Lucky California’s newest store carries a great deal of significance for parent company Save Mart. It’s the banner’s flagship location and an “innovation lab” for new dining and merchandising concepts, according to press announcements. It’s also a strategic step toward creating “the next generation of the traditional grocery store,” according to Barbara Walker, The Save Mart Companies' chief marketing officer.
The store that opened last week in Pleasanton, California, is also, perhaps most importantly, the first to fully embody the vision for the banner set down in 2015 by former CEO Nicole Pesco, Walker said. That vision called for stores that offer “a better reflection of how people eat,” Pesco told local news outlets at the time the new grocery brand debuted.
The way people eat changed significantly during the pandemic. But Save Mart and Lucky California are betting that shoppers are eager to return to in-person shopping and will be open to new experiences centered around meals, socializing and convenience. To that end, the new store features sections built around lifestyle and dining occasions in addition to traditional departments like produce, grocery and bakery.
The “Entertaining Island,” for example, offers small bites and platters for shoppers who are having guests over, while the demo station features live demonstrations and the ingredients shoppers need to make each meal. Throughout the store, merchandising displays bundle together ingredients along with educational materials on how to make dishes at home.
“While it has the familiar layout, products and low prices of our conventional stores, there are also unified offerings for how shoppers eat and meal plan, accomplished by removing the typical ‘departmental’ barriers," Walker wrote in an email.
Over the past six years, Save Mart has rebranded 42 of its 68 Lucky stores to the Lucky California brand as it seeks to differentiate itself with a more diverse, localized approach to retailing. Here’s a look inside the brand’s latest store.
The store’s dining destination features a wide array of cuisines reflecting the tastes and multicultural makeup of its customer base. There are house-made barbecue dishes, traditional Hawaiian sides, fresh sushi and noodle bowls. The Eatery also offers international riffs on familiar dishes, like fusion wraps with Indian, Japanese or Chinese sauces.
The Smoke & Fire barbecue area will feature 13 options, while the burrito, rice and salad bowl area serves up 60 combinations of ingredients. There’s also a ramen noodle bowl section with 16 selections, a rotating hot bar and full-service salad bar.
The Drinkery serves up alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages throughout the day, from morning coffees to smoothies and after-work drinks. To complement its Eatery selection, mixologists can recommend beer and wine selections that pair with meals, Walker said.
A selection of coffee, tea, juices and smoothies are available for delivery. For customers who want to dine and drink at the store, Lucky California offers an outdoor patio.
Geared toward shoppers that are hosting family and friends at their homes, the Entertaining Island carries premade as well as custom sides and platters. Staff can help shoppers make custom nachos, guacamole or a cheese platter with wine-pairing suggestions. The section also includes kid-sized ingredients like cubed meat and cut fruits.
“It truly serves a variety of meal occasion needs and brings together the ingredients and components into a single destination in the store,” Walker said.
At the in-store demo station, shoppers can watch one of Lucky California’s chefs make a dish live, then pick up the ingredients to make it themselves. The section includes premade sauces and sides along with meal kits that have everything pre-cut and premeasured.
Meat and Seafood Grill
In addition to offering and helping customers select fresh proteins, Lucky California’s meat and seafood staff will cut and grill selections to shoppers’ specifications. Each “grill boss” can also grill vegetables, Walker said.
Walker said Lucky stores saw online demand for its prepared meals and made-to-order beverages double, and the company has retained that incremental demand into this year. The company has linked up with the likes of Uber Eats, Postmates and DoorDash for delivery from The Eatery and The Drinkery, while shoppers can buy groceries online through Instacart.
Asked if Lucky stores plan to integrate their grocery and meal offerings online, Walker seemed to acknowledge the company is working toward this. “Going forward, the plan is to augment with our platform to ensure consumers can place their orders based on their shopping and trip preferences,” she said.