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Well done: Customer loyalty at the Jelmoli Market Grill

The name of Jelmoli stands for the famous premium department store at Zurich’s best address, and thus for a unique shopping experience. Not (yet) so well known: One can also enjoy unusually good food here. CEO Franco Savastano and Grill chef Daniel Stefanak talk about customers, relationships, and the one true way of seasoning.

It’s a quarter to twelve. Franco Savastano, Jelmoli CEO, takes the lift to the bottom floor. He's heading for The Market Grill. He finds Grill chef Daniel Stefanak twitching a fork into line – after all, everything has to look just right. For the lunchtime customers, expected any minute. and, of course, for his boss, who likes to come a bit earlier and leave room for the guests at lunchtime. There is a hearty welcome, and then Savastano orders a dry-aged entrecote, sits down, and lets his gaze sweep over the beautifully-designed Food Market. He doesn't have to wait long for his steak. «Our grill comes from New York and was the second of its kind in Switzerland», explains Stefanak proudly. «It heats up to 800 degrees. You need just 90 seconds at this heat to give the meat a fantastic crust on the outside, while it’s perfectly medium rare on the inside.»

Then the meat is ready; neatly sliced into a tagliata, the steak platter is served. Savastano cuts his first slice. «Perfect!» For himself, Stefanak has prepared a Premium Wagyu beef burger. «The burger meat has an optimal marbling of five to seven degrees», explains the expert, continuing, «that means it has the perfect balance of meat to fat.» Or for the layman: the meat is beautifully tender. Daniel Stefanak loves to promote the quality of his ingredients to the guests. And this small boutique restaurant, tucked in the corner, is ideal for the purpose. From the bar, you can look over and watch him grilling. The butcher is on the right; the wine cellar on the left. Daniel Stefanak has around 300 regulars in The Market Grill – mostly from Zürich and the surrounding area. However, some of them come from Bern, Lucerne, even Dubai. «These customers generally come to the city on business. But on their way from the airport or train station, they often head straight to us first», he explains, laughing. It’s easy to believe him: he talks about many of them by name.

«The entrecote is excellent again», praises Franco Savastano. «Just the way I like it» – and just what the customers of a premium department store expect. High quality standards are fundamental here: a spirit that doesn’t just apply to the items in the shelf, but is also lived out in the eateries. Jelmoli has nine restaurants, five of which have waiter service. The vegetarian takeaway is appropriately located near to the vegetable department, and the Market Grill is right by the meat counter. It's all part of what Savastano calls the «customer experience». «We want to make the quality of our groceries part of the experience. All our customer's senses should be tickled. Perhaps the customer is standing in the vegetable department and suddenly fancies a crispy wrap? Then they can take a seat in the Bad Hunter takeaway. Almost everything we sell here can also be eaten. An integrated concept, which kindles our customers' enthusiasm and also – we hope – increases the length of their stay», explains Savastano.

Meat lovers will find exactly what they're looking for at The Market Grill. The small menu with excellent grilled platters and appropriate accompaniments will certainly be perfect for some people. But there are also times when you're looking for something a bit different. Then you can buy a giant steak from the butcher's opposite – Chianina, dry-aged beef, of course – and Daniel Stefanak will be happy to prepare it professionally alla Fiorentina straight away. «Why not?», he says. «After all, two storeys higher you can get a tailor-made suit. In this way, I can prepare exactly the cut of meat that they want for my customers.» «Absolutely», agrees Savastano. «Perhaps our customer will find the perfect bottle of Bordeaux to go with their lunch in our wine department. This is how we make the quality of our products part of the unique shopping experience we offer our customers.»

«I'm happy to show my guests how they can best prepare their meat at home», says Stefanak. «So they learn, for example, that we never use marinades, which would stifle the fantastic aroma of our meat. Quite the opposite: we actually emphasize and bring out the flavour with our home-made salt.» This tip has been so popular with the guests that more and more often, they ask for the salt and want to purchase it. «We didn't actually anticipate that. But we're now selling around 2,000 jars of it every year», laughs Stefanak.

His boss is delighted. «Great – a wonderful example of our proximity to our customers»: something that is very close to Franco Savastano's heart. «We are not just a department store, we live out our philosophy», he explains. «Jelmoli is fully democratic. We aim to offer something for everyone. Our range of products is not just broad but also deep, with a high-quality offer for every purse. Quality is nothing elite or out-of-the-ordinary here.» «Plus we offer our friendliness free with it», adds Stefanak.

He's been working for Jelmoli for seven years now: to start with, he worked through a number of departments, before finding his favourite post in 2014: Grillmaster at The Market Grill. «An absolute dream job. I feel at home here», he explains. Is there really nothing he'd change? «No! Actually, yes! There's just one thing that bothers me a little: The Market Grill just doesn't have enough seating space.» ‘As you can see’, he could have added, for the Grill is filling up now. High time for Franco Savastano to take his leave. «Thank you, and see you soon», he calls, and heads for the lift.

Jelmoli meets FOOD ZURICH

Switzerland's largest food festival takes place from 24th May until 3rd June. And Jelmoli is part of it. For eleven days, Zürich and the surrounding area will become a hotspot for cuisine, sensory delights and gastronomy, with over 111 events offering tastings, workshops and courses. The whole range of culinary arts will be on show: fine food, social food, street food – and everything in between. Come to the FOOD ZURICH Opening Night in the Jelmoli FOOD MARKETor visit the Jelmoli grocer Walti Keller in Zürich’s Engros Market.

Read more about FOOD ZURICH

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