By Craig Patterson
Toronto-based small-format grocery chain Rabba Fine Foods has opened a prototype store in Etobicoke with plans to replicate it in other existing and new locations as the retailer expands its operations.
The newly opened store is ‘European-inspired’, according to Rabba, featuring updated lighting, wider aisles, an expanded assortment of fresh produce, deli options and hot-and-ready home meal replacements.
“Our customers have been telling us they appreciate selection, space and décor, as well as smaller packages for urban living and quality food options that are ready to enjoy," said Peter Lombardi, category manager at Rabba Fine Foods. “We’ve gathered a strong team of passionate grocers, both inside and outside of the company, to work together to adjust our store layout, selection and décor, and we’re very pleased with the results.”
The prototype store is located at 4869 Dundas Street West in Etobicoke and is already seeing positive feedback from customers. As a result, Rabba says that it is planing to roll-out the design into all 34 of its stores in the Greater Toronto Area in the future.
The 6,000 square foot Etobicoke store, considered to be the chain’s ‘ideal size’, was chosen as the test location because of its popularity, high sales performance, and a pre-existing Tim Hortons location. In an article in Retail Insider last month, the company said that it plans to expand its partnership with Tim Hortons to other locations in order to further drive traffic to its stores. Eight of Rabba’s locations currently house Tim Hortons.
As with other Rabba stores, the Etobicoke location operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, which differentiates it from most other grocery chains that operate with limited hours.
Rabba Fine Foods was founded in 1967 as a small grocery store called ‘Variety Food Fair’ on Charles Street West near the corner of Balmuto Street, and the first Rabba-branded store opened in the 1980’s on Queen’s Quay in Toronto’s Harbourfront area.
Rabba continues to operate on Charles Street West in an expanded space across from the Manulife Centre which, early next year, will unveil Canada’s first location for popular Italian food concept Eataly. A block away, just off the corner of Yonge Street and Bloor Street, a Mark McEwan grocery store will also open around the same time. By early 2019, the area will boast the highest density of grocery retailers of any place in Canada.
As Toronto’s downtown core continues to add new residents in condominium towers, other grocery retailers are eyeing the market which boasts a highly-educated population and above-average incomes. Many downtown residents choose to walk to local stores to buy necessities and as a result, the already crowded market will be seeing more grocery retailers seeking space to cater to locals.
Large chains such as Loblaw and Sobeys already operate grocery stores in Toronto’s downtown core, and smaller chains such as Hasty Market have opened stores to cater to locals. Rabba’s new concept will help it maintain market share as competition increases for customers, not to mention retail space at the base of newly-built mixed-use projects being eyed by other chains.
Rabba Fine Foods also plans to open more stores in the Greater Toronto Area, including in Toronto’s downtown core. Last month, the company said that there was no upper limit as to the number of stores that it could open, and its new format could help facilitate that growth as competition also looks to expand in the area.