Nice jacket, want a filet with that?

May 18, 2011

Some department stores see foodservice as a traffic magnet, and a way to potentially entice more sales.

Covet a terrace table on the roof of Barney’s in Beverly Hills? Plenty of entertainment industry power players do too. That’s the scene at Barney Greengrass, the legendary New York City restaurant and appetizing store that opened a West Coast branch atop its (nearly) namesake Barneys New York store in this sunny shopping mecca.

At Neiman Marcus, a test of fine dining menus showed higher sales for “Go Figure” items that disclose full nutritional information.  Therefore, all menus will feature several of these items. The luxury specialty retailer has a foodservice division that operates 42 restaurants in Neiman Marcus stores around the United States.

These are glimpses of destination dining in tony apparel stores. More than convenient places where clothes shoppers can rest their weary legs and arms (from carrying bags) and refuel for more, these restaurants are trip generators in their own right.  

At the Neiman Marcus Cafe in downtown Dallas, cooking classes are a way to further engage customers with food. If they infuse the classes with a greater appreciation of food and what it takes to get it right, we think at The Lempert Report that’s not far from what sales associates in other store departments do when they discuss designers with their customers. This could serve as an effective yet subtle bridge to the store’s housewares department, built on the promise of replicating a pleasant restaurant experience at home.

We believe stores like Barneys, Neiman Marcus, Saks and Bloomingdale’s will integrate food in ways that support their marquee brands.  Naturally, the foodservice operations will differ.  For some, outsourcing makes sense; for others, in-house control will be the ticket.  Whichever approach retailers choose, it beats mall food courts for shoppers, and there’s plenty of opportunity ahead.