Hy-Vee’s 20th Wahlburgers location will open at its Rock Bridge location in Columbia, Missouri, on Dec. 8, a press release announced on Wednesday.
The new in-store spot replaces a Market Grille and has been redesigned as a casual, counter-service Wahlburgers, offering most of the menu items available at a traditional location of the burger chain and a full-service bar. It will be open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Diners will still be able to order Hy-Vee breakfast in-store and access the full menu online via Hy-Vee Mealtime to Go.
The change to Wahlburgers is part of the grocer’s plan to phase out Market Grille sit-down restaurants. The grocer currently owns six full-service Wahlburgers and has plans to open an additional 24 across eight states in 2021.
Hy-Vee is continuing its expansion of Wahlburgers, the fast-casual chain that offers the opportunity to build in-store as well as standalone locations boosted by a well-known name. The conversion in Columbia follows Hy-Vee's announcement earlier this year that it will discontinue the full-service Market Grille concept and replace all 21 of those locations with Wahlburgers instead. The grocer still operates more than 100 Market Grille Express outlets where customers place their order at a counter and have food brought out to them.
Hy-Vee partnered with Wahlburgers back in 2017, which turned over operations of the majority of all Wahlburgers to the grocery chain. In an interview last year, Hy-Vee CEO Randy Edeker said the partnership came as Hy-Vee was looking to diversify its brand and saw an opportunity to leverage celebrity name recognition to drive traffic into its stores.
The "grocerant" trend has witnessed mixed results over recent years as major grocers, including Whole Foods Market and Walmart, have rolled out the concept. While full-service, in-store restaurants became a particularly fickle business model once the novel coronavirus took hold in the United States, Hy-Vee's latest Wahlburgers location offers takeout.
Despite rising COVID-19 cases and indoor dining restrictions, grocers seem to be sticking with adding restaurants and food stations to keep shoppers fed. Fast-casual salad franchise Saladworks recently opened inside Kroger and The Giant Company stores. Meanwhile, Walmart now has robotic smoothie-making stations by Blendid — one of which is co-branded with Jamba — at two California stores. H-E-B debuted a food hall with five casual restaurants in one of its stores in Austin, Texas, this summer with limited sit-down dining and options for takeout or delivery.