Sunday, August 31, 2014

A trip to the Market Bistro, Latham, New York

As fate would have it, I recently had an opportunity to visit the Market Bistro by Price Chopper and found many commonalities to my recent visit to Whole Foods Market.  As follows my habit, this visit was on a Monday at around 2pm.  I thought that perhaps this would be a slower time to visit.  As it turned out, business was brisk.

Upon approaching the Bistro, I spotted the Bistro Cooking School.  My initial reaction was what a great idea.  I recall some demonstrations and "how tos" being done in Home Depot or Loews and thought, its about time that it was also done for food.  I was disappointed to see some of the fees for the cooking classes seemed a bit high, but in looking at the offerings it became clear that the focus is on quality and sometimes you get what you pay for so if the quality is high, it very well may be well worth it.  It certainly got my curiosity aroused to the point where I took a brochure and am thinking that it may be something fun and different to do.  I also noticed that they have some classes targeted to kids - another great idea!

As with Whole Foods, the displays are exquisite... sort of a grocery store on steroids. Unlike Whole Foods, there were much more "eat in store" food stations and options.  Although both stores were a bit loud and busy, I much preferred the eating areas of the Market Bistro.  With Whole Foods the sitting area is sprawling at the front of the store and the check out lines tend to choke up which may dissuade shoppers from doing lunch.  At the Market Bistro, I spotted at least 2 separate general seating areas in addition to the Chef's more formal seating area.  These seating areas were somewhat protected from the impact of shopper traffic.  In fact it was so inviting that I sampled some of the Chinese buffet ($6.99 per pound).

The Market Bistro has heavily advertised its offerings as a supplement in the Sunday Price Chopper ads.  The interesting spin on this type of marketing is the blend of grocery store and restaurant.  Food offerings are temptingly displayed throughout the Bistro.  Not only are these displays appealing to the appetite, they also serve as excellent examples of what you can do with the groceries that you purchase.  Simply stated, you can stroll and get some good ideas of what to make for supper (or simply pick up supper).

One of the big pluses to the Bistro is that it is essentially a specialized Price Chopper.  Thus, all of the Price Chopper bargains and store products that you are accustomed to identifying from your Sunday ad can be purchased at their sale prices at the Bistro.  I think Price Chopper is on to something with this business model.  While I was somewhat intimidated by the bright lights and busyness, I enjoyed the adventure and also felt that I was able to accomplish real grocery shopping in addition to the adventure.  Simply said, they have managed to interject some fun into grocery shopping and should be commended for their imagination and ingenuity.  Unlike Whole Foods, check out was a breeze.  There were 4 self check outs, a couple Express lines and several regular lanes.

While exiting, I spotted another unique feature of the Bistro - their Pharmacy includes a "Quickcare" where shoppers with minor ailments can receive medical care for a reasonable fee.  This feature also participates with a popular local Health Maintenance Organization, CDPHP.  I'd love to see this expanded to more stores and to participate with more insurance plans.

Although (sadly) the Bistro is a longer drive from my home, I could see the Bistro as a future destination and I hope Price Chopper rolls this concept to other locations in the future.  If you live in the Albany area, the Bistro is worth a trip to check out; it shows you what a grocery store can be.