Thursday, August 19, 2010

Fresh & Easy headed for the Bay Area

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

A British grocery chain that broke into Southern California four years ago will move into the Bay Area early next year by opening seven stores, including one in San Francisco's Bayview neighborhood, that will feature automated checkout lines and fresh-made meals in addition to the standard fare.
Behind the expansion of the Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market chain is a story of changing consumer habits and a global competitor with nearly 5,000 stores around the world.
"We wanted to establish a post-melting-pot (food) format that reflected the wide diversity of the U.S. market and U.S. consumers," said Fresh & Easy chief executive Tim Mason, who has opened 160 stores in Southern California, Arizona and Nevada since he arrived in Los Angeles in 2006.
Mark Hamstra, retail editor for Supermarket News, said the British firm had mounted an unprecedented $2 billion plan to penetrate the U.S. market by building a chain from the ground up, rather than by acquisition.
"They think they have a better model for the way consumers will shop for food in the future," he said. "They want to compete with the likes of a Safeway, but do it like a Trader Joe's, with special items that consumers can't find elsewhere."
Rather than loading up the shopping cart once a week, Mason said the company is betting that consumers will make more frequent trips to the market, often looking for prepared meals and fresh foods in addition to the staples, pet supplies and beauty aids that fill pantries and cabinets.
To get customers in and out quickly, Mason said every line in the store will have an automated checkout option for those who know how to use the scanners while those who don't can get an attendant to process their purchases.

Many prepared foods

Fresh & Easy stores will feature prominent delis, called Kitchen Tables, stocked with soups, guacamoles and other prepared foods, made without preservatives in the company's industrial kitchen. The stores will be green, literally and figuratively, from the color scheme of the walls and the staff's T-shirts to the recycling operation and various energy-saving practices.
Driving the invasion is Fresh & Easy's British parent firm, Tesco, a household name in that country with 2,500 stores. Mason said Tesco began a global expansion in the late 1990s, when it opted against trying to crack the Western European or U.S. markets.
Instead it entered Eastern Europe, where it now has 1,000 stores, and Asia, where it has 1,300 spots in Thailand, South Korea, China, Malaysia Japan and India.
The global giant has made some missteps in its new U.S. venture, such as starting in the teeth of a recession.
Fresh & Easy was also dinged by food activists for not opening enough stores in poor neighborhoods. The non-unionized chain has drawn the ire of organized labor. Mason said to unionize or not is up to employees and that he is proud of the firm's $10 per hour entry wage, 75 percent paid health benefits, quarterly bonuses and 401(k) match.

Tough competition

The grocery industry is incredibly competitive. Berkeley's Grocery Outlet has been opening more discount stores. Mi Puebla Food Center, a regional chain, recently added its 17th store in Newark.
Meg Major, editor of Progressive Grocer, said she likes the Fresh & Easy format and admires the British firm's audacity, but said the newcomer is in for a fight.
"It's not as if Safeway is crouching in fear," she said.

New stores

These Fresh & Easy stores are scheduled to open in 2011:
San Francisco: Third Street and Carroll Avenue
San Jose: Bird and Minnesota avenues
Danville: Diablo Boulevard at Interstate 680
Pacifica: Cabrillo Highway and Linda Mar Boulevard
Vacaville: Elmira and Nut Tree roads
Walnut Creek: Ygnacio Valley Road and San Carlos Drive
Concord: Clayton and Ygnacio Valley roads
Source: Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market
E-mail Tom Abate at
This article appeared on page D - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

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Submitted by Jim Alex


Anonymous said...

That's cool and that's progress!

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately their prices are high. Do we have extra money ? No. Everyone is being careful .
To be honest with you COSTCO will be ideal .We could attract Half Moon, El Granada, Moss Beach, Montara, Princeton etc customer to come an expend $$$ here.

Anonymoose said...

I'll believe it when I see it.

Anonymous said...

That space isn't big enough for a Costco.

Trader Joe's would have been perfect but they didn't like the locations Pacifica had.

Anonymous said...

Are you kidding? Pacifica open space.....plenty for a Costco, Wallmart, Target, Kmart etc.

Kathy Meeh said...


Anonymous said...

Finally a new large chain-style business is slated to come to town and all you people can do is find something to complain about.

If the prices are too high -- don't shop there. Someone will and it will bring some revenue to the city.


Kathy Meeh said...

Anon @ 11:12am, look at the comment posts to the above article. The conversation is more about very competitive large tax revenue producing retail/wholesale/cut-rate businesses, for which Pacifica seems to have no large land space which is not taken by "unproductive open space".

There is no real conversation about "Fresh and Easy" here, other than "cool" and "their prices are too high", so that one would be 1 compliment and 1 complaint.

Since you seem to be exorcised about Fresh and Easy "complaints" you might try Riptide, they actually made a conversation about this. But, if you choose to rag at them, you will not be able to hide behind your Anonymous name. You think a small grocery store will bring a lot of tax revenue to this city?

Michael Sharp Park said...

Some good stuff on Fresh & Easy in Pacifica and Northern California and in general at

Have been in Fresh & Easy's in Southern Calif and Vegas. They are OK but nothing great. Will help keep prices at Safeway and others down in town though.

Becky Leung said...

Human Rights Watch just named Fresh & Easy as one of the worse European companies violating labor rights in the U.S. Not happy news about our new grocery store. Check it out

Anonymous said...

I look forward to competition for Safeway. There are currently five grocery stores to chose from between Half Moon Bay and Pacifica and three of them are Safeway. The selection & service at all three Safeway stinks, the isles are way too narrow and they never have enough inventory. Food Town is too out of the way for me and Green Leaf wanted $8 for a piece of prepared chicken.

Bring on the competition!

roger charles said...

The new Fresh& Easy store will open in Pacifica on 9th MARCH 2011 More competition offering good quality food at competitive prices which will happen with the arrival of F&E can only be good news for the city.

fresh n easy said...

Been in the stores down in SoCal. Not really impressed.

Costco? Take a look at the size of the space you need. Jesus.

If you like Safeway got to Safeway, Costco, Lucky, New Leaf!