Could in-store dining win shoppers’ hearts?

January 07, 2010

Supermarkets that offer sit-down dining on their premises are in the minority.

Supermarkets that offer sit-down dining on their premises are in the minority. But if operators were to think about the possible benefits, they might find new measures of an eatery’s worth to justify trial and possible commitment.

Consider these for starters:
•    Differentiator in the local marketplace
•    Potential new revenue stream and traffic builder (an important tool for independents and small chains competing against larger operators)
•    Positions store as a more family-friendly destination (kids and seniors could park there while mom shops)
•    Extends shopping trips
•    A place to showcase prepared foods for times when shoppers want to take out
•    Relaxes shoppers with a “bite” as they prepare to explore store, thinking of it as a food emporium
•    Promotions could build continuity and new regular visitors to the store, as well as enlarge baskets
•    A setting for displays of wines, condiments, cookbooks, serving ware and much more

Clearly restaurants have faced tough economic challenges the past two years, and times are still rough for them. But is suggesting that food stores reevaluate the potential synergies as part of a long-term strategy to keep shoppers on the premises and engage them in new ways that could enhance cash flow.  

Think of all the help you could get from key branded suppliers, who keep looking for new ways to cement relationships with retailers in order to secure a fair shake for their brands on category shelves. Stores could likely benefit from the recipes of brands they sell, the product-development efforts of their test kitchens, and the marketing expertise of their account teams.  Wouldn’t it be cool, for instance, to note on menus or a store map by the eatery where favorite items could be found for sale in the store?

We recognize that supermarkets have failed to fully capitalize on the prepared-foods opportunities in their stores, and that on-premise dining could add new complexities to their restaurant encroachment. But there are enough successes to emulate, and enough to be gained from such efforts, to at least give this serious consideration in 2010 and beyond.