Look out, Whole Foods. You too, Starbucks.
Publix on Thursday will open a prototype store in the Dr. Phillips neighborhood that aims to be much more than a typical supermarket. It offers a cooking school, shopping and delivery services, and a café.
“We’re going to be all things to all people, hopefully,” Publix spokesman Dwaine Stevens said Wednesday. “Everyone has different tastes and wants, and we hope to touch all of those.”
Lakeland-based Publix is unveiling the new store at an intensely competitive time for supermarkets, which are losing market share to big-box stores, drugstores and dollar stores. At the same time, they’re competing with restaurants by providing an array of prepared meals.
“I think we’re going to see more and more of these,” said Phil Lempert, editor of the website SupermarketGuru.com and The Food Journal, an industry publication that tracks trends. “This is a very smart move for Publix, and I’m sure they’re going to use a lot of … what works and what doesn’t work and roll out things in other stores in the chain.”
Publix, which has 80 stores in Central Florida, would not say whether other neighborhoods could expect similar markets.
The new store, at 7524 Dr. Phillips Blvd., is in one of Orlando’s more affluent neighborhoods. It’s a mile away from upscale Whole Foods Market and will be the same distance from a Trader Joe’s specialty grocery opening in the area soon. Fresh Market also is nearby, and an older Publix a half mile away will remain open.
At 59,000 square feet, the new Publix is about 30 percent larger than average. At its 1,500-square-foot cooking school, a staff of five chefs will teach classes on everything from basic knife skills to French pastry.
Aspiring cooks can take hands-on classes or simply watch chefs in action. Participants get to eat the food after it’s prepared, so the school has a dining area as well. A dozen people at a time can learn firsthand how to prepare food, while up to 60 can take the more-passive courses. The cost is generally $40 to $60 per session.
Publix has cooking schools in other markets, but this is Central Florida’s first. It is expected to draw shoppers within a 35-mile radius.
Shoppers can buy cookware in the store, and those who take the classes get 20 percent discounts.
At Truffles and Trifles cooking school in College Park, owner Marci Arthur said she is not sure how much competition Publix will pose.
“We have a faithful large clientele,” she said. “We know Publix is going to throw a lot of money at this school. That’s fine. Anybody who gets interested in food, I’m happy about it. It benefits me in the long run.”
Whole Foods would not comment specifically on Publix but noted that its nearby store offers cooking courses, too, along with Zumba classes; a juice and coffee bar; and a large indoor and outdoor cafe.
Kitty Mark, a real-estate agent who lives and works in the Dr. Phillips neighborhood, can’t wait for the new Publix. She’s looking forward to trying cooking classes and sampling the new dishes. And the new store is yet another feature to point to when selling homes in the area.
“I think the fact they’re putting a prototype store in the Dr. Phillips area really says a lot about this area,” she said. “They believe in the area.”
Publix’s new store also has an event-planning center, where customers can get help pulling together items from throughout the store for parties.
It will offer a personal-shopping service costing $7.95 and up. Customers can call and place their order, then pick it up or have it delivered for an extra fee. Publix will offer free delivery for party orders of $150 or more.
Other store features include a kiosk for Publix’s new online deli-ordering service, and a cheese specialist who will help customers select and pair more than 200 varieties.
The deli will serve breakfast burritos. Customers can grab half a sandwich and a small salad from a prepared-foods area for $5. For a more substantial meal, they can head to a section of the store with dishes such as tilapia piccata, beef tenderloin and quinoa salad.
A café will sell items such as organically grown coffee, gelato, fresh pizzas and soft pretzels. Publix eventually wants to stock it with all its own private-label goodies.
The café is meant to be “a destination location” for locals who want a cup of coffee or snack, said Chuck Johnston, a Publix bakery-operations trainer.
“We’re going to take Starbucks down,” he said jokingly.