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Rabba’s on a roll

Rabba Fine Foods spreads the word that it’s much more than a spot to satisfy snack attacks

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Toronto’s Rabba Fine Foods isn’t your typical convenience store, and it’s on a mission to get the word out to the masses.

In funny radio ads that ran this summer, the family-owned company played on what its cashiers are really thinking: Are the long hours and late nights worth it?

But when customers come in to get what they need, staff know they’re making a difference. The idea was to convey Rabba’s fresh, convenient message.

The “Diaries of a Rabba Cashier” campaign included six radio spots by Toronto-based Pink Elephant–the first marketing firm Rabba has hired in its 48-year history.

Why now?

Rabba wants to drive home the message that it’s different than a standard grocery or convenience store. Rabba, which operates 34 stores in the Greater Toronto Area and will open two more early next year, bills itself as a neighbourhood marketplace.

The 24-hour stores are typically near condo buildings or office towers, and most of the customers live or work within walking distance.

Rabba sells a wide assortment of fresh produce and meats, hot meals-to-go (think whole chicken, veal parmigiana and shepherd’s pie), fruit and veggie platters, deli sandwiches, snacks and baked goods.

Jiries Rabba, director of marketing, has been part of the family business since he was a kid helping out in the stores. (His uncle, Jack Rabba, founded Rabba Fine Foods.)

While he says the company’s strategy hasn’t changed much over the years–it offers quality products, convenience and great customer service– the grocery industry has. Rabba says he considers “everybody” to be competition.

“Fifteen years ago, there were just grocery stores and convenience stores, and now there are a lot of hybrids, like us,” says Rabba. “Shoppers Drug Mart now carries fresh foods and dairy products, so obviously that has an impact on us in locations [near a Shoppers].”

But Rabba has an advantage over many grocers: its smaller size. A typical store is 3,500 to 5,000 sq. ft.

“The 60,000-sq.-ft. grocery store is hard to accommodate in dense urban areas, so Rabba fits the bill,” says Maureen Atkinson, senior partner at retail consultancy J.C. Williams Group. Rabba also has the fresh factor going for it.

“They are really different from convenience stores in that they have fresh [products], and a lot of it is quite good, particularly their produce,” she adds. “They certainly are convenient for people in neighbourhoods. They’ve become a de facto grocery store for some people.”

Rabba is also putting more effort into winning over neighbourhoods by being a good neighbour. Working with Toronto PR firm Torchia Communications, Rabba is identifying charitable organizations with which it can partner (for example, one that addresses the issue of kids going to school hungry).

And, if its recent campaign works, those communities will think of Rabba as more than a pit stop for snacks.

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