COLUMBIA, Mo. – More millennials are beginning to visit grocery stores not for the food on the shelves but for the food on the menu, National Public Radio’s The Salt reports. As online grocery shopping picks up speed, many grocery stores are turning to prepared foods and actual sit-down restaurants to bring in younger shoppers.
Kyle Riggs, manager of the Market Grille restaurant at a Hy-Vee supermarket, said that the full wine wall, 20 beers on tap and high-end alcohol enhance the dining experience. The food cooked in the restaurant’s kitchen comes directly from the grocery shelves. Riggs said football games pack the 148-seat grille with young professionals and college students.
“Grocerants” aren’t new—Whole Foods and Wegmans have had sit-down dining options for years—but there’s been a recent bump in prepared meals at supermarkets that includes dining rooms. NPD Group estimated the prepared store meals have jumped 30% since 2008 and represented $10 billion in sales in 2016.
Hy-Vee saw the potential for in-store dining years ago and now has 115 Market Grilles attached to its grocery stores. The chain recently announced its move into larger format convenience stores with Market Grilles.
“It's really made a big difference for us in the evening,” said Jeremy Gosch, executive vice president strategy and chief merchandising officer at Hy-Vee, Inc. “That's where most traditional grocery store food service had opportunity. … I think we're capturing business that we didn't have before in our foodservice department.”
“This is a trend that's going to continue to grow,” said Supermarket Guru Phil Lempert. “Grocers are putting more money and more effort in this. They see it as their culinary mark, if you would, on society. So this is here to stay.”