Bringing the World’s Gourmet Experiences with Seasonal Food
“October to February is the best season for Aomori Apples from Japan, but actually traditionally grown French Gala Apples that are exceptionally crispy and sweet are also in season during this period of time.” said Thomas Woo, President of City Super Group when touring around the company’s newly renovated store at Times Square, Causeway Bay and introducing their wide variety of fresh food and ingredients. He described the sophistication in Hong Kong food culture is shaping Hong Kongers to seek for culinary experiences the same way they do for art pieces. In view of this, the Group has recently introduced an innovative “Buy & Dine” one-stop shopping and dining concept for all gourmet lovers.
Pursue the Ultimate Freshness and Deliciousness in Seasonal Foods
By incorporating the “Buy & Dine” concept, customers can purchase the premium ingredients at city’super food market, then enjoy the dishes prepared by gourmet specialist at the “Amazing Food Hall” using some of the ingredients. There are 13 zones in the “Amazing Food Hall”, namely “Seafood Kitchen”, “Oyster Bar”, “Butcher Factory”, “Super Green”, “Wine Town”, “Delicatessen & Cheese”, “Bellota Bellota” (Ibérico ham), “Le Gourmet” (caviar) and more.
“The concept was first tested at our store in Shatin, in which customers could savour fresh oysters and sashimi immediately after purchase. The trial was of great success and our revenue tripled. Therefore, we have expanded the concept to engage with a wider range of customers.” Thomas continued indicating that Japan Nagoya Cochin Chicken Wings, Korea Hoengseong Hanwoo Beef and Canada Wild Atlantic Lobster are all premium ingredients that can be either cooked on site by chefs or brought home for cooking. “This is what we call ‘Foodie Wonderland’, because no matter you are enjoying a sumptuous seafood feast with friends, or just a light and healthy delicacy here, there are numerous options for you to choose from.”
The Search for Finest Ingredients from Around the World
city’super is currently selling over 18,000 types of food items, ranging from fresh food, dairy, grocery to household goods, among which 400 items are self-owned brand. Thomas revealed the origins of city’super’s food – 30% from Japan, 30% from Europe, and the rest from U.S., Mainland China, Taiwan, Southeast Asia, and even Africa. City Super Group has set up their own offices in Japan, France, Mainland China, and Taiwan, but also relies on other business partners for sourcing and purchasing in other countries. “Our suppliers range from big corporations, Japanese Shokunin (experts who invent and manufacture their own products), food bloggers, or even farmers. With our strong relationship developed with various brands, we are able to exclusively offer brands like ROYCE’ Chocolate, RF1 SOZAI (Japanese leader in healthy salad) in our stores. All of these greatly relies on the sensitivity and experience of our purchasing team, so they can always search for the freshest and finest food around the world throughout the year, offering a great variety of food selection for our customers.” Thomas joked that many of his colleagues are “food cravers”, and this is probably the reason why they work in city’super.
A globalised supply chain is often huge and complicated, but city’super managed to operate the challenging supply chain with strong logistics support. “150 containers of food and goods arrived at Hong Kong from around the world every month, and technologies like cold chain and logistics adopted in between are empowered by GS1 GTIN Standards. We can even offer fruits freshly harvested in Japan in the morning by night-time in Hong Kong.”
Using the Right Technology at the Right Time
Thomas agrees that technology penetrates into all businesses, and city’super is adopting it step-by-step but not falling head over heels for it. “We adopted enterprise resources planning system in the early age, which facilitated our communication and operation process across 30 departments. We are also exploring how to leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning to boost sales and efficiency. For consumers, we introduced food delivery services inside our food hall. After consumers placed their orders, they simply need to place the sensors given to them on the green sticker of their table, then their food will be delivered to them timely and accurately. In the meantime, we are considering to roll out mobile order and self-service ordering machine to seamlessly enhance consumers’ dining experience.”
Thomas would rather consider city’super’s online store in Hong Kong as an extra option for consumers looking for convenience, instead of a channel for revenue growth, as the sales generated from online is far behind than physical stores. However, online channel is vital in Mainland China. As all of their 4 stores are located in Shanghai, online store is the only way for city’super to tap into the tremendous opportunities in China. “Started our first store in China 10 years ago, our plan has always focus on quality, not number of stores opened. As ROYCE’ exclusive distributor in Mainland China, we targeted to offer delivery service to whole China. But before doing so, we need to ensure quality of product upon delivery. It took us 2 years to conduct the test run. Soon after the launch of ROYCE’ store in Tmall, the online retail sales already surpassed sales in physical stores. Therefore, we are now planning to expand city’super’s scale in online marketplaces, presenting ourselves with the first-class quality in the market.”
With a database of 300,000 members in total, city’super analyses its customers’ shopping records and offers personalised marketing and promotional to them. For example, when a Japanese sake manufacturer launches a limited edition of sake, the company will send promotional messages to members who have bought similar items before, and that particular sake will usually be sold out pretty quickly. city’super has also introduced “superlife culture club”, a programme that organises regular cookery classes and activities, “We will invite famous chefs to demonstrate how to make multinational cuisines, initiate discussions on cooking and food culture, or introduce knowledge of product ingredients. We are committed to promoting quality food culture and sharing knowledge with our members, hence encouraging them to enjoy good quality of food, beverages and life. The concept behind the ‘Amazing Food Hall’ is a testament to this mission.”