Retail foodservice was on an upward trajectory even before COVID hit.

With the pandemic shutting down restaurants, consumers not only started cooking at home a lot more.

They also looked for alternative foodservice channels. And since they were already relying on their neighborhood grocery stores more than ever, retail foodservice was a no-brainer — whether it was getting an entire meal or finishing one off with a ready-to-eat item or two.

Post-COVID, retail foodservice continues to benefit from consumer habits established during the pandemic.

And in the summer of 2024, a new experiment in how to put retail foodservice front and center will begin when a new concept store, FreshTake, opens in a former 42,000-square-foot Whole Foods location in Augusta, Ga.

The brainchild of Jackson Mitchell, owner of five Little Giant Farmers Market stores in the Atlanta area, FreshTake promises an “unmatched shopping journey that blends convenience, culinary indulgence, and leisure” — and at the heart of is a retail foodservice experience unlike any other.

Among the highlights: seating for 130, an in-store café, an outdoor barbecue smokehouse and an instore beer and wine bar featuring made-to-order sushi and bar food items.

FreshTake will also have a pizza and pasta station, a sandwich bar where shoppers can craft their ideal sub, a full-service hot food bar and a smoothie and juice bar. A huge grab-and-go section will provide additional quick meal solutions.

“We are thrilled to introduce FreshTake to Augusta,” Mitchell said. “This store represents the culmination of my career and a deep love for the grocery business. Our goal is to create a space that not only offers top-quality groceries but also becomes a hub for the community, where people can come together to enjoy great food, entertainment, and convenience.”

FreshTake will also include a meat and poultry department where customers can select their choice of fresh meat and have it prepared by in-store chefs with a “grill while you shop” option.

And the store’s fresh seafood department will also provide free steaming services.

“We are proud to continue our family’s tradition of delivering the best quality meats to our customers,” Mitchell said. “With FreshTake, we aim to raise the bar even higher and provide an unparalleled grocery shopping experience for the Augusta community.”

FreshTake will also provide prepared foods delivery, allowing customers to savor the store’s retail foodservice offerings in their home without even having to go to the store.

Mitchell is a 4th-generation member of the Mitchell Grocery family business.

FreshTake will boast a variety of features designed to raise the typical grocery shopping experience to another level, including a fire pit, a 5-hole putting green, 2 outdoor balconies and a spacious mezzanine seating area above the in-store cafe, providing professionals with a cozy spot to work or meet over coffee while enjoying complimentary Wi-Fi.

This article is an excerpt from the December 2023 issue of Supermarket Perimeter. You can read the entire Foodservice feature and more in the digital edition here.