Chain Restaurants

TESCO Fresh and Easy


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Chain Restaurants

TESCO Fresh and Easy

empowah | | Nov 8, 2007 04:12 PM

The grand opening of their "#1" US store (Glassell Park/Eagle Rock) was today. I went earlier and can't say I'm too impressed. It's like a normal supermarket but with their own "fresh and easy" brand products, like "fresh and easy" tater tots, ice cream, and cheese nips.

Their specialty is in "prepared-but-not-frozen foods", so think refrigerated sandwiches, refrigerated cooked pasta, and refrigerated Thai rice bowls. It's a bit like buying leftovers from a family's fridge.

Still, I can see its appeal. It looks more modern and sophisticated than most supermarkets, or at least the front half is, and everything is nicely repackaged in friendly pastel colors, simple graphics, and lowercase fonts. This was most impressive in the meat/fish/seafood section, where color-added salmon fillets, pork meatballs, skinless chicken breasts and such were immaculately presented in clear plastic cases. This is where Rachel Ray goes to get groceries for her 30 minute meals. (Apparently when making mock up F&Es, they claimed it was a movie set.)

As far as offering something rare or exceptional, there wasn't much. The cheese selection is good - they have everything from Stilton Blue to wet mozz balls - and the $5 pate looked interesting. There's a lot of pre-marinated and sauced meats (carne asada, fajita kits, etc), which sounds like the sort of nearly-expired crap you'd find at a supermarket meat counter, but fresh&easy's actually looks, well, fresh. There's the typical Trader Joe's stuff as well - Vodka pasta sauce, $.99 pizza dough, and several varieties of hummus. They have their own brand of kid's lunches, with cool little mazes to boot, but Lunchables are available, just in case.

Overall I think it does live up to its name. Everything looks fresh (although the expiration dates for some of the sushi and sandwiches were today, but maybe that's the nature of fresh-not-frozen-or-preserved food) and easy -- the meat, for instance, looks nicely prepped, rinsed, and ready to be used. It's easy to plan a semi-homemade meal just walking up and down the aisles. And while there isn't a choice of brands, the packaging gives an assurance of quality ("everything just looks so damn good!" I heard someone remark), and not having to choose saves time. You could say it's either grocery shopping simplified or dumbed down.

It was opening day today, so it was jam-packed. The self-check-out-with-the-aid-of-an-employee lines were long and the only ones available, so I didn't buy anything. There were some curious locals and families, but mostly the crowd consisted of professionals, urbanites, TV reporters, and notebook-yielding competitors donned in suits. There weren't enough parking spaces (a hulking Toyota Land Cruiser and Honda Pilot took up the two "hybrid only" spaces), so I parked in front of someone's house instead. On the sidewalk were protestors against Tesco's labor and environmental policies. Near the entrance, Tesco employees countered with pamphlets claiming the contrary.

Part of Tesco's claims is to bring grocery stores to "food islands", which the Glassell Park location is (a Trader Joe's and Super-A are both a mile away). But the Glassell Park store is an exception, most are in already supermarket-saturated neighborhoods, and their product selection and prices for these objectives are questionable.

Still I think it'll do well, especially in more suburban areas. The advertising, graphic design, marketing, and product development people have definitely done their homework.