Kroger details new restaurant plans

Kroger Co. has set plans for an October opening for its first restaurant while providing additional details about the new concept.

The supermarket giant will open Kitchen 1883, its new restaurant concept, in late October adjacent to its new Marketplace store in Union, Ky. I wrote about the restaurant last week.

Kroger officials said Kitchen 1883 — that's the year Barney Kroger founded the company — will be open for lunch and dinner each day. It also will serve brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.

The restaurant will serve "new American comfort food," Kroger said in a news release. It described that as a melting pot of American and international flavors.

"With Kitchen 1883, our goal is to create a gathering place that offers a genuinely delicious place to relax and experience our food," Daniel Hammer, Kroger’s vice president of culinary development and new business, said in the release. "The restaurant will feature a made-from-scratch menu, hand-crafted cocktails and a community-centered atmosphere."

Kroger is hiring the gamut of restaurant employees: hosts, servers, cooks, bussers, dishwashers, bartenders and bar managers. Candidates can apply online at www.kitchen1883.com.

The move is a step outside the norm for Cincinnati-based Kroger, the nation’s largest operator of traditional supermarkets. But it’s not all that surprising.

CEO Rodney McMullen has talked in recent months about how he views anything involving food sales as competition to Kroger, whether it's Amazon buying Whole Foods, deep discounters such as Lidl and Aldi, or even restaurants. He has said Kroger is trying to get its fair share of consumers' food consumption dollars, regardless of how that money is spent.

Consumer trends favor the move, too. Spending on meals consumed outside the home passed spending on meals eaten at home last year. Millennials are a big driver of that.

Kroger isn't even the first supermarket to plan a stand-alone restaurant, although it’s on the leading edge of what could become a trend. West Des Moines, Iowa-based supermarket operator Hy-Vee Inc. reached a deal in late August to own and operate 26 Wahlburgers franchises, making it the largest franchisee of the burger restaurant chain launched by actor Mark Wahlburg and his family.

It makes sense for supermarket companies to get into the restaurant business, Jim Hertel, senior vice president at Inmar’s Willard Bishop Analytics, a Long Grove, Ill.-based food retail consultant, told me. That's a segment of the food consumption business they’ve typically given away in the past.

"When you start thinking about the ways people consume food these days, this is all part of the same pie," Hertel said. "Traditional supermarkets have been share donors for years. Kroger has been fairly experimentative. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more experiments."

Watkins covers banking and finance, insurance and sports business

Louisville Business First


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