When planners at Southern California's Bristol Farms set out to build a new location intended to take the chain's already premium grocery experience to an even higher level, they came up with a concept that places as much emphasis on in-store dining as it does on selling items for people to prepare in their own kitchens.
The result of that effort, Bristol Farms Newfound Market, which opened last week in an outdoor shopping mall in Irvine, California, includes several fast-casual food venues as well as a full-service artisan Italian restaurant that offers a curated wine and beer list, seating for 120 people and a 27-foot glass wall.
The 34,000-square-foot supermarket also offers an assortment of international and local groceries ranging from basics like eggs and milk to upscale ingredients that evoke the store's food hall-focused environment.
"It has given us an opportunity to be creative and an opportunity for us to treat it like a little bit of a lab and really be able to take what we do here [and] bringing it back into the Bristol Farms family as a whole," said Dan Evon, vice president of culinary and general manager of the store, said in an interview. "Our goal is, 'How do we make craveable food?'"
Bristol Farms is run by Good Food Holdings, which also owns the Lazy Acres Natural Market, Metropolitan Market, New Seasons Market and New Leaf Community Markets banners.
A full-service Italian restaurant
The store's signature restaurant, Viaggio Pizzeria, is the first truly full-service dining venue in the Bristol Farms chain, which has grown to 14 locations with the addition of the new store, Evon said. The restaurant features homemade pasta, craft cocktails and wood-fired pizza made from stone-milled flour fermented in-house.
Bristol Farms Newfound Market also offers a variety of meals and beverages through an array of six fast-casual food counters that have access to 100 seats inside the store as well as a seating area in an adjacent courtyard that is part of the Irvine Spectrum Center. The food stands, all of which were developed by Bristol Farms, are intended to compare "with the leaders in their segments," said Evon, who has worked for restaurant brands like Lettuce Entertain You.
Shoppers looking to grab a meal in the store have access to a selection that includes a Korean fried chicken sandwich with kimchi aioli, vegan dishes, fish inspired by shacks found along the Pacific Coast Highway, seafood bowls and flatiron steak salad. In addition, Bristol Farms Newfound Market sports a European-style cafe that offers La Colombe coffee, smoothies, acai bowls and organic juices.
Many of the foods on the store's menu are available for delivery through DoorDash.
From in-store food venues to shoppers' carts
The new store places a heavy emphasis on connecting the culinary experience it is cultivating through in-store dining to the way it approaches grocery shopping.
"We're trying to bring in ingredients that you will find in our restaurants and put them into the aisles so if there's something that you really loved in our restaurants or in our deli area … you can find them throughout the aisles," Evon said. "It really is the opportunity to come here and find something that you need on a daily basis or something special."
Evon added that the store's visual design and layout are also intended to help it achieve its goal of blending "the California mindset with a global feel" as it works to please what he called "your adventurous foodie and your mindful gourmet."
The store features a deli that sells house-made lunch meats and sausage, a carving station and a rotisserie, and has full-service seafood and meat counters and a dry aged cooler. It also offers 350 varieties of cheese, has a bakery that offers warm Belgian chocolate chip cookies, and sells a wide array of ready-to-eat meals, barbecue sandwiches and other prepared foods.
Bristol Farms Newfound Market also sells local and organic produce; wine, spirits and craft beers; and flowers.
"We're searching for items that [reflect] a global experience but at the same time really looking for something interesting that is home-grown. We're hoping to find the small, unique [suppliers] and launch their brands and get them into our guests' hands," Evon said, adding that the store also carries Bristol Farms' private label products.
The Bristol Farms banner's first self-checkout stations
Evon noted that the store will be the first Bristol Farms location equipped with self-checkout stations. Four of the terminals are located in front of the store, while three are in the back, he said.
The store also has robotic food-preparation equipment, including systems to handle tasks such as mixing rice and cutting sushi rolls. "We're trying to take that experience of what could be a cumbersome, complex environment of building sushi and making it a little bit more streamlined for our employees to have a better experience as they work for us," Evon said.
Even as it looks to use technology to improve efficiency and convenience, however, Bristol Farms Newfound Market is focused squarely on maintaining a service-oriented environment for shoppers. The store does not include kiosks or other systems to allow people to place orders without interacting with staff members.
"We still have an experience of going face-to-face with a cashier," Evon said. "I think that's really important for us to show that hospitality."