As of early September, Wegmans Café now sells beer and wine along with its submarine sandwiches. The change occurred exclusively in two franchises: our own and the local Canandaigua, New York store. Danny Wegman himself conceived the idea, when he visited the Geneseo Wegmans a few years ago. Manager Charles Hasty agreed with Wegman, and now the dream is a reality.
“As a team we thought it would be a great idea,” service area manager Terri Mason explained.
“It’s a scary venture, to go out and do something new and we’re piloting it for the company,” Mason said.
Now, with their newly acquired license, employees in the Wegmans sub shop can sell single servings of beer and wine to customers. They were legally trained by the sheriff’s office, and also received hospitality training and learned how to recommend different drinks for different meals.
“We wanted to offer our customers the opportunity to enhance their meal,” Mason said. She hopes this will be an opportunity to “differentiate [Wegmans] from other restaurants.”
Mason added, however, that Wegmans has no intention of opening a bar or anything of that variety. She maintains that despite the sale of alcohol, the café is catered to families.
“It’s meant for the family that would maybe go to Applebee’s,” Mason said. The concept they aimed for was a family coming in to eat, and a parent having the option of choosing an alcoholic beverage to complement his or her meal.
“We already offer great food, we want great choices to go with that as well,” Mason said, who places a heavy emphasis on the pairing opportunities this menu change creates.
The beer and wine options are intended for the sole purpose of giving a meal more dimensions and options. Wegmans currently stocks about 20 kinds of beer, including premium and craft beers, and eight wine varieties, including a sparkling wine. They hope to introduce seasonal beers in the future and are open to swapping less popular menu items out in lieu of different varieties.
The drink menu is very reasonably priced, with beers running between $4-$4.50 and wine going for $4 a glass. Customers must purchase a menu item to purchase alcohol, however.
“It’s not about making money,” Mason said. Rather, it’s about pleasing the customer and ensuring the best culinary experience for them.
Since this development, the sub shop has not seen larger crowds of people, but as Mason said, that was not the intention of the menu change. The main demographic it seems to attract is families and couples, especially on weekends.
In the future, Wegmans hopes to host events at the sub shop to draw in more customers. The ideas range from entertainment events, such as music performances, to food tasting and pairing events featuring food provided by the Wegmans supermarket.
Since the store is testing the success of this development by quality of the customer experience rather than the amount of beverages sold, success is rated uniquely. The café section features a “front of the house” employee who acts as host, interacts with customers, makes suggestions and listens to their feedback.
“Our customers are very open to giving us feedback good and bad, and we are open to hearing them so we can do a better job,” Mason said.