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Q&A: Establishing foodservice operations in one of America’s oldest retail stores

3 min read

Restaurant and Foodservice

Cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery (photo: Flickr user Alexi Ueltzen)

In the constantly-changing era of the Internet, restaurants and retailers can no longer get by with just traditional offerings. Instead, they must evolve and create experiences to draw connected customers to their establishments. As a result, foodservice and retail can mean many different things, and sometimes they even go hand-in-hand.

As one of the oldest retailers in the United States, upscale department store chain Bloomingdale’s is no stranger to innovation and evolution, and one of the ways the retailer has evolved to create experiences that keep customers coming back is adding foodservice to many of its stores. From quickserve food counters to luxury dining experiences, Bloomingdale’s foodservice operations have become a major part of the company’s business strategy. We talked to David Starr, operating vice president and director of food services for Bloomingdale’s, about the business and the experience of establishing successful foodservice operations at retail stores.

Tell me about Bloomingdale’s foodservice operations across the company’s stores.

We currently operate 25 different footprints (40 Carrots, 59th & Lex, B-Café, LTB, FL!P, Petrossian, La Provence) spread across 19 stores plus an additional five leases (Magnolia Bakery, David Burke, Charlie Palmer, An Qi and Daikanyama) in another three stores. We have offerings from simple counter service to white tablecloth fare from our partner celebrity chefs as well as our in-house talent at Le Train Bleu, La Provence and 40 Carrots Ala Moana.

Why are Bloomingdale’s foodservice operations important to the retailer’s business?

As America’s only full-line department store, we feel an obligation to our guests to provide as many amenities and services to make their shopping experience with us seamless, easy, successful and so much fun that they want to keep coming back. Our accessible comfort food, iconic 40 Carrots frozen yogurt, upscale offerings and family casual restaurants offer something for everyone to keep them engaged.

What are the biggest challenges of offering dining options at Bloomingdale’s retail stores?

The ability to offer dinner service later into the evening due to store hours.

What advice would you give to other retailers looking to add dining options to their retail experiences?

Go for it and aim high! The more compelling and appealing the experience, the more likely that customers will embrace and support your efforts.

What does the future look like for Bloomingdale’s foodservice operations?

We are currently looking to expand as well as localize our offerings. The newest 40 Carrots in Ala Moana, helmed by celebrity chef Jon Matsubara, is a great example in that while maintaining our world-famous frozen yogurt, juice and smoothie offerings we overhauled the concept to offer fresh, upscale local-Hawaiian cuisine representative of what guests are truly seeking.


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