Curtain Up at the Barbican
New Branch Manager Andy adopted the showbiz feeling of the area when he spoke to his staff minutes before the re-furbished Barbican branch opened on Thursday [May 2006].
‘It’s show time’ he told the Partners. ‘It’s time to start performing at the Barbican.’
The store is the second to open under Waitrose’s Turin programme and has been given a completely new look. It is surrounded by huge blocks of flats and very close to the Barbican Centre – world famous for theatrical and musical dramas.
‘To see the branch looking as it does today is marvellous’ Andy said. ‘So remember your lines and let’s just give the guys an Oscar winning performance.’
He then let longest serving Partner, 65 year old branch cook, June, cut a ribbon to formally open the branch. June has been in the shop for 18 years, starting in the meat department when it originally opened as a Safeway and staying on as it moved briefly to the Morrisons group, then on to Somerfield. Now it has become Waitrose. June is one of the existing employees who have stayed on and become Partners in the business.
The Barbican branch is one of 5 acquired from Somerfield under the Turin project and is part of an expansion that will see the group expand still further with shops as far afield as Scotland opening in the next few weeks. The project will further consolidate Waitrose’s presence as one of the country’s leading supermarket chains.
When the curtain went up at the Cherry Tree Walk shop on Thursday, a queue of customers certainly applauded the move. Most agreed that the arrival of what was described as ‘a better, quality store which has been long awaited.’ That is how first customer, actor Pierce, described the new shop.
Branch manager Andy presented him along with fellow firsts Terry and Jack with a bottle of champagne and gave the first women customers, Christine who had travelled from Romford and Josephine, large bougets of flowers.
Among the many changes that greeted all of them inside the 16,000sq ft of new look shelves and aisles were dedicated meat and fish counters
(available at the branch for the first time), a vastly improved cheese selection, hot food counter, rotisserie, delicatessen, bakery and patisserie.
For the first time too, there were salad and olive bars, a Brat pan and a wine department, with a specially trained Waitrose wine specialist joining the branch team able to guide customers around an acclaimed (and affordable) selection. The shop has been designed for convenience with the latest touch-screen checkouts installed.
‘It has been completely stripped and refurbished’ said Refurbishment Project Manager Zoe, who completed the multi-million pound turn-round with a team led by contractors Paul (Underwood Carpenters) and Peter
(R.G. Carlisle). The shop now has completely new refrigeration systems and cabinets, new electrical systems, re-decorated Partners’ areas and new fixtures and fittings.
Amazingly, the work was completed in just three weeks – amazing because after consultation with the local residents’ association it was decided not to do any of the work at night to prevent noise interference. ‘They were very pleased to see us here and worked closely with us all the time.’ summed up Peter.
That pleasure was obvious from the moment the doors first opened. Products like the Waitrose large and regular salad tubs were among the top sellers, while lemons, whole rosemary and thyme chickens, petit pains and poppy seed knot rolls also made strong showings. Customers also made an immediate beeline for the ready meals, sandwich and pre-packed salad and cheese sections.
‘We cannot wait to bring a different level of quality food and service to our new customers.’ said BM Andy. He is indeed directing and orchestrating a very different kind of top show at the Barbican.
Edited excerpt of the Waitrose Chronicle Volume 66 No 21. 27th May 2006