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So-called “grocerants” – grocery stores offering food stations or restaurants, or local restaurants that sell groceries alongside to-go meals – have grown significantly in the past decade.


So-called “grocerants” – grocery stores offering food stations or restaurants, or local restaurants that sell groceries alongside to-go meals – have grown significantly in the past decade. According to The NPD Group, grocerants generated 2.4 billion visits, up nearly 30 percent since 2008, and $10 billion in sales in 2016.


Cincinnati-based Kroger Co., for example, now has 120 Marketplace locations offering wine bars with craft beer and seating with fireplaces and flatscreen TVs in addition to the same grocery product selection as a typical Target or Walmart store. Last year, the company opened its first separate restaurant, Kitchen 1883 Café and Bar, in its two-story flagship store near its headquarters along with a food hall that features tacos, barbecue, and Asian fare. A second Kitchen 1883 opened in Union, Ky.


These new Kroger concepts signify the company’s attempts to capture more segments of the foodservice market. “About half of food is food already prepared where people spend their money. And our market share there is significantly less than on the traditional supermarket business,” Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen told analysts in a quarterly earnings call last December. “Food that’s already prepared is a massive opportunity.”


Kroger is not the only grocery chain getting into the foodservice game. San Antonio’s H-E-B supermarket chain has separate taco and barbecue restaurants connected to some of its stores. Hy-Vee, based in West Des Moines, Iowa, has Market Grille restaurants in about half of its 245 stores


24 FEDA News & Views


and has plans to open 20 standalone Wahlburgers restaurants over the next five years. ShopRite, Edison, N.J., has added mini Saladworks franchises to some of its stores. Kroger is adding Rapid Fired Pizza outlets to its Marketplace locations in Ohio.


For distributors like Ohio-based Hubert Co., the growing grocerant market has been an important opportunity. “We got into selling foodservice equipment by helping grocery stores merchandise their product effectively, as well as providing catering,” says Patti Chesney, vice president of merchandising. Hubert specializes in visual merchandising equipment, mostly in perishable departments in grocery stores, but the rising popularity of visual food displays resulted in the company’s current 50/50 split between retail and foodservice in supermarkets prior to the pandemic, according to Chesney.


Te COVID-19 Impact


The coronavirus pandemic, of course, has significantly altered the landscape, at least temporarily. But opportunities still exist: “Grocers have been forced to change the way they merchandise,” Chesney says, “and their focus now is on health and safety, and operating efficiency in order to keep their shelves adequately stocked.”


Before the crisis, Hubert was working on projects such as a sampling station for cheese shops that allows customers to sample and learn about cheeses, through digital signage and videos explaining how cheeses are made and where they come from. “Now, new development has been


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