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Giving shoppers a reason to linger Hy-Vee to serve wine and beer at its new Overland Park grocery store

  • Kansas City Star
  • Published Monday, Feb. 25, 2013, at 11:20 p.m.

On the grocery list — bread, milk and a beer or wine break before checking out.

Hy-Vee’s new Overland Park store will open Tuesday with a bar serving wine and beer — apparently the first in the Kansas City area and one of the few grocery stores in the country to offer such a service.

The bar, on the second level of the store, is attached to a full-service restaurant where customers can dine in front of a stone fireplace.

Since grocery stores first introduced rotisserie chicken as home meal replacements, retail experts say, the line separating grocery stores and restaurants has been blurring. Bars are the latest example in this battle to capture more dollars and market share.

“It is all in the realm of grocers these days really trying to give shoppers an additional way to stop and pause and linger,” said Meg Major, editorial director at Progressive Grocer, a trade publication.

Harry Balzer, chief industry analyst for market researchers the NPD Group, said Americans don’t want to prepare or serve meals and want someone else to do it for them. So grocers in recent years have lost market share to fast-food and full-service restaurants.

Lately, grocers have also been competing with drugstores and convenience stores offering groceries and prepared food sections. Just over 50 percent of food dollars are spent at grocery stores.

To regain business, area grocers such as Hen House and Price Chopper have stepped up their offerings with larger prepared food sections, artisan breads baked on-site, sushi bars and pizza ovens.

For Hy-Vee, the new store will be the company’s second bar/restaurant combination. The first opened in Urbandale, Iowa, in mid-2012. The company said the combination was well received, so it is expanding it to other locations. The Iowa-based chain has hired a restaurant expert, Brooke Barnes, as director of restaurant development.

The bar at the Overland Park store, which has a license as a drinking establishment, has floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides, cozy booths, tables and chairs, and bar seating.

It will have 17 wines by the glass or bottle, 25 bottled beers to choose from and eight on tap. Wine prices will run $6 to $9 a glass or $20 to $36 a bottle. Beer will range from $3 Bud Light and Boulevard Wheat to $4 for Angry Orchard Crisp or Bud Light Lime-A-Rita.

It will be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.

Customers will be able to order appetizers along with hamburgers, sandwiches and entree salads. There also will be a Sunday brunch, including skillet dishes, build-your-own omelet and eggs Benedict stations, and breakfast sandwiches. The bar and dining area overlook the 78,000-square-foot store. A dining area downstairs has a hostess station.

Hy-Vee customers dining in can stop at one of the prepared food areas — Asian, sushi, Italian deli, smoked meats and chef’s specials — place and pick up their meal, along with their bill, and carry it to the dining areas. Servers will then be available to refill drinks or take payments.

“We’re taking it to the next level with a more personal touch,” Barnes said. “It doesn’t look like a cafeteria anymore.”

Other supermarkets across the country also have recently added bars.

A new Whole Foods Market in Boise, Idaho, has a second-floor restaurant, the River Room, serving 16 local beers on tap and three local wines, along with sliders, wings, pizza and appetizers.

East Coast chain Wegmans has several operations called the Pub at Wegmans, which serve such items as cocktails, sandwiches and soups.

Balzer of the NPD Group expects consumers to flock early on to Hy-Vee’s new bar and grill. But the test will be how strong sales are a year from now.

“They are replacing the restaurant meal … treating it like a tavern,” he said. “The evolution will be complete when grocery stores have a drive-through window.”

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