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Whole Foods said yesterday that the restaurant concept By Chloe., owned by ESquared Hospitality, has been named the first partner in what is being called the Friends of 365 program, which will bring outside vendors of various kinds into its new "365 by Whole Foods Market" format. By Chloe. is a vegan fast-casual concept that until now has had just one location, on Bleecker Street in New York's Greenwich Village.

Jeff Turnas, president of the 365 business, said in a prepared statement that the restaurant "truly embodies what we look for in partners – innovative businesses that align with our core values and introduce our customers to new food products and up and coming brands."

The story says that the restaurant "will feature its own space within the 365 by Whole Foods Market Silver Lake location, offering a core menu of items reflective of the flagship by CHLOE. location in NYC, accented with seasonal LA-influenced Market Specials." Signature items reportedly will include a Guac Burger, Quinoa Taco Salad, Mac n Cheese, and Air-Baked Fries, with the section located adjacent to the produce department and offering both dine-in and to-go options.

Meanwhile, Whole Foods also announced yesterday an expansion of its relationship with e-commerce facilitator Instacart, saying that they "are launching in several new markets in the coming year, building on the 17 existing metros where consumers use Instacart’s delivery service to order from Whole Foods Market stores. The companies are also looking ahead to create new e-commerce and delivery solutions, as well as increase the number of Whole Foods Market stores with Instacart shoppers for the fastest and most high quality service ... In addition to serving new cities, the companies will grow the number of Whole Foods Market stores with embedded Instacart shoppers by up to 50 percent nationwide by the end of 2016. This will create a more robust delivery network in both new and existing cities."

The first two new markets where Whole Foods will expand its Instacart service are Orange County, California, and Baltimore, Maryland.
KC's View:
No reason to think that the restaurant won't work, though, to be fair, this will be just the second edition of a restaurant concept that isn;t even a year old. It is a truism in retailing that one of the hardest things to do is go from one store to two ... so we'll see how it works.

The way they're characterizing this partnership makes it sound like many of the stores will have different partners ... which is smart in terms of customization, though I have to imagine that it'll create some operational headaches. Again, we'll see how it works.

I'm very interested in seeing how Whole Foods' continuing expansion of e-commerce initiatives plays out. I remain skeptical about Instacart as an option, simply because it is in bed with so many other companies. I think that a differentiated format like Whole Foods ought to have a differentiated e-commerce option.