The hybrid store of the future offers culinary produce and provisions alongside gourmet prepared meals.
Gourmands around the world turn to restaurants and chefs for the curated menus, unique flavors and rare ingredients that are the hallmarks of elevated dining. Now, culinary institutions are translating that refined expertise into a new breed of epicurean experiences. As in-house dining plummets, restaurants and restaurant providers are opening up their wares to the public—heralding the next generation of superstores, where gourmet restaurant meets farm share meets corner store.
With grocery stores, butchers and wine shops unable to keep their shelves full as panicked consumers rush to stock up, restaurateurs are stepping in, evolving into gourmet grocers selling consumers the same ingredients chefs used to create signature dishes, alongside shelf-stable pantry staples and daily household necessities like toilet paper and paper towels.
Countless restaurants across the country are adapting. Las Vegas restaurant The Stove, opened by two Hell’s Kitchen contestants, has converted into a pop-up market with eggs, canned goods and toilet paper. Porridge and Puffs in Los Angeles has transitioned into a grab-and-go market with bulk grains, homemade pickles and even facial scrubs. Prairie in San Francisco is selling “pantry prepper kits” filled with shelf-stable cooking essentials. Jaxon, a beer garden in Dallas, plans to sell grocery bags for a flat rate, filled with basics like butter, bread and chicken. Providence, Rhode Island favorite Avenue N sells hand-selected produce baskets with everything from berries to greens to house-made pizza dough, rotating weekly based on market selection. And the list goes on and on.
Chefs aren’t the only ones rethinking their business models. Wholesaler suppliers that typically sold exclusively to restaurants are opening up their wares to the public, offering high quality and specialty ingredients for inspired home cooking. Farm One in New York City, a hydroponic farm that grows microgreens and edible flowers, is adapting now that less than 10 percent of their restaurant industry customers are still operating. “We’re pivoting from a grow-to-order model where we have hundreds of crops growing at a time to a narrower set of crops we can grow and offer to the public,” Farm One sales manager Marissa Siefkes told Eater.
The seismic shift is democratizing elite eateries. Consumers can now stock their kitchen with the same ingredients used in award-winning restaurants; Natoora, whose produce graces the menu at Michelin-starred Per Se, is now selling directly to consumers; New York City residents can enjoy meats from Happy Valley Meat Co. butcher, which counts James Beard winner Frenchette among its clients; Rozzo, a fishmonger who sourced fruits de mer for Michelin-starred restaurants like Marea and Daniel, has opened a retail shop in Manhattan. And, as the cherry on top, iconic Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park—which was voted the world’s best restaurant in 2017—has been converted into a soup kitchen, supplying nonprofit Rethink with meals to feed those in need.
As shopping habits shift, seeing consumers seeking out curated convenience in place of niche indulgence, the food and drink industry is being fundamentally altered—and ushering in the retail model of the future.
Main image courtesy of Sarah Blesener.