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In Store Food Demos

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
I have been asked to try to bring in customers to a new organic market in my area by demoing (?) quick and easy meals using one burner or microwave or both.

Any creative juices flowing out there for me? I have a couple things in mind, but need more as they would like to demo about every other week. The demos would be in the evening and last 30 to 45 minutes. I was thinking of offering 2 different meals per demo.

One idea would be sliced polenta, pan fried, sauced with cheese on top and micowaved until the cheese melts and adding a salad to round out a quick meal for the busy housewife or single person, etc.

I would appreciate any ideas. :lips:
post #2 of 15
I'd probably stick with ONE meal/dish, you're not going to see many "repeat" visitors and you have a really short time frame.

I'd also probably look at something that is easily pre-prepped and cooks in no more than three (3) minutes, make the sample size "bites", not a meal! This keeps your offerings fresh and shows how quickly they can be cooked.

I'd be concerned with who is paying for the food and my time as well. I would think the market would provide the food and I'd want something on the order of $100 or so plus being allowed to advertise my service(s) or restaurant.

Not knowing the products the market is "pushing", it is difficult to recommend specific dishes.

Maybe chicken piccata, chicken marsala, etc.?

Polenta may not be enough attention to the "organic" side?
Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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post #3 of 15
check out what's on special that week...

Italian Sausage and Marinara

Ratatouille or Caponata....add chicken or shrimp.

I demoed at a farmer's market 24 weeks a season for 7 years. Short, sweet with recipes.....even for the lamest dishes (seriously, I had someone watch me make applesauce then ask for a recipe....um, peel the apple, put it in pan, put a lid on the pan and cook until shmush?!)

Sept. peppers are prolific, red pepper tomato soup

apples are in now, apple sauce....potato pancakes

sweet potatoes are about to come in....spicy Indian sweet potatoes, onion, garlic, mustard seeds, chili flakes, raisins, cashews, jalepinos.....

Fall mushrooms, crank out a risotto

aps for thanksgiving time...
what to do with leftovers
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #4 of 15
Thread Starter 
Thanks for replying.

To answer some questions, the market is like a small Whole Foods, with fresh meats, fish, veg and fruit, packaged and canned goods as well as frozen foods. I would not be offering meals, just doing the demos and offering "bites". The Market would be providing the food to demo and as far as paying me, I work there part time, 20 hours a week. The purpose would be to show customers how easy and fast it can be to cook a quick meal at home and to push the merchandise in the Market.
post #5 of 15
Thread Starter 

In Store Food Demos

Thank you Shroomgirl. The "what to do with leftovers" is a great idea!!

I will have just one burner and limited space, probably a small table so that would also limit what I could accomplish in a short time period. I could crank out a risotto, but I think too many people would think that risotto takes too much effort and time, the same with making a soup. Maybe I'm wrong, but so many customers today (that I talk to) seem intimidated to try new things, so we are trying to make it as simple as possible.

Since the stores sells the pre-made polenta, marinara and cheese; after doing the demo, they could just pick up the 3 ingredients, go home and crank that out in mere minutes. I just need more ideas that would fit that scenario.
post #6 of 15
A couple of thoughts, outside the food itself:

1. Who's checked into the legalities? Food demos are high on local health departments' lists, so make sure the store has dotted all the i's and crossed all the t's.

2. Single burners? Does the store already have them? If not, who is responsible for buying them. Gas hotplates run from $40-$85 each. Plust the cost of the propane. Electric skillets and griddles can run even more.

That said, more than any other marketing job, food demos should follow the KISS rule: Keep It Simple, Stupid! You are not doing a food network show. Customers will walk over, try a sample, maybe stick around a few minutes to see what you're doing. And then they're gone. Keep that in mind as you plan what you'll be showing.

Also keep in mind that supermarket customers are used to being sampled, not demoed. That is, there's a little old lady with a hot plate handing out cut up pieces of a commercial product. So, unless the demo is promoted as an event, that's all they'll think it is.

Example: A local market recently had a chef doing a demo on cooking rib eye with a blue-cheese/cab sauce. Out of curiosity I stood around to watch the traffic flow. Basically, she demoed to thin air. What people wanted was a taste of the steak. So they'd continue their shopping, checking back occasionally to see if the steak was ready.

That's not an uncommon occurance.

I don't mean to sound discouraging. What I'm saying is that there's more involved in successful demonstrations than deciding on the food to highlight.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #7 of 15
then think about how to alter prepared food.

Prepared pesto, add tomatoes, peppers, red onions, cooked pasta filled or not
chicken/shrimp/sausage whatever the store wants to push

kid friendly food....dips for fruit

smoothies

yogurt parfait

box soup with toppings.....there's some decent prepared soups on the market, add chevre or croutons or wontons or what have you.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #8 of 15
Thread Starter 
Thanks for your thoughts.

The store already owns the burner, microwave, etc., the demos are scheduled per a sign up sheet with a date and time so the customers will be in an enclosed area just for the demo. The store has already dotted I's and crossed its T's. Everything is just waiting on me for the items to demo.
post #9 of 15
Thread Starter 
thanks again shroomgirl - you never disappoint!
post #10 of 15
Don't forget fish. Fish responds very well to microwaving (although no one likes to admit it) as it doesn't dry out like it does when baked or broiled. Put the fish on a plate with some butter, ghee or olive oil, season lightly, add some fresh herbs and into the nuke 2-3 minutes (depending on the size of the fish). Voila. Fast food. Just don't put any cheese on it. Ever. I don't know who started that practice, but it makes both the cheese and fish taste bad. We have a well respected restaurant in our area that has on their menu pan-seared halibut with portabella mushrooms, gruyerre cheese and chardonnay sauce. So on the plate there't the fish with the fungus flavor from the mushrooms, fungus from the cheese, and fungus from the wine. It must taste like somebody's foot. I want to try it to see how bad it really is, but don't want to spend the money. Makes me wonder what they were thinking when there's so many better ingredients they could have used. Tomatoes, onion, zucchini, peppers etc. All citrus fruits work well with fish too. Think salmon with cranberry-orange-ginger sauce. Experiment, have fun.
post #11 of 15
Thread Starter 
Thanks for your reply. I will give that one a try also,
post #12 of 15
quesadillas
using veg off the salad bar to prepare a hot dinner
(mushrooms, peppers, onions, etc)

If it were my gig and I was at a loss for what to do, I'd practice industrial espiange.....see what Trader Joes, etc are making/doing, look at quick magazines or Sandra Lee's books.....seriously, that is about the speed you want. Some prepared food that is altered to "upscale it".

Do a dish people are familiar with then add an unusual item.....tofu/tempeh/soy meat.....tangerine juice instead of orange....

Talk to people as you demo and find out what they make and what they'd like to make but don't know how....or what products they'd like to see demoed. Feedback is a beautiful thing.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #13 of 15
Thread Starter 

Food Demo

great idea Shroomgirl with the quesadillas - my brain was completely napping on that one as the possibilities are endless.
post #14 of 15

I work as a chef in a grocery store and it is very rewarding. Customers love to learn how to cook new and interesting fresh meat, seafood, and produce that they have never tried or been to afrade that they will mess it up. If you can show them how easy something is to prepare they will love you. Make an event out of it. Put some chairs around and put up a schedule that shows that maybe every half hour or so you will be doing a live cooking demo. Have the store manager announce it over the intercom and really make a big deal out of it.

post #15 of 15

Myself and three of my personal chefs are contracted to do single-burner demos in Fresh Market grocery stores in two cities. The company that contracts us has a national account with Kroger also.

 

There a couple "rules of thumb" the demos are designed around.

 

First, don't bother demoing something your customers can't easily make at home. The goal of a demo is to promote and sell the products you are sampling. If the customer can't do the recipe themselves, or if the product looks complicated to use, you'll scare people away from it instead of driving them to it.

 

Second, provide a printed recipe, know the price of your main ingredients and where they are located in the store. If your demo is good, people will grab a recipe and go buy the ingredients.

 

Third, don't do anything that takes more than one pan. The demos we do can all be done in a 10 inch skillet.

 

Fourth, don't do recipes that take more than 5 minutes to cook. Preferably 3 minutes or less. You have a limited time frame. If you can't pump out samples to get the food into people's hands, you can't get them to grab the recipes and buy the ingredients. Also, people do want to watch you do the recipe IF it is a recipe they can do at home without a lot of hassle. If the recipe takes too long, they won't watch and likely won't buy.

 

Fifth, stock non-refrigerated ingredients near your demo station so you can direct people right to them. You'll sell more that way.

 

Sixth, don't be afraid to use bottled sauces. You are a grocery store, not a restaurant. You sell bottled sauces.

 

Seventh, don't sample anything you can't stick on a toothpick or put in a 1 oz plastic cup. You aren't there to feed people, you're there to sell them.

 

Eighth, it is completely OKAY to cook an prepped raw item from the seafood/meat/deli counter. Usually, they sell the best at demos because they require the least work. People just want to know what to do with them.

 

Ninth, don't bother making a whole meal. Just do a recipe for a main ingredient. People can buy a box of Mediterranean cous cous and some broccoli to serve as a side without you showing them how to cook them.

 

Tenth, personality sells food in the demo. If you don't smile and engage the people, they won't watch which means they won't buy.

 

Eleventh, get rid of the microwave. As soon as you put something in the microwave, you lose credibility to the customers. Sure, they microwave, but you're supposed to be a chef.

 

Twelfth, don't demo cheap products. You are there to sell food. The cheap stuff sells itself. Yes, the expensive stuff is an investment, but once you get a recipe in someone's hand and teach them how to make it, they'll return many times for the product. Just make sure your sample sizes are only one bite.

 

As to what you should make? Start with the question, "What does the store want to sell?". You can sell anything in a demo with a nice, simple, delicious recipe. If they have prepared crab cakes in the seafood counter, sauté them in some olive oil, cut them into bite size pieces and serve them in a 1 oz plastic cup with a dab of a prepared sauce you sell. Stock the sauce at the demo table. Cook some of the marinated chicken tenders you have in the meat case. Serve them on a piece of a taco-size flour tortilla cut into eight pie shaped sections, on top of a little lettuce chiffonade with a salsa you guys sell. We did a lamb leg slice seared, then cut into bite size pieces and tossed in red wine and bleu cheese sauce similar to the dish you mentioned. You could do the same thing with a thin steak. The meat cut size doesn't have to be the same size as how you sell it. You could also do mussels really easy in a 10 inch skillet. Toss them in some white wine, fish/chicken stock and lemon juice, tossing some butter in when they are done. You'll need something to cover the pan while they cook. You can sell your spice rubs by rubbing steaks or porkloin chops and pan seared them. Cut into bite size pieces and stick with a toothpick. Shrimp are always easy. Saute them and toss them in a bottled curry sauce you sell.

Brandon O'Dell

 

Friend That Cooks Home Chef Service

www.friendthatcooks.com

O'Dell Restaurant Consulting

www.bodellconsulting.com

 

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Brandon O'Dell

 

Friend That Cooks Home Chef Service

www.friendthatcooks.com

O'Dell Restaurant Consulting

www.bodellconsulting.com

 

Reply
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