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Shop to Table

Non-food retailers set their sights on food & beverage concepts to reinvigorate large retail spaces, generate buzz, drive visits and target growth.

Retailers are Creating Moments for Customers to Shop & Savor

For some time now, retailers have been incorporating in-store restaurants, cafés and high-traffic concepts, such as salon services, to complement the shopping experience and encourage lingering.  Once considered primarily a vehicle to create staying power, food and beverage concepts now present retailers with an attractive growth opportunity of their own accord.

Last year marked the first time in U.S. history that consumers started spending more on dining out than they do on food inside the home, and non-food retailers are beginning to tap into foodservice to attract customers and leverage underutilized square footage for socializing, savoring, and elevating the in-store environment with culturally-relevant multi-sensory experiences.

Are Struggling Store Bases Adopting a Winning Recipe?

This month Barnes & Noble debuted its third prototype store offering a full-service restaurant and café aimed at delivering unexpected comforts in the customer journey as shoppers read, relax and browse. The store at the Palladio of Broadstone located in Folsom, California, features a 2,600-square foot space dubbed ‘The Kitchen’ that provides seating to accommodate 140 customers.

The Kitchen offers regional wines, local brews and a chef-driven, all-day menu of seasonal farm to table fare using locally sourced ingredients, adding a touch of cultural cache to upscale the retail offering. Inside the space, customers can purchase books, receive table service and lounge in the attractive setting, providing one more reason for shoppers to spend time at the bookstore retailer.

In November of last year, Urban Outfitters took matters a step further when the company inked an unusual deal to acquire a majority stake in the Philadelphia-based Vetri Family group of restaurants for approximately $20 million. Urban Outfitters had previously experimented in partnerships with high-profile chefs, including Marc Vetri, to operate food concepts in collaboration with the brand’s lifestyle concept stores, such as Space 24 Twenty in Austin, TX.  Now Urban Outfitters includes its namesake specialty apparel stores, Anthropologie, Free People, and The Vetri Family group of restaurants, known for its award-winning Pizzeria Vetri.

For Urban, the deal represents an effort to drive traffic to its core store business and to target growth by expanding into the casual dining sector.  According to a recent interview with Marc Vetri, Urban Outfitters is currently considering opening restaurant locations near traditional Urban Outfitters stores as well as opening pizzerias within certain stores.

Retailers Strive for Relevance to Today’s Digitally-Savvy, Experience-Wired Consumers

This evolving trend of looking to foodservice to reinvigorate non-food retail stores is underpinned by the rapid growth of ecommerce, giving way to a discerning omnichannel shopper who needs a compelling reason to visit the physical store.

And above and beyond enticing customers to visit stores, retailers are urgently looking to incorporate concepts that serve customers in culturally relevant ways that target growth and align with a longstanding shift toward an economy where consumers are seeking out experiences rather than just products.  Foodservice is just one area retailers are exploring to deliver a unique shopping experience to experience-driven consumers.

Retailers are exploring additional avenues, such as strategic partnerships that bring in new customers, provide new experiences and generate credibility for the brand. A successful example can be
seen in Nordstrom’s 2015 Vancouver flagship store, which includes Canada’s first-ever Drybar blow out bar, a high-end bistro overlooking Robson Square, and a rotating pop-up space that features exclusive products and experiences that keep customers coming back.

We commend retailers for their efforts to continuously evolve formats, products, and services to better reflect consumer appetites in today’s increasingly digital and experience-focused retail landscape.


McMillanDoolittle is a premier international retail consultancy bringing deep experience with world class clients. Our partners have extensive experience interpreting the retail marketplace and converting insights into successful strategies. We help clients develop innovative solutions in strategy development, the customer experience, new concepts, brand performance, retail performance improvement and retail intelligence services.

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