Dining With Denise Neil

The salad bars won't survive these two Wichita Dillons stores' big summer remodels

Salad bars are going away at two local Dillons stores, which are undergoing big remodels over the summer.
Salad bars are going away at two local Dillons stores, which are undergoing big remodels over the summer. The Wichita Eagle

Shoppers who like to fill up on the self-serve salad bar at the 21st and Amidon Dillons store were greeted by a jolting sign this week.

The salad bar would be closing for good on May 29, the sign read. The store apologized for the inconvenience. "Thank you for your understanding."

But some alarmed people on social media said they did not understand. Why was the salad bar closing? Was it just at that Dillons? Could other Dillons salad bars be next?

Sheila Lowrie, a spokeswoman for Dillons, said that just two stores will be losing their salad bars: at 21st and Amidon and at Central and West.

But it's for a good reason, she said. Both stores will undergo major, multimillion-dollar renovations over the summer. The project at 21st and Amidon is starting now and should be done by the middle of the summer, and the one at Central and West will start in early June and run through late summer or early fall.

The stores will remain open during the remodels, Lowrie said. Most of the work will happen at night.

Some of the biggest changes will happen in the two stores' deli departments, Lowrie said, where the chain will add several grab-and-go items. But when the work is complete, the salad bars won't return.

Data has shown the company that the salad bars at those two stores aren't that popular, Lowrie said, and that results in too much food waste.

Though Dillons participates in a "food diversion program" that lets uneaten food from the salad bar be turned into food for animals, the salad bar is still not worth continuing in places where it's underperforming, she said.

"We will have to remove salad bars in both of those locations during these renovations," Lowrie said. "It's due to a lack of sales. For us, it makes it difficult to justify all that wasted food when sales of the salad bar continue to dwindle."

The salad bars at other Dillons stores, where sales are still strong, will continue, Lowrie said.

The remodels at the 21st and Amidon store and the Central and West store will be similar, she said. Both stores will be "reset" and rearranged based on data the company has collected about customer habits.

Among the highlights of the remodel will be new display tables to show off fresh fruits and vegetables in the produce departments, and the deli departments are getting new grab-and-go options. The stores are also getting new chicken fryers that will help keep Dillons' famous fried chicken more tender and crisp while using significantly less oil.

But the salad bars, which were always filled with fresh chopped fruit and veggies plus prepared salads and soups, will have to go

"Unfortunately, those salad bars are no longer viable," she said.

The 21st and Amidon salad bar will close for good on May 29. Lowrie said that managers at Central and West are still trying to decide what day to phase theirs out.

A new offering at some Wichita Dillons is Easy for You!, which combines meat, seasonings and sauces and flash freezes them together in various portion sizes.

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