The shopping experience is universally enhanced by one thing: food. Any trip to the mall is fortified by a food court smoothie, and no Ikea visit is complete without a stop by the meatball and lingonberry paradise that is their cafeteria-style restaurant. More retailers are beginning to experiment with launching restaurant concepts which operate in harmony with their brick and mortar locations. While not exactly a new concept, companies are seeing the merit of keeping customers fed – even if they aren’t necessarily buying anything else. 

This is in part driven by a desire to keep customers in stores for longer periods of time. The entire shopping experience is elevated with edible offerings. Browsing a bookstore becomes immersive when you can sit down amongst the hardcovers and order a sandwich. What was once only a spot to pick up a gift becomes a gathering place. Though brick and mortar stores have steadily been on the decline as online shopping grows more prevalent, the Barnes and Noble Kitchen has seen success with its five locations. Beyond a typical add on Starbucks cafe you might typically see in the book retailer, this restaurant serves upscale dishes in a casual yet refined space. 

It’s also an opportunity to further expand a brand. Both loyal customers and those yet to be converted can become more familiar with a business by sitting down to eat with them. Table at Crate (Crate & Barrel’s restaurant concept) uses its own dishware to serve up gourmet food, giving a chance to show off products to its patrons. Marketing is seamlessly paired with dining out. Similarly, the Capital One Cafe offers a community cafe space with ambassadors on site to assist with budgeting and banking questions. This makes for an even more immersive experience and proof of trustworthy, friendly service. 

The type of food that a retailer chooses is a chance to further align with their core mission. The yoga focused apparel brand Lululemon stepped into hospitality with its new restaurant, Fuel Space. The restaurant lives in an experiential space alongside the retail store and fitness studios. The food at the restaurant-cafe hybrid offers the typical health forward options like smoothies and salads, but also includes more indulgent items like burgers and booze. The menu options span a plethora of dietary needs and preferences, the way that their brand caters to all levels of athleticism. Anthropologie, the hip bohemian retailer, hosts Terrain Cafe. The thoughtfully designed space looks like an extension of Anthropologie’s dreamy upscale environment, filled with plants and featuring locally sourced food and seasonal menus. 

In the end, the purpose of adding restaurant to retail locations is to drive sales. The food offers an additional sale, though the possibility of future sales isn’t guaranteed. But if you can attract people to make small purchases, there’s a chance to entice them with larger ones. The high end furniture store Restoration Hardware resembles a museum more than an approachable place to buy a sofa. But with the opening of RH New York restaurant, customers can visit a glamourous rooftop with all the ambiance of the store. If more customers are tucking into brunch than investing in a new rug, Restoration Hardware still sees it as a win. Retail and hospitality work side by side to increase sales, and pave the way for tomorrow’s customers.