News & Trends

Why retailers love the idea of in-store restaurants

Posted by: Jen Maisch Jen Maisch
on August 22, 2016

It’s noon. You’ve got a busy Saturday – haircut at 1:30 p.m., followed by a workout, and Mom’s birthday dinner at 6 p.m. You still need a gift for Mom, but your stomach is grumbling and you can’t hold off until after the haircut. What are your options?

Luckily for you, retailers far and wide know their shoppers are often hungry, and sometimes hangry. They’ve responded by integrating sit-down food and drink concepts into their stores.

URBN, parent company of Free People, Urban Outfitters, and Anthropologie, made waves when it bought The Vetri Family’s group of restaurants, which includes the award-winning Pizzeria Vetri, in 2015. However, URBN wasn’t the first retailer with the vision to build a restaurant/eatery inside their brick-and-mortar stores, and more and more we are seeing retailers doing so to create a better experience for their customers.

A one-stop trip for hungry shoppers

Perhaps the trend took root in grocery stores and specialty markets that could feed hungry customers with prepared foods and quick grab-and-go meals. Retailers took notice.

One of the first retailers to follow suit was Tommy Bahama’s, which now runs a restaurant and bar in 16 of its stores. And many others have joined: Macy’s partnered with Patina Restaurant Group to open Stella 34 Trattoria, a modern restaurant concept that features classic Italian dishes in a private setting, at the flagship Herald Square store; Nordstrom has more than a dozen restaurant concepts, from small plates to juice bars to noodle bowls; and Restoration Hardware’s Chicago location is a new hospitality concept featuring retail and three food service offerings, including an intimate tasting room. It’s all part of the larger trend of creating experiential retail, where customers spend a longer amount of time in the store, and ultimately more money while there. For instance, some Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World locations have plenty of outdoor inventory, but also a restaurant and café, archery ranges, and rock-climbing walls. Other retailers, like Target, are replacing “unhealthy foods” with quick grab-and-go counters offering salads and sandwiches or coffee bars in their stores.

In June, Barnes & Noble announced plans to open a handful of redesigned stores that serve wine and beer, too. How about a bottle of Shiraz to pair with some Shakespeare?

The appeal of shopping, eating close to home

The subtext here is driving consumers to in-store shopping remains a key focus for retailers. In fact, ICSC found that 78 percent of consumers prefer shopping in-store than online. Not only do shoppers prefer going to a brick-and-mortar location, but they want it to be an experience that cannot be replicated by clicking a mouse or a thumb tap. And, it’s an added benefit when consumers can combine two trips into one – picking up a gift, for example, and getting a bite to eat.

These restaurants can match the personalities of the retail stores they live in, too. Take URBN’s garden and home brand, Terrain; its Pennsylvania and Connecticut locations have a restaurant that serves locally-sourced food, which is aligned with the brand’s stock of native plants and outdoor living equipment. Neiman Marcus’s The Zodiac offers shoppers an elegant and upscale meal in a handful of U.S. cities. The recently renovated La Provence, in White Plains, New York’s Bloomingdale’s, gives shoppers a sit-down option with modern décor and touches of elegance through antique finishes.

But there’s also easy and light options. Who can forget about IKEA’s famous Swedish meatballs?

Aisle, restaurant, checkout

What does the future hold for retailers and food options? We think this trend will continue, with retailers keeping customers in the store longer thanks to more coffee shops, bars, and sit-down restaurant options. One reason why: they are targeting millennial shoppers who love to spend money on food and experiences. A restaurant in a retail setting caters to 20-something shoppers who still like shopping in-store and not just online.

So you’ve got the gift for you mother and your stomach is full. It looks like your local retailer was the perfect place to go, right?

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