Anyone tried shopping at Fresh & Easy?

We have about 15 fresh & easy stores in the Vegas valley atm, with another 10 or so to come before summer 2009. I was intrigued to see what a UK based company would do when setting up a grocery chain in the US, so I moseyed in one day to check it out.

I was first kind of taken aback that the stores are so small, and the shelves didn’t ever go higher than about 5 feet. I could see the whole store at a glance!

Then I noticed that the produce was all styroshrink packaged, and thought “well, this isn’t gonna be good”.

Then I saw that about 50% of the stock in the store was f&e brand. Weird, I thought.

Anyway, I ambled around with my basket and got a pre-made bean & cheese burrito, some lemonade, some cheesy poofs, and some lemon sorbet, all store brand. The cost was on par with what I would pay at Smith’s or Albertson’s, maybe a few cents cheaper. I didn’t like the self-checkout (that’s the only option available), but there was someone nearby to help me if I had a problem.

I did like seeing that most of the product ingredients were organic. Compared to Whole Foods or Wild Oats or New Leaf Market, products were a lot cheaper.

I was hungry, so I go home and proceed to start trying the stuff. And my jaw about hit the floor.

Almost everything I have tried with the f&e brand has been the best I have ever tasted.

I now shop there regularly, and only go to a mega-grocer for particular brands or products that I can’t get at f&e.

They have prepared meals of all kinds. The produce, altho wrapped has all been great quality. I am a vegetarian, so I can’t speak about the meat or fish or sushi, but it all looks like good quality cuts to me.

It’s a whole lot different than shopping at a standard US grocery store, but the products are, IMO, terrific. Can this UK based company turn around how Americans are used to shopping? What have your experiences been?