Sara Stoker walked up to Store Manager Bruce Glickson in the frozen foods aisle of the Niles store Monday, its opening day, and said, "I just want to say how glad I am you opened a store here!"
Stoker, of Park Ridge, said she used to shop the GFS in Palatine, but wasted a lot of expense on gasoline to get there. Now, she told Glickson, she was planning a party for 20 people and she was trying to pick out what to serve.
Ironically, Glickson had just been telling a reporter how the store, which is located in the south parking lot of Golf Mill Shopping Center at Golf Road and Milwaukee Avenue, Niles, is a resource for what it calls "event planners"--not professionals, but regular people planning a party at their homes--with its foods and its customer service, including a computerized planner called Menu Wizard, which calculates costs and quantities of food needed.
The main customer base for Grand Rapids-based, family-owned Gordon Food Service, which has with the Niles location, and now has 148 stores nationally-- is restaurants. However, party planners, non-profits and home cooks make up a significant amount of its clientele.
"We're a restaurant supplier," said Glickson. "The product quality is superior. And we're also convenient for home cooks."
Some items portioned for home use
Many entrees come in zip-close bags, so the unused portion can be easily stored, he pointed out.
Customers can taste many of those entrees with free demos from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day this week. On Friday, the store will set up a tent with for the tastings.
Planning party cost, quantities
For anyone planning a party, the Menu Wizard provides some firm numbers. Say, for example, you want to host a taco bar for 20 people. The Menu Wizard creates a list of what you need--from taco shells to beef filling, refried beans,cheese, lettuce, onions and tomatoes to brownies and fruit punch--and calculates it will cost $180.67 total, or $9.03 per person. For those planning a fundraiser, for example, Glickson said, it gives them a solid idea of what to charge per person to cover costs or make a profit.
"You can also create your own menu," Glickson said.