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Welcome to the new HMR

June 16, 2021
Author : Peter Senisi

With the cost of living going nowhere but up, HMR Programs in Retail Grocery Stores are not only here to stay but are actually becoming a greater area of focus. More & more families require both spouses to contribute to monthly earnings in order to be able to keep up financially. So, who is going to do the cooking? After a long day at the office, can you really expect either spouse to be terribly excited about the prospect of having to prepare a meal for the entire family? I don’t think so, at least not in my household!

I think that more & more people don’t want to cook, but want to eat at home, so that’s something that Grocery Retailers can provide. Due to the economic conditions we continue to experience, people are tightening their purse springs so they may not want to go to a restaurant but they still want to treat themselves to restaurant quality food.

This is a big reason why HMR Programs are becoming more & more popular and smart grocery retailers are investing more dollars towards this segment. Another major reason for the increased investment in this market segment is due to the fact that if an HMR Program is done right, it can become an extremely profitable segment for grocery retailers. There are high gross margins to be made by operating a successful HMR Program, however, it doesn’t come without some risks. Those high gross margins can erode quickly if there is a lot of food waste and nothing deteriorates faster than freshly prepared meals.

Therefore, it is imperative that Retail Grocers invest wisely in hiring competent individuals to devise & implement effective HMR Programs which are in tune with what consumers are looking for. The days of featuring only rotisserie chicken, potato wedges & coleslaw are long gone as consumers are demanding a wide range of ‘High Quality Fresh Meals’ which are also ‘Healthy & Nutritious’ for you. Of course, pricing is extremely important as well because consumers are still looking for value and it’s extremely important that the ‘prepared foods section’ turns over quickly. Nothing turns off a potential customer more than to see stale items sitting on display. So it’s extremely important for Retail Grocers to find that ‘sweet spot’ when it comes to pricing.

Multiple grocery retailers have definitely elevated their game when it comes to HMR Programs. Some HMR Section even have big-screen tvs, local wine, free Wi-Fi and a smorgasbord of fresh meals that would rival any four-star restaurant. It also boasts very comfortable seating which only makes staying put for dinner, all the more appealing. For those who want to take their food to go, that’s not a problem either, they always have a wide range of take-out food options available such as freshly carved roast beef or hot paninis. Some stores even have their entire front devoted to prepared meals and shoppers can move from the sandwich section to the grill to the dessert counter. They can pay and then eat their food at the tables that are provided or they can opt to take their food to go.

To do well in HMR, grocers need to take their cue from the restaurant sector because that’s what consumers are used to. That means fresh preparation and production schedules that produce meals as close to demand as possible. Like restaurants, grocers need to utilize their websites in order to drive traffic to their HMR Departments and use restaurant level ingredients. The elite HMR locations pair their prepared foods with in-store events and feature detailed menu boards which depict the ‘specials of the day’ in order to help customers choose what they want. Of course, it’s also extremely important that HMR Departments provide their consumers with lots of variety, you can’t expect customers to keep coming back if you’re putting out the same food day after day, they need to be wooed into coming back again & again.

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