The future of instore dining is unknown. There is a need for it, but how much of a need?
“Instore dining overall has probably done slightly better than restaurants, but I don’t think by any stretch of the imagination has it been wildly successful,” says Robert Goldin, partner and co-founder of Pentallect Inc., a Chicago-based food industry consulting firm. “Most of what I’ve seen is no real expansion. If anything, there’s a slight scaling back. You’ll have a few seats near the sushi section or something, but not much.”
While prepared foods are undoubtedly a major part of current and future supermarket success — prepared foods have grown nearly 30% since 2008 — where exactly shoppers want to eat those foods is still up in the air.
But retailers can boost their efforts by identifying three major obstacles to instore dining success.
Food halls, like Eataly, in bigger cities are taking away some of the thunder from instore dining, Goldin says. Focusing on your store’s variety of prepared foods and pushing that information to consumers is key. Create a mini food hall in your prepared foods section, with different cuisines in their own separate locations.
Prepared food delivery is impacting all of the dining world, but restaurants have a built-in advantage here. Shoppers don’t think twice about ordering food from a fast-casual restaurant, but my not even consider ordering from your prepared foods department. Make sure shoppers know your fresh, hot foods are a candidate for delivery.
Adding instore dining means adding more workers. That’s not the easiest task in today’s climate. This means a shift away from full-service dining to more self-service areas, especially with single-use, environmentally friendly packaging and dining ware. Give your shoppers the option to dine instore, but don’t give them the full-service treatment.