retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Associated Press had a story the other day about restaurant-style offerings in supermarkets - it talked about the success that Wegmans is having with its “The Pub at Wegmans” offering in Collegeville, Pennsylvania - that actually pointed to a new battle shaping up between supermarkets and restaurants.

“The grocer-as-quick-serve-restaurant model has done well in the recession, in part because the convenience is good and cost is low,” the AP writes. “But even as the economy upticks slightly, ready-to-eat food continues to drive more traffic to grocery stores, increasingly blurring the traditional boundaries between supermarkets and restaurants.”

However, that line gets blurred even more as restaurants open up their own retailing areas, offering fresh and prepared foods that are able to better extend their brand into the home. One chain example: Bob Evans.

“In December, Bob Evans opened a ‘Taste of the Farm’ retail area connected to its restaurant in Westerville, Ohio, where customers can pick up a hot spaghetti dinner, a salad or — talk about blurring boundaries — Bob Evans-brand grocery products,” the AP writes. “Company president and chief concept officer Randy Hicks says the retail centers fit customers' busy lifestyles. More are planned.”
KC's View:
Another example, on a much smaller scale...Mario Batali, who has a wonderful restaurant in Port Chester, NY, called the Tarry Lodge (try the black squid ink pasta!), reportedly is readying an Italian market next door as a way of extending his franchise.

Here’s the deal. If this battle means that people have greater access to more and better food, then it is a good thing. If the battle is over who can produce the most lowest common denominator products, then not so much.