Kathleen Purvis: 6 things we noticed at Publix

What does Publix have that makes it different? The chain is trying to differentiate itself from competitors such as Harris Teeter and Whole Foods as it pushes into Charlotte.

We spotted these on a media walk-through Tuesday. Some are new to the chain as well; the new Charlotte store is a pilot program for innovations.

1. Smarter cart corrals. Forget the metal racks that take up parking spaces. Concrete troughs, sort of like rain gutters, are set into grass medians to hold carts.

2. Cafe society. The cafe menu is divided into “day parts,” with breakfast (including cheesy bacon grits and oatmeal with toppings) in the morning, pizza and flavored pretzels during lunch, and “indulgent desserts” at night. How indulgent? Stuffed “knife and fork” doughnuts are too big to hold in one hand.

3. The “pizza box.” It’s a small refrigerator by the bakery where you can pick up several flavors of pizza dough along with packaged pizza toppings, like diced peppers and onions, mushrooms and pepperoni.

4. Order lunch online. The deli includes Chef’s Selection freshly cooked food. Order sandwiches and deli food for pickup online, by phone app or at a kiosk in the store.

5. See a recipe demo. Apron’s Simple Meals is a recipe-demonstration kiosk. The focus is 30-minute family dinners: Watch it get made, grab the recipe, then get the key ingredients in a nearby cooler. Kitchen tools are there too, in case you need measuring spoons.

6. Nutrition help. The large health and wellness section includes “Aisle 7,” a computer loaded with nutrition information, and a full-time staff member (Marvin-K at Ballantyne) to help with food shopping for health issues.