Supermarket Bars: Drinking & Shopping

The Wall Street Journal: “Some high-end supermarkets are serving alcohol. Many have set aside space for wine bars and beer gardens where they host tasting events, with drinks and appetizers. Some stores encourage shoppers to ‘sip ’n’ shop,’ drinking while pushing a shopping cart for a more relaxed shopping experience.”

“At nearly 350 Whole Foods locations nationwide, shoppers can carry open beverages out of the bar area and around the store as they shop around. Some stores have added cup holders to their shopping carts or placed racks around the store where shoppers can place empty stemless wine glasses. In some Texas locations, the $1 cans of beer rest in ice-filled buckets labeled ‘walkin’ around beer’.”

“Shoppers perceive drinks at supermarkets to be a better value than drinks in a traditional bar or club … Bars stretch out the time shoppers, especially 20-somethings, spend in the store. That helps new shoppers get to know the store, even if they had planned to make just a quick stop.”

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B-Dubs Wants to Eat Chipotle’s Lunch

Business Insider: Buffalo Wild Wings has introduced “a 15-minute lunch guarantee. Starting now, when customers order a meal off the ‘B-Dubs Fast Break’ lunch menu, servers need to bring the dish to the table within 15 minutes, or the entire meal is free … The company said the decision to debut the 15-minute guarantee is rooted in research that many customers only have 30 to 40 minutes to eat lunch, from the time they enter the restaurant until the time that they leave.”

“With the rise of fast-casual chains like Panera Bread and Chipotle, a number of casual dining chains have struggled to keep up with the speedier rivals.”

“The 15-minute guarantee is part of a bigger plan at Buffalo Wild Wings to boost its quick-service lunch business. In February, the company announced it was investing in growing its take-out business in 2016 … Meanwhile, competitors with speedier service are thriving. Takeaway accounts for 75% of business at Buffalo Wild Wing’s rival Wingstop — something that Wingstop has said to be key to growing sales for the last 12 years.”

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Coming Soon: Robo-Burgers

Popular Mechanics: “In 2012, robotics start up Momentum Machines invented a machine that can make a burger from start to finish. This impressive feat will soon be put to use with a robot-run burger restaurant in the South of Market area in San Francisco … Every aspect of the burger is customizable, from thickness and cook time to condiments. The machine will take up about 24 square feet and the tech blog Xconomy predicted it could save a restaurant $90,000 a year in training and salaries.”

“Many people worry that the use of work-saving robotic technology like this machine will put vast numbers of people out of work … Momentum Machines says that their project will actually create jobs by providing opportunities in restaurant management and technology development. That probably isn’t too comforting to your average line cook.”

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Story-doing: The Kellogg’s Café

The Wall Street Journal: “Who would go to a restaurant to eat Frosted Flakes—and pay $6, maybe even $8 for it? What if the bowl was topped with a sprinkle of lemon zest, toasted pistachios and fresh thyme, and was singularly delicious? Kellogg’s will find out the answer on July 4, when it opens its first-ever restaurant, in New York’s Times Square … a sleek, intimate space in which to challenge eaters’ conceptions.”

“The playful recipes … include the pistachio- and lemon-spiked bowl of Frosted Flakes and Special K … and ice cream topped with Rice Krispies, strawberries and matcha powder. Customers will pick up orders via a set of ‘kitchen cabinets,’ a kind of un-automated automat. Inside the door will be their food and a little surprise, like those found in a box of cereal. Most days, it will be a small treat—a plastic ring or a morning newspaper. But there are also plans in the works to give away several tickets to the Broadway smash, Hamilton.”

“This is story-doing versus storytelling,” said Andrew Shripka, the associate director of brand marketing. “We could have put a great recipe on the box. But this is so much more powerful.”

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Have a Beer at Barnes & Noble?

The Washington Post: Barnes & Noble “will market test four redesigned stores later this year that feature larger café areas offering wine, beer and an expanded food menu, as well as table service. The goal is to boost traffic to the stores and to grow food and beverage sales from just under 10 percent of the retailer’s total sales to a larger pillar of the business.”

“The new design is aimed at making Barnes & Noble a competitor for your dinnertime dollars, not just your morning or afternoon pick-me-up … The café changes aren’t the only ones Barnes & Noble is implementing to try to make its stores into more of a gathering place. It is moving to add more seating throughout the store so you’ll be enticed to curl up with your book, and it is doubling down on events such as hands-on play sessions in its toy and game department.”

“And it is trying to reorganize the stores with better navigation. In some cases, that will mean simplifying signage, such as changing a section called ‘entrepreneurship’ to just ‘business.’ In others, that will mean putting items close together that are likely to appeal to a single shopper. So a new section of infant and toddler sleep books will be nearby those about baby food and baby sign language.”

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Finger Pickin’ Good: The Hardee’s Jam

The Wall Street Journal: “How many banjo players fit in a Hardee’s? More than fit in a McDonald’s, it turns out. On regular Sunday evenings, bluegrass picker Rick Cleavenger joins fiddlers, guitarists and others to jam at the red-roofed burger joint. The musicians have been playing, eating and making corny jokes here since 2012, after a McDonald’s, their previous venue, rearranged its tables and chairs, making it impossible to clear enough space.”

“Mr. Cleavenger landed the Hardee’s venue because the manager, Lori Westfall, had been a high-school math student of his … Sometimes customers walk in after hearing the music from their cars. The musicians aren’t the best customers, given that they stay for more than four hours and generally only eat one or two sandwiches each, ‘but they are fine people,’ says Ms. Westfall.”

“Brad Haley, chief marketing officer for Hardee’s and sister restaurant chain Carl’s Jr., says even though ‘a certain level of consistency is important,’ the chain welcomes local culture … ‘It has to be organic, with people inviting people they know,’ says Mr. Haley. “We’re not going to put up a sign that says ‘Bluegrass Jam Welcome’.”

As to the McDonald’s snub: “Terri Hickey, a spokeswoman for McDonald’s Corp., says ‘franchisees are independent business owners who determine how they delight their customers in relevant ways.’ In New York City, there is a “McDonald’s where customers can dine to music played by a local DJ,’ she says.”

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Chick-fil-App: No More Waiting in Line

Business Insider: “Chick-fil-A is rolling out a new app that will let customers avoid waiting in line at the register. The app, called Chick-fil-A One, will allow customers to order and pay for their food in advance, then pick it up at a counter designated for online orders. The app will also allow users to customize and save their favorite orders. Michael Lage, a veteran of Facebook and Google who helped develop the app, says it will change how customers, particularly parents with young children, experience and interact with Chick-fil-A.”

“To celebrate the launch of the app, Chick-fil-A is giving away free chicken sandwiches to everyone who downloads it between June 1 and June 11 … The app will continue to give away free food beyond the launch through its built-in rewards program, which will randomly send customers free-food offers based on what they typically order.”

“When customers get free treats from Chick-fil-A, they will have the opportunity to rate them. Those ratings will be factored into the app’s future free-food offers. Customers will typically get a choice of several items for their free-food offers. For example, they will be allowed to choose among a free drink, dessert, or medium fry. ‘We want to make sure the experience is based on personalization and choice,’ Lage said.”

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Organic Coup: The Costco of Chicken Sandwiches

Business Insider: “The Organic Coup, which is the first USDA-certified organic fast-food chain in the US, just raised $7 million in an initial round of financing led by Costco founder and former CEO Jim Sinegal … The chain, which specializes in fried-chicken sandwiches and chocolate-drizzled caramel popcorn, has two restaurants — one in San Francisco and another in Pleasanton, California.”

One of the restaurant’s co-founders is Erica Welton, a “food buyer for Costco for 14 years before leaving to launch Organic Coup with Dennis Hoover, a 33-year Costco veteran … Welton and Hoover don’t have any prior restaurant experience” but “are modeling the new chain off of Costco in many ways.”

“Organic Coup is paying starting wages of $16 an hour in San Francisco and $14 an hour in Pleasanton. Fast-food workers in the US make $7.98 an hour on average, according to PayScale. The restaurant’s specialty is its spicy fried chicken made from organic, air-chilled chicken breasts fried in coconut oil … The menu is pretty simple. Customers can get the fried chicken with a range of sauces on a bun, in a multigrain wrap, or in a bowl with shredded vegetables … The chain will be adding tator tots to the menu as well.”

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