- Wegmans is permanently closing The Pub, its in-store bar/restaurant concept that appeared in 12 stores across New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia, according to local media reports. The grocer suspended operations at The Pub along with its other restaurants and self-service stations in March, shortly after the coronavirus flared up in the U.S.
- Other Wegmans restaurant concepts are offering limited service or slated to reopen soon. The Burger Bar locations are offering delivery and curbside service, while Next Door, Wegmans’ sushi and comfort food concept, is offering pickup service as well as limited indoor and outdoor seating. Amore, the company’s Italian restaurant concept, will reopen later this year, a spokesperson told the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.
- “We are focused on applying our culinary expertise to the increasing demand for fast, casual meal solutions available in our stores, for pickup, and through delivery,” according to a statement provided to local media outlets.
The Pub was classic Wegmans — a high-quality, homegrown concept that elevated the typical grocery experience. First opened almost ten years ago in a Collegeville, Pennsylvania, store, the sit-down restaurant grew slowly at a rate of about one new location per year but was well loved for its gourmet burgers, salads and craft beers.
Unfortunately, those dining experiences have now become a drain on resources in the COVID-19 era, and Wegmans realizes it needs to adapt. The company will shift its culinary resources to meal solutions and will likely repurpose the store space for meal display, food prep or e-commerce fulfillment.
Across the country, grocers have closed down their in-store restaurants and self-service stations. Some have begun reopening these services. The new Raleys O-N-E Market, which opened last weekend in Northern California, features a loft bar with blue X’s on the bar stools indicating where shoppers can sit and maintain distancing. Whole Foods and Publix stores have reopened their salad bars with employees dishing up ingredients.
Other retailers have decided to keep self-service stations and restaurants closed, or have converted them into display areas for packaged meals and other products. If and when these locations are able to open, it’s not clear that shoppers will be willing to pay a visit.
“We really believe there are going to be customers that are never going to come back to the salad bar or any self-service stations, or even the deli,” Mike Tilden, director of deli and bakery for Balls Food Stores recently told Grocery Dive. “That fear is probably not going to go away until there is a vaccine, and [for some] it still may not.”
From large chains to independents, grocers have invested deeply in restaurants and bar concepts that invite shoppers to come in and stay a while. Turning a profit was difficult, however, and now these spaces have become even more of a liability, meaning grocers are having to get creative in how they shift their operations. Before COVID-19 hit, Whole Foods was starting to turn in-store cafes into e-commerce fulfillment stations in cities like Philadelphia and Atlanta.
Wegmans has tried to stay nimble over these past few months despite the toll the coronavirus has taken on its signature store experience. The company recently extended store hours and has transitioned to soft store openings.