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More Supermarkets Inviting Shoppers To Eat Out

By Paula Ebben, WBZ-TV

BOSTON (CBS) – Shoppers aren’t just going to the supermarket to buy food these days. They’re also going there to eat out, and to become more educated shoppers.

Nikki Georges-Clapp went out to lunch at Whole Food Markets with a group of friends recently.

“I got the chili, vegetarian chili. She got the pulled pork sandwich and arugula salad,” she said.

WBZ-TV’s Paula Ebben reports

Another diner loves all the different options.

“There’s not a restaurant where I can mix a sushi and a beer and a crème Brule all at once, but this is a place that you can do it and no one bats an eye,” she explained.

“Since the recession hit, less people are eating out, so this really created a new opportunity for supermarkets to compete with restaurants. Typically, the foods are fresher and also less expensive,” said Phil Lembert, a grocery store marketing expert.

The selection is very varied, usually including vegan offerings, sushi, pub food, and barbecue.

“It’s a whole different experience, which is much more community oriented, much more in the open, much more fun,” said Lembert.

Specials often rotate, giving supermarkets an edge over some restaurants. At Whole Foods Markets, trained chefs prepare different menus daily.

“When certain foods are in season, or we know that certain foods are becoming popular among shoppers, we can add those to our menus almost immediately because we have those items at our disposal,” said Whole Foods spokesperson Michael Sinatra.

Some markets are now adding full-fledged pubs and wine bars.

“A lot of our stores are working with local musicians, or doing local poetry nights, or local art exhibits,” said Sinatra.

Stores, however, don’t want to forget their core business: the people who still buy food to cook themselves.

They’re adding new services to help those shoppers, too.

“A lot of stores are putting in registered dieticians to help people figure out what they’re eating, as well as helping to advise the store,” said Lempert.

Another trend is to sponsor store tours, to teach shoppers how to save money or eat healthier.

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