Did you see the latest Whole Foods news? The Austin, Texas-based retailer has a “Produce Butcher” in their newest store in New York City. It’s a separate kiosk on the sales floor that offers a “menu” for consumers to pick their custom cuts.
Frankly, I’m a little surprised it took them this long.
If you recall, I’ve written about the “butcher” concept a lot lately, including in our November cover story about the Coborn’s Chop Shoppe, which offers full service custom blends at their Isanti, Minn., location. Check out the story and video.
We’ve got to be careful about jumping on these trends, though. The first time I encountered a “vegetable butcher,” it was at Eataly, the super-premium destination retailer. Their Chicago store’s produce department had a prep sink on the sales floor that offers custom cut produce, but frankly, it doesn’t look like a good idea to me.
It had food safety nightmare written all over it.
Everything was exposed, accessible to customers.
Others I’ve seen since then have been more along the lines of a full-service retailer moving the fresh-cut operations to a central, more visible location, and offering custom cut service as a value-add for customers in-store. I’ve seen these at Hen House and Price Chopper in Kansas City, at Coborn’s, Loblaws, Longo’s and a few others retailers.
That makes a lot more business sense to me. We’ve got a lot of layers of food safety protocols happening here, and it looks like a seamless integration with existing labor resources.
How the Whole Foods concept works within their existing fresh-cut is unclear to me, though the “Produce Butcher” does look like a relatively small operation.
As the retailer is drilling down labor costs, at its stores nationwide, I don’t expect it to be someone standing around waiting for orders.
Here are some other "produce butchers" I've encountered.