You know you’re in Kansas when you’re not allowed to buy a bottle of wine for dinner at the grocery store, but you can belly up to the in-store bar and knock back a margarita if shopping for produce is stressing you out.
So far only one areasupermarket has a bar: Hy-Vee at 95th and Antioch streets
in Overland Park. But the chain is opening a bar inside a new store near 151st Street and Blackbob Road in Olathe on April 8. (The current store at 135th Street is being relocated.)
The bar concept is being rolled out first in stores that have a Market Cafe or a Market Grill already, says Greg Frampton, assistant vice president of food service at the company’s headquarters in West Des Moines, Iowa. Overland Park was the third Hy-Vee to serve mixed drinks; the first two were in Iowa. The chain has bars in nine stores: four with a full bar and five that serve beer and wine only.
Happy hour at Hy-Vee might not be a citywide trend, but managers at the Overland Park store are pleased with the traffic so far. Because the bar has big-screen TVs, crowds have flocked in for sports games, and Hy-Vee responded with game-day food and drink specials. Another big hit with the cocktail crowd has been mimosas and Bloody Marys during the Sunday brunch buffet.
Because the store already had a restaurant, getting a license to serve alcohol was fairly simple, Frampton says.
The decision to expand into the bar business was not intended to get supermarket shoppers lubricated so they would spend more money, nor did executives expect that many people would reward themselves with a quick draw at the end of a grocery run, according to Frampton.
“It’s about adjusting to lifestyles,” Frampton says. “Family-friendly fast casual restaurants are all the rage. Before, food service in grocery stores was not a destination. It felt more like an add-on.” So Hy-Vee may be targeting diners at Applebee’s more than the Whole Foods cafe crowd.
Frampton says the company isn’t tracking whether market customers are also purchasing groceries, but managers at the Overland Park location say it’s not uncommon for a couple to come in for dinner and then grab a few items on the way out. Also, some spouses have been spotted lifting a glass at the bar while their partners trundle carts up and down the aisles.
Although Hy-Vee is after the food-and-drink crowd more than just a bar crowd, it may find itself attracting the latter when the everyday price of Boulevard beers is just $4 and several wines are $6 a glass.