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Thursday, February 3, 2011

High Quality Prepared Food Departments Add Dine-in Cafes to Drive Traffic at Grocery Stores

Prepared food bar at Wegmans.  Photo Courtesy of
Been to a Wegmans lately?  The Market Cafés have pizza, freshly-made sushi, burritos, Thai food, and vegetarian choices for dining in or taking home. And Kroger took out the underused salad bars to make way for prepackaged salads, sandwiches, and carnitas. My own local Harris Teeter offers chef-staffed prepared food stations.  Imagine that, a live person ready to make my perfect California roll.

As a self-proclaimed 'foodie' you would think I'd stick to the trendy new restaurants in downtown D.C. But on today’s shoestring budget that’s not possible.  Instead, I find myself eating what I want at attractive, upscale bistro area of my local grocery store.

The traditional grocery channel made 57% of retail food & beverage dollar sales in 2010, according to market research publisher Packaged Facts. Through their in-store foodservice options, traditional grocery stores stand to further grow in share of U.S. food & beverage sales.

Grocery stores are aiming to make shopping more appealing by providing upscale restaurant-like experiences to customers. In order to attract as many shoppers as possible, stores are providing a wide range of restaurant-style foods and amenities: wood-fired pizzas, made-to-order soups, sandwich and sushi bars, and dining areas. And the eager (read: hungry) shoppers who want to grab a quick meal while grabbing the groceries, take a break for lunch, or get a snack before the drive or walk back home are eating it up.

Packaged Facts analysis expects to see food retailing and foodservice channels continue to converge around fresh prepared foods, working fervently to make consumption more convenient. As a result, the competitive lines between grocery stores, restaurants, convenience stores, and other channels will continue to blur in a U.S. food & beverage retail market projected by Packaged Facts to reach nearly $700 billion by 2015.

At the end of the day, when the sushi stand has been cleaned and the fresh olive bar has closed, what else will retailers be looking to add? Besides adding to their variety of on-the-go foods, deli and prepared food departments will expand with easily accessible take-out entrances and check-out lanes; curbside pick-up and call-ahead ordering; website and smart phone apps for ordering.

Well, that’s where its heading, but for me its lunch-time and I’m heading over to the Parisian café at my local Whole Foods Market. Or maybe a grilled vegetable sub at Teeters? I could really go for some sushi-…

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