retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Chicago Tribune reports this morning that "restaurants in Chicago are adding bakeries, cafes and markets to fill in the gaps between breakfast, lunch and dinner. The markets, which offer grab-and-go items like gourmet sandwiches, salads and baked goods, are usually housed near (or even in) the restaurant. The stand-up venues aim to tap into a fast-growing segment of the dining industry that is serving up higher-end convenience foods that can be eaten on the go or taken back home or to the office."

The story goes on to note that "in addition to boosting sales and offering more options to expand down the road, dipping into the grab-and-go food market also lets restaurants home in on a booming sector of the restaurant industry," the fast-casual segment. And, "although chain restaurants have led the way in recent years, more independent brands are now adopting the dual-model approach as well, as a way of catering to young professionals who want healthy, local food they can grab in a hurry."
KC's View:
I'm a big believer in the notion of share of stomach, and there is no question that these kinds of marketing innovations - which are playing out in a lot of places around the country - create all sorts of challenges to supermarkets and c-stores.

One of the really important things that these kinds of formats may have to do in order to compete is make better food. Lots of these restaurant chains simply make tastier, more differentiated food than a lot of supermarkets and c-stores, and now these players are going to have to raise their games to compete. That's not easy when you've been hawking lowest common denominator cuisine for a long time, but it may end up being the cost of admission to the competitive marketplace.