- Chicago-based restaurant chain Pork & Mindy’s has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, resulting in the closure of all its locations, including those inside Kroger-owned Mariano’s grocery stores, Crain's Chicago Business first reported. Mariano's will also discontinue the sale of Pork & Mindy's products inside its stores.
- The retailer told the Chicago Tribune it plans to open a new restaurant concept called Mariano’s Smokehouse. Grocery Dive reached out to Mariano's for more information but had not heard back by press time.
- Mariano's struck a deal with Pork & Mindy's in March to open 28 in-store outlets. The restaurant brand, which debuted in 2016 under celebrity chef Jeff Mauro, filed for bankruptcy on Nov. 5. It listed liabilities of $1 million to $10 million and more than 50 creditors, according to filings.
Although Pork & Mindy’s started the year off strong, the strain of expanding too fast may have caught up with the company. In addition to its deal with Mariano’s, it also opened in a few food halls and in other cities like Denver and Minneapolis.
In August, the restaurant chain closed its original location in Chicago's Bucktown neighborhood, replacing it with a private event space and training center.
Mariano's, meanwhile, has labored to bring high-quality barbecue to its customers. The chain opened its Todd's BBQ concept several years ago and was going to replace those 28 locations with the up-and-coming Pork & Mindy's brand. According to Crain's Chicago Business, Pork & Mindy's had opened just a few of the 20 outlets it planned to bring to Mariano's stores by the end of this year.
The relationship between the grocer and the restaurant chain stretches back to 2015, when Mariano's began selling bottles of Pork & Mindy's barbecue sauce. Last year, the retailer brought the restaurant's signature candied bacon onto its shelves.
Now, Mariano's will try to stoke customer excitement once again with a new concept. Although details on Mariano's Smokehouse are scant, the grocer has a reputation for building successful foodservice offerings. This includes its Vero coffee and gelato bar, along with its Oki sushi bar.
Local reports, however, claim Mariano's has lost some of its appeal with customers in recent years. The chain's founder, Bob Mariano, who forged the retailer's identity as a lavish grocery destination, retired in 2017. Last year, Kroger consolidated its Roundy's and Mariano's divisions. At the same time, two top Mariano's lieutenants, Don Fitzgerald and Don Rosanova, stepped away from the company.
"Since founder Bob Mariano retired two years ago, the upscale Chicago-area grocery chain has come to resemble the midmarket stores of its Cincinnati-based owner," Crain's wrote in an August story.
Kroger has made local restaurant partnerships a priority of late. The retailer announced a partnership with Ohio-based Rapid Fire Pizza to bring its chain to Kroger Marketplaces in Ohio and sell frozen pizzas in the grocery stores, as well. Kroger also recently partnered with Tony Packo’s, a Hungarian-style hot dog chain to open in two of Kroger’s Toledo stores.