A Grocery Store Inside A Restaurant? Perhaps The New Reality Of A Post-Coronavirus World

COVID-19 , Operations ,

Source: Forbes

Most restaurants in the U.S. have been shut down for weeks, some for months, and there is speculation that a good percentage may never open again. Some restaurateurs from Wolfgang Puck to many local restaurants have converted to takeout-only until they are given the okay to resume their normal business. But according to Puck, there will be changes in the future, such as less tables to provide more distancing. That means his staff will shrink and his restaurants’ prices may have to increase as volume decreases, while certain fixed costs like rent remain the same.

Then there are even more entrepreneurial restaurants and caterers—even chains including Panera and Big Boy—who also added an assortment of goods they had on hand (or they were able to secure it from their foodservice distributors) to sell directly to consumers. Assortments include alcohol, boxes and cans of ingredients, flour, meats, produce and yes, even toilet paper.

This makes me wonder if this is the beginning of a new concept: a “restaurmart.”

We have seen many supermarkets enter the foodservice arena with their “grocerant” concepts with great success. Why not do the opposite in order to save the restaurant business and add extra profits for the restaurant and extra convenience for their customers? After all, lets remember that pre-coronavirus, the average customer went to a store to buy food 2.2 times a week. According to Zagat, the average person goes out to eat 4.9 times a week for lunch or dinner.

Imagine the additional profit that could be realized if, on each of those 4.9 occasions, a diner also picked up an assortment of products to bring home. For those restaurants known for their special sauces, unique recipes and even desserts, packaging them with their own branding just increases the strength of the relationship and their brand.

Major foodservice-only distributors like Sysco have already started helping their restaurant customers create these new mini markets. Its new website, Sysco Pop Up Shop, notes that “restaurants now have the opportunity to offer additional ‘essential’ products” and offers resources on how they can get started resources and grow the business.

It’s a great idea, which also helps the giant distributor whose warehouses are stocked with foods they aren’t able to sell to restaurants. (Even those who are doing takeout are reporting a fraction of their normal business.)

Come to think of it, this restaurmart concept sounds like a bit of a twist on Cracker Barrel chain, which started out in 1969 as a “old country store.” It has since grown to over 650 restaurants/country stores and its brands of meats and signature buttermilk baking and pancake mixes are sold in supermarkets throughout the country.

Restaurmarts just could be the savior of the foodservice industry.