- Whole Foods opened two new in-store eateries this week, according to reports from Fast Casual. Bird in the Hand, an American rotisserie concept, opened inside Whole Foods' West Palm Beach, Florida location, and Nekter Juice Bar opened its first store within a Whole Foods in Porter Ranch, California.
- Bird in the Hand was developed with the Whole Foods customer in mind, operator Collab Hospitality said in a statement. Menu items include a lemon rosemary bird, a 20-spice bird and black truffle prime rib. The menu also features vegetarian options like fire-roasted cauliflower, pretzel mac-n-cheese and maple-roasted bacon Brussels sprouts. The restaurant will also serve house-made desserts. Nekter will debut a signature coffee menu at its new Whole Foods location.
- The partnerships are part of Whole Foods’ Friends of Whole Foods Market program, which looks to bring unique in-store experiences and local flavor to shoppers through chefs, culinary and lifestyle brands.
The restaurant-in-store concept, which has taken off in recent years, is accelerating as of late. Kroger recently announced that its new Pork & Mindy’s barbecue restaurants will soon be inside 28 Chicago-area stores, and Rapid Fired Pizza will be located inside their stores across Ohio. Wegmans has a variety of concepts from tequila bars to pubs to cafés, as well as its popular Burger Bar. Hy-Vee offers high-end fare and table service at its Market Grille at more than 100 stores and is also opening 26 Wahlburgers locations for the casual meal.
Whole Foods has always offered many ready-to-eat options with a special focus on local partnerships with restaurant purveyors through its "Friends" program. The Whole Foods in Cedar Park, Texas operates an Easy Tiger Bake Shop & Beer Garden. At locations in Austin, Brooklyn and Concord, California, Next Level Burger serves up 100% plant-based burgers. Fire Leaf Asian Kitchen brings pan-Asian comfort food to Whole Foods customers in Akron, Ohio.
In addition to individual restaurants, the prepared food section remains popular at grocery stores as many people choose to "dine out" at their local store rather eat at a traditional restaurant. In total, grocerants generated 2.4 billion visits and $10 billion in sales in 2016, driven by millennial consumers. The key driver is the offering of freshly prepared meals that are usually cheaper than takeout. The in-store experience is also important, as places that create a welcoming dining environment are more likely to woo diners and win repeat customers who want to shop and dine in one place.
The Florida market is competitive for Whole Foods. Sprouts Farmers Markets plans to open five new locations in the Sunshine State this year, which will include a variety of prepared options including sushi, sandwiches and fresh juices in its Market Corner Delis. Meanwhile, Aldi is remodeling and expanding its Florida footprint, adding offerings such as kombucha, veggie noodles and organic meats that more closely reflect Whole Foods' assortment. Sales at Publix continue to surge as Floridians flock to the popular grocer for its famous subs as well as healthy, organic offerings from its GreenWise label.