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How Steaks, Martinis and Espressos are driving Retail Sales


The idea of combining food services/restaurants with a retail venue has been around for quite some time, but where it was once thought of as providing a convenience for shoppers has now turned into a marketing strategy.

I was introduced to the concept when I was a kid. My mother would take me shopping at Neiman Marcus and one of the high points of the trip was eating at their in-store café, having one of their signature salads, and ending the meal with their ever-famous chocolate chip cookie (which became a brand on its own).

Nordstrom, Macy’s, and Tommy Bahama, among other high profile retailers are vying for your palate as much as your wallet in other areas of the store. Bars and restaurants are popping up all over the retail landscape. Saks in New York has opened a bar and café; Brooks Brothers is coming on strong with an upscale steakhouse; Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square in Manhattan is debuting a 10,000 square foot Stella 34 Trattoria, run by corporate restaurant heavyweight Patina Restaurant Group.

Denver Restaurant Consultant John Imbergamo says, “The Nordstrom Cafes are meant to keep shoppers in the store once they’re there, not to get them into the store. Stella 34 Trattoria might be the exception.”

Nordstrom, in addition to its 200 restaurants and espresso bars, is also opting for cocktail lounges. And they’re not separate entities, but are incorporated into the high-trafficked area of ladies’ clothing, for instance.

April Benson, a New York-based psychologist who specializes in compulsive buying disorders, thinks shoppers who partake of cocktails and light bites, can lose track of spending, and be more easily influenced by friends and salespeople to buy items they otherwise wouldn't.

Tommy Bahama has 16 locations, which offer their Island restaurant and bar. These store-restaurant combos, which Tommy Bahama runs themselves, generate two and a half times the sales per square foot of the apparel chain’s 100 regular locations worldwide, Chief Executive Officer Terry Pillow says.

Some of the Urban Outfitters stores, along with Gap, and Banana Republic host special food and cocktail offerings around store events. Many view the growth in farmers’ markets and the popularity of cable-TV cooking shows such as Bravo’s Top Chef as evidence that shoppers are hungry for good eats before or after their shopping excursions.  Eating provides a memorable experience, “and a lot of lifestyle retailers have been exploring it,” says brand consultant, Aaron Spiess.

Boutique restaurants have sought entrée to the most fashionable hotels around, enriching both hotels’ and restaurants’ brands. Combining the retail store and food was the next step in the evolution of bricks-and-mortar. Making all this part of the holistic shopping experience is one more way the physical store can get a leg up on online shopping. It’s not just the colors and feel of clothing, it’s adding the flavor and aroma of food, drink and social experience that allow retailers to personalize their brand. These latest introductions of restaurant/retail partnerships have taken place on a smaller scale that seems to connect with people on a more personal level. Restaurants can be a terrific traffic driver, says Rob Goldberg, Tommy Bahama's senior vice president of marketing. “Diners peruse the merchandise while waiting; shoppers might stick around for a drink.”

In Minneapolis, a popular restaurant called ‘Parka’, shares space with retailer, Forage Modern, a store whose owners/contractors specialize in historic remodeling, handcrafted furniture and accessories. Parka’s contemporary comfort food aligns with the sensibilities of Forage Modern’s theme and has struck a chord with its customers. The collaboration and crossover interest is there and has made both retail entities successful. It’s not unheard of for customers who seek the dining experience at Parka, to end up buying a bedroom set at Forage Modern.

As well as boosting sales, these combo retail/restaurants serve as real hiring opportunities and can create new markets for skilled staff, who might be able to cross-over within venues. Retail staffing firms can really help focus on these kinds of trends and are key players in providing sound advice and experienced staff.

TAGS: retail, retail trends, retailers,
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