Can Barnes & Noble Kitchen Help the Bookchain Turn Profits Page?

There’s no full-service dining at Amazon

June 27, 2018

Barnes & Noble is aiming to create a new best-seller list of foods and beverages to augment hot titles from beloved authors.  

An edibles experience that Amazon can’t match is the bookchain’s latest hope to attract customers, lengthen visits, encourage purchases of reading material, and grow total transaction size. 

Its Barnes & Noble Kitchen eateries – now in five affluent suburban locations, according to Eater – are a far cry from the limited coffee bars that failed to lead to enough book purchases for operators like Borders, where too many people occupied seats and skimmed rather than bought.

This format has a woodsy décor with bookshelves, a library-ish look, sight lines to the retail selling floor, sometimes a bar and outdoor seating, and full-service dining menus that include $26 short ribs, a $19 roast chicken dish with carrot-kale slaw, a $16 brisket burger, and $12 avocado toast.

Bookstores are under enormous financial pressure due to Amazon. Census Bureau data cited by The New York Times show bookstore revenue last October was nearly 40% lower than a decade ago.  Yet there’s life in the channel: the number of independent bookstores has risen in the past year, and sales from approximately 700 reporting stores are up 5% in the first four months of 2018 from a year ago, the American Booksellers Association CEO Oren Teicher told The Associated Press.

Time will tell if full-service dining will be the page-turner Barnes & Noble seeks.  The concept is less than two years old – the first opened in Edina, MN, and the latest opened in Ashburn, VA – so it may take time to see if the experiences it delivers will be differentiating enough to generate trips and purchases.

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