What do Cracker Barrel, Ikea, Nordstrom and Eataly have in common? The answer may not be immediately obvious - a comfort food restaurant, a Swedish furniture store, a department store and an Italian market? But if you think a little harder, you may realize that they all incorporate restaurants and retail. In fact, the more you think, the more examples of companies that do this will probably come to mind. While each outlet may focus on one more strongly than the other, combining the two is becoming a growing trend. Retail-host restaurants are the fastest growing segment in food service. Online shopping has hit the retail industry hard, and one way to draw new customers into a brick and mortar shop is by offering food. Retailers are aiming to create an exciting customer experience - something to entice them to shop away from the computer. One retailer navigating the restaurant landscape is the URBN group; their family of retailers includes Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie and Free People. In 2015, URBN acquired the Vetri Family group of restaurants. The partnership lasted for two years, until Vetri split from the retailer; however, URBN is still moving forward with its restaurant/retail merger. They’ve opened Amis outposts in Devon, PA and Westport, CT, and continue to operate restaurants in Philadelphia as well as Terrain Cafe locations.
While URBN is a large-scale example of a retailer embracing the restaurant industry, more and more restaurants are exploring retail options. Gift shops within restaurants, especially chains, are not a new concept, but smaller restaurants, such as Maketto in Washington D.C., are beginning to offer more curated, specialized goods. Selling food is the obvious choice for a restaurant’s retail operation, such as the olive oil that’s served at the table or even offering a house-made dressing or condiment as a consumer packaged good, but less obvious items can make sense, as well. If your flatware and serveware are especially beautiful, or maybe even sourced from a local artisan, customers may be interested in taking some home with them. Other items to consider may be flowers, local produce or books.
If you’re integrating your restaurant with retail, make sure to stay on brand. If you’re partnering with a retailer, choose one that shares the same design sensibilities as you, and of course, make sure it’s a mutually beneficial partnership. And if you’re just beginning to offer consumer goods in your restaurant, your merchandising and packaging should be attractive, and you should highlight your brand wherever it makes sense.
While this merging of industries may seem scary at first, it offers many benefits. Certainly, an alternate revenue stream, especially when customers may be waiting for a table - what better way to pass the time than to shop? But also a way to extend and elevate your brand while offering your customers a pleasurable, unique experience.