January 25, 2016

Prepared Foods Key to Profits in Kosher Operation, Retailers Say

New York - The take-out or prepared food section in a kosher destination or kosher independent store has been dramatically upgraded in recent years, so much so that it can spell the difference in terms of profits. But in a survey of stores that tout prepared foods, it was clear that not all prepared food sections are the same. The optimum kosher prepared food section has its own kitchen and has the ability to prepare such popular foods as chicken Marsala. The experts referred to this as “a full set-up,” which is now the standard for the growing number of kosher independent supermarkets and kosher destination stores, many in large supermarket chains. Secondary prepared foods sections may offer rotisserie chicken, deli with a kosher slicing machine, and salads, often repackaged. Yakov Yarmove who is responsible for the kosher category at several hundred Albertson’s stores and has certainly seen his share of all kinds of prepared food sections, calls it “the mainstay of any kosher destination store” like the Jewel-Osco he managed for many years. While mark-ups in the prepared food sections can be as high as 100%, the expense can be equally as high, including often requiring additional kosher food certification.

At the highly-touted Pomegranate supermarket in Brooklyn, Chef Isaac Bernstein supervises 3 chefs and 30 cooks that produce everything from shelf salads and soups to one of the most popular sellers, the cheese blintzes. Chef Isaac who gave up the California sunshine to come East to work for Pomegranate produces hundreds of items “from scratch,” many in conjunction with its coveted meat department. “It’s all about quality which is just as important for a $6.99 lb. of rice as is it is for the popular baby chicken skewers and meatballs.

Malkie Levine of Evergreen considers the prepared foods section very much a part of the identity of the store. “These are added value items that you can’t get anywhere else,” she says. At Evergreen the prepared foods are mostly from Glatt Geshmak, part of its store within a store model which has captured the imagination of Monsey shoppers. Much of the prepared foods comes from its highly successful meat department, particularly the ready to cook items that may be marinated or breaded and ready for a meal. Mrs. Levine recognizes that there are many large families in the community that can’t afford to buy full dinners in the prepared food department but “everybody buys something.” And there, are of course, those who buy everything, meaning a complete dinner. “The future of the kosher store is in the prepared food section,” says the veteran Yarmove and so are apparently its profits.