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The Rise of the Supermarket Cafe

Where the concept of restaurants in supermarkets came from is not clearly documented, but we do know that supermarkets such as Whole Foods have been offering salad bars, hot food, and casual dining spaces for decades. Prior to that, ancient farmer’s marketplaces and their 20th century counterparts, known as malls, have seemingly always benefited from “food courts” that keep their customers from wandering off the shopping premises.

Whole Foods West Palm Beach Rotisserie

But the the definition of a “supermarket café” I want to talk about here is a freestanding, fully functioning restaurant located within a supermarket. These are cafes descended from grab-and-go salad bars and prepared foods counters that have always been around, but they are now meant to keep shoppers and their disposable income where they are also doing their grocery shopping.

Rastelli's Sushi Bar

Some supermarket cafes offer fixed-to-the-floor food court style seating areas while others consist of booths and dark, cozy atmospheres. There are many shades of gray in between these two extremes, with some supermarkets even offering full or beer and wine bar counters as well. Wifi is now derigueur as are multiple electrical outlets to be used for customers to charge their phones. The intent is to encourage grocery customers to stay longer, as a restaurant or comfortable coffee shop might, but more and more what we’re seeing is people dining without shopping bags or carts at their tables. People are actually coming in to a supermarket for the dining experience!

According to a study commissioned by the Fresh Foods Leadership Council of the Arlington, Va.-based Food Marketing Institute (FMI), prepared foods accounted for 58 percent of the $24 billion in deli sales last year and are considered an emerging driver of growth. What’s more, revenue for prepared food service grew an average of 10 percent a year from 2005 to 2015,

In other words, more and more consumers are choosing their local grocery stores over fast food chains, take-out drive-bys, and traditional restaurants.

One of the first steps a supermarket takes in opening an in-store café that is possibly just as important as deciding on a menu or even a chef, is the design of the eating area. Shown throughout this article are a few examples of work Off The Wall Company is proud to have done for ShopRite, Whole Foods, King's Markets, Rastelli's, and Ahold Giant. Bon Appetit!

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