- Whole Foods has partnered with vegan chain Next Level Burger to open its newest location inside the grocer’s store in San Francisco August 24, according to VegNews.
- The new location will feature a “next level” menu, a special item exclusive to San Francisco, and new features that coordinate with the city’s tech vibe. The updated menu will feature new burgers, shakes, fries, salads and sandwiches.
- The restaurant will have a private entrance with 1,700 square feet of space to seat 45 customers. The store will feature a self-order kiosk and table service.
Staying true to its roots, Whole Foods is expanding its partnership with Next Level Burger — a vegan restaurant with a strong following on the West Coast — to serve food that resonates with its customers' shopping habits.
This partnership started out as part of Whole Foods' Friends of 365 program, which gives restaurants locations inside Whole Foods 365 stores. Next Level Burger performed so well, the retailer gave it a permanent location in stores in Seattle; Brooklyn, New York; Austin, Texas; Concord, California; and now San Francisco.
Consumers can’t get enough of clean, plant-based foods that are locally sourced, and Whole Foods is cashing in on the trend. Sales of plant-based foods increased by 20% last year to more than $3.3 million, according to data from Nielsen and the Plant-Based Foods Association. Plant-based meat alternatives jumped 24% to $670 million. Next Level Burger has a strong focus on local, organic produce used in burgers and all ingredients are non-GMO, giving consumers comfort food and plant-based alternatives. This new opportunity could give Whole Foods and Next Level Burger access to new consumers.
Grocers are coming up with new and creative ways to bring more consumers into the store, and one way is through in-store bars and restaurants. Whole Foods was one of the first grocers to launch an in-store bar, a feature that can now be found at many different stores across the country. Bars and restaurants give consumers another reason to enter the grocery store, and keeps them around longer.
Whole Foods’ Friends of 365 program gives it an opportunity to build relationships with restaurants. Not only is it a great marketing technique to drive traffic, but it also gives the grocer insight into which restaurants perform well —and which don’t. In Next Level Burger's case, it performed so well the grocer inevitably created a permanent partnership which continues to expand from the chain's West Coast base.
Whether in-store restaurants and bars are the future of grocery is still a little hazy, but initiatives so far have been successful — especially in specialty retailers like Whole Foods that curate options to its audience. However, if the plant-based food trend fades out, Next Level Burger's hype may go along with it.