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Crain's Chicago Business reports that Bob Mariano, a Chicago grocery industry icon who ran Dominick's there, then launched Mariano's in the city when he was CEO of Roundy's, now is starting a new chain that aims to combine  "shopping, restaurant dining and home delivery."

Mariano left Roundy's in 2016, one year after Kroger acquired the company.

According to Crain's, "The new venture, Dom’s Market & Kitchen, is planned for a March 2021 debut at a yet-to-be announced Lincoln Park location. The small-format store will feature specialty foods and take-home and dine-in meals prepared in an open kitchen.  The $10 million investment was funded by two Chicago-based venture capital firms, Valor Siren Ventures and Cleveland Avenue. Cleveland Avenue is led by former McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson, a major investor in Beyond Meat and another local company, Farmer's Fridge. 

"Mariano is partnering with fellow industry veterans Jay Owen and Don Fitzgerald to jumpstart the venture. Owen is the grandson of Dominick’s founder Dominick DiMatteo, and Fitzgerald was a former executive with Mariano at Roundy’s."

Owen describes Dom’s as "a neighborhood destination where consumers can drop in several times per week, explore new foods, watch the cooking process in open preparation areas, participate in a wine tasting class, dine in, or take home prepared foods or cooking ingredients."

KC's View:

This may be the least surprising/most predictable news of the week … it mostly suggests to me that Bob Mariano's non-compete must've run out.

The Mariano's stores in Chicago were, when they opened, fabulous in terms of their focus on fresh and prepared foods, with an amazing range of in-store dining options.  There always were questions about the stores' ability to be profitable, since center store always was highly price-driven … but Mariano's grew and seemed to prosper regardless.

I know from people in the market that there has been a lot of consumer dissatisfaction with the stores since the Kroger acquisition - there have been complains about declining quality, out of stocks, too much Kroger private label, and a general homogenization that didn't play well with Mariano's core customers.

Sounds to me like Bob Mariano is recalculating the concept for a new reality … and I wouldn't be surprised if a physical center store is less important to the concept.  That said, I also wouldn't be surprised if he decides to fulfill mainstream grocery orders out of a dark store or micro-fulfillment center, and maybe even gets into the auto-replenishment business as a way of capturing broader customer loyalty.

I'm really looking forward to see what Bob Mariano has up his sleeve this time.