaller retailer in the northeast.

I’ve had a passion for food all my life, and every step in my career involved food in some way. I look at myself as a top consumer of my category, as I have three children and getting dinner on the table can be challenging sometimes!

The role of a grocerant chef is important to enhance the club’s success - not only by offering home meal solutions, but also by pairing wines and other beverages with anything members need. We are the club – we have it all and want to provide members everything they need for any event.


FRG:  What can NRA Show 2017 do to help your grocerant be more successful?

McCartney-Mackay:  Being able to pair equipment with products throughout the show would be helpful. If there is the next best pizza oven, having the best pizza in the next booth over can create the complete vision.  

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