On a cold December morning, walking into Michael-Angelo’s new Markham, Ont., store you’re immediately warmed by the smell of fresh pizza, grilled vegetables and Italian coffee.
The philosophy behind this store concept is food theatre, and educating shoppers at the same time.
It took one year to complete the renovation on the 15,000-sq.-ft. store. More than half of the footprint is now dedicated to HMR, with in-house chefs creating everything from frozen and fresh entrees at the front of the store, to the made-to-order a la carte items at the chef’s station. Michael Pugliese (pictured), CEO of Michael-Angelo’s said that he brought the chefs out of the kitchen. “Customers are able to get custom ordered food for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” he said.
Through out the store, there are large TV screens. In front of the chef’s station, chefs will be recorded so customers can watch from a soon to be launched website, and while shopping in store. “We want to be the authority in food, and show our customers how we should be eating,” said Pugliese.
From fresh oven baked pizzas, to sushi rolled on site, to the fresh juice bar and gelato, Pugliese said it was by design that the worlds of grocery and restaurant are blurred. In the summer, there will be bi-fold garage windows that open so customers can enjoy an espresso while people watching in the 34-seat eating area. This store has applied for a wine and beer licence as well. “Am I a restaurant? Am I grocery store? That’s what we’ve created here, a place where you can eat great restaurant quality food and pick up grocery items as well,” said Pugliese.
The authentic Italian bakery look and feel has been transplanted in this store. Each department is marketed through photos and signage in different fonts, and a curated offering as authentic and special. Take the dry aged beef (minimum 30- and 60- days), or the in-store made mozzarella.
Brian Bettencourt, the senior creative director at Watt International, the store’s designer, said the urbane look of the store is reminiscent of a New York streetscape such as the meat packing district. The brick wall texture in white with photographs of staff experts created a spirit and love of food. “The hand-made quality, and love of what they (the staff) do with food, is reflected in all the store visuals,” said Bettencourt.
The “dog-leg” pattern of the store was considered when looking at the store’s layout, he added. They went for a resto-café appeal at the front, bringing the space to life from the outside. Even the floors have the aged, authentic look instead of using tile.
The produce displays use round, contoured shelfing to maximize product sight lines as well as not to overwhelm customers.
There are several unique aspects to this Markham store that stand out: there’s a dedicated “Gusto” demonstration table right near the front entrance and at the back of the store near the butcher, where there will be opportunities for learning, and sampling.
As well, near the centre store there’s a catering kiosk. Michael-Angelo’s can do everything including décor, linens, floral and servers for both corporate and outdoor functions. “We’ve been doing this for 10 years, but now we’re publicizing everything we offer under one roof,” said Pugliese.
The overstock “pantry of food” rests over the frozen bunkers. It’s not only for aesthetic purposes, but it’s functional as the store decreased in size with the addition of LA Fitness next door.
For the future, Pugliese said there are plans to renovate the other two locations to the Markham store prototype.
© 2019 Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers