Wegmans’ Manhattan store is not shy about its focus on prepared foods and ready-to-eat offerings, with meal options commanding nearly an entire floor of the two-level location.
Located in the historic building that originally housed the Wanamaker's department store, Wegman’s first-ever Manhattan store — and second in New York City — opened its doors at 499 Lafayette St. in October. Paying homage to its predecessor, the family-owned supermarket chain said the store’s “warm and welcoming atmosphere” aims to reflect the original architecture of the Wanamaker building.
Called Wegmans Astor Place, the 87,500-square-foot store dedicates the street-level floor to meal offerings, dessert and the bakery selection — along with housing its dozens of self-checkout stations. The store is set to welcome onsite dining this year with a Sushi Bar and Champagne-Oyster Bar, Wegmans said.
Downstairs, shoppers can find the fresh produce, meat, seafood and departments along with the center store aisles, a charcuterie counter and an extensive plant-based section.
Meals on meals on meals
Entrees, veggie sides, appetizers, fresh sushi, made-to-order pizza and poke bowls are just a few of the copious meal options greeting customers when they walk into the store.
Executive Chef David Lopatynski is heading up the extensive “restaurant foods selections,” Wegmans noted in an announcement.
There are choices including prepackaged sandwiches, sushi and wings among the ready-to-eat, single-serve options. For people seeking multicultural flavors, the selection includes packaged Mezze options inspired by the Mediterranean diet, along with Latin foods.
People looking to build a dinner plate for just themselves or multiple people can find ready-to-eat and ready-to-heat entrees, appetizers and sides for both individuals and families. For hot options, shoppers can find a create-your-own pizza station.
Along with in-store shopping, customers can use Wegmans’ Meals 2Go app to order and customize items for pickup or delivery.
Spotlighting Asian cuisine
Along with the foodservice offerings, customers can find an abundance of Asian flavors, from dedicated Asian hot and salad bars to chilled cases with Asian appetizers and family meals.
Downstairs, the store’s Sakanaya — which means “fish market” in Japanese — features fresh seafood from “top suppliers” including Japanese fishmonger and retailer Uoriki, which has its offerings at the Toyosu Fish Market, a Tokyo wholesale market that is one of the largest fish markets in the world, Wegmans noted on its website. The retailer said it flies in fresh Toyosu seafood offerings several times a week.
The grocer’s “longstanding and ever-evolving relationship” with Uoriki, which includes co-hosting seafood and sushi festivals at various Wegmans stores, led to the creation of the Sakanaya market, the grocer said in a blog post. Wegmans said that its Astor Place store team attended the most recent festival, which the grocer held at its Washington, D.C., store, to learn cutting and preparation techniques from Uoriki’s expert fishmongers, noting that during the Manhattan store’s first year, some of those fishmongers and teachers from Uoriki will oversee the Sakanaya market.
In the produce department, which is adjacent to the fish market, there’s even a case just for Asian vegetables such as bok choy and daikon.
Calling out certain attributes
Following one of Wegmans’ mantras — “Helping people live healthier, better lives through exceptional food” — the store uses signage and merchandising tactics to bring consumers’ attention to attributes focused on health and well-being.
Signage in center store aisles reminds people to keep an eye out for items sporting Wegmans “Food You Feel Good About” slogan, which denotes products without artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. Signs also guide shoppers to Wegmans-branded organic items, which feature the company's "green leaf" icon.
Near the produce department, an alcove houses a wide array of plant-based products, including a dedicated plant-based yogurt section.
Private brands shine
With foodservice helming the ground level, Wegmans’ store brands command a strong presence among the center store aisles. The grocer has entire endcaps devoted to private brands, including cereal, coconut water and vitamins.
The abundance of store brands is also prominent. In the frozen foods section, for example, there are at least 15 different flavors of store brand pizza.
Private label products accounted for nearly half (49.4%) of Wegmans’ sales in 2022, putting the grocer among the ranks of retailers such as Trader Joe’s, Aldi and Lidl that are especially reliant on store brands, according to research released by data and tech firm Numerator.
While Wegmans ended its scan-and-go service in 2022, the grocery chain has clearly not lost its faith in automated checkout technology. The Astor Place store has three dozen self-checkout stations.
To help customers out, signs by the stations list the codes to input for coffee or tea drinks.
At a time when self-checkout is grappling with a rocky reputation amid concerns about shrink and user-friendliness, it’s surprising to see rows of dozens of these units at one store.