Foodservice@Retail: Grocerants features one of the first supermarkets to offer in-store dining. The 242-store Hy-Vee chain, which serves eight Midwest states, expects to take its contemporary Hy-Vee Market Grilles chainwide by the end of 2018, says Jeremy Gosch, Executive Vice President-Strategy and Chief Merchandising Officer. Hy-Vee Market Grilles offer a fun vibe—with local brews and broad menus for game watching. They also highlight Hy-Vee’s charcuterie and Responsible Choice seafood, as well as the grocer’s own brand of sushi, which are also popular in the supermarkets. In the stores, customers can choose from other dining choices too.
 
Foodservice@Retail: Grocerants: What inspires you to pursue the grocerant opportunity today?
 
Jeremy Gosch, Hy-Vee: At Hy-Vee, we are proud to be one of the first grocery chains to offer full-service, in-store restaurants. Our customers lead busy lives. Our Hy-Vee Market Grilles, which seat 130 people on average, are just another way we can make their lives easier. Statistics show more people are eating out these days, so our in-store restaurants fit the trend of what people are looking for. Additionally, our restaurants allow us to highlight our culinary expertise and the talents of our many in-store chefs.
 
FRG: Which three words come to mind when you think of your grocerants? Why?
 
JG: 1) Convenience. Our customers’ lives aren’t slowing down and our Hy-Vee Market Grilles are another way we make things easier for them. Whether dining in our fun, contemporary atmosphere or using our curbside-to-go option, customers get a fantastic meal prepared by a professional team in a convenient location. 2) Culinary Expertise: Hy-Vee’s professional, trained chefs work diligently to create menu items made with fresh and seasonal ingredients directly from our grocery store aisles. And 3) Full-service: Whether customers want an exciting place to watch a sporting event, taste an array of beer or wine selections, enjoy a world-class meal prepared by a culinary expert, or just have a nice family meal together—our Hy-Vee Market Grilles have it all.   
 
FRG: Please describe your grocerants.
 
JG: First introduced in 2012 at a Hy-Vee store in Urbandale, Iowa, Hy-Vee Market Grille restaurants offer a full bar in a contemporary atmosphere. Wait staffs serve diverse fare such as top sirloin, grilled salmon, burgers, sandwiches, salads, flatbread pizzas, appetizers and desserts. The restaurants are adjacent to Hy-Vee grocery stores; they have separate entrances, but also connect to stores via a common door.
 
We heavily market our restaurants as a “place to enjoy the game,” and offer specials during various sporting events or days of the week. For example, we offer Kids Eat Free Night on Tuesdays and Half Off Sushi Night on Wednesdays. We continually expand our wine and beer selections with local brews, and we now have convenient online ordering and curbside pickup.
 
In 2016, we opened 21 new locations inside Hy-Vee stores around our eight-state region, raising our total number of Hy-Vee Market Grilles to 92. As we continue to expand in the Twin Cities and elsewhere, our restaurants and expanded foodservice options play an important role in our future. We plan for all of our grocery stores to have a Hy-Vee Market Grille by the end of 2018.
 
FRG: Do any locations present you with special challenges or advantages to offering foodservice?
 
JG: The size of our grocery stores sometimes pose a challenge to integrating new restaurants or foodservice options within the current footprint. Thus, we are remodeling many older stores to freshen the look and create space for a new Hy-Vee Market Grille and other innovative foodservice concepts.  
 
FRG: What sets your efforts apart to win meal share vs. many kinds of eateries and food retailers?
 
JG: Our stores offer incredible variety for customers in the foodservice area. Besides our Hy-Vee Market Grille restaurants, we introduced new dynamic foodservice options in three new Twin Cities stores this year. These include: a Sweet Shoppe, an Asian Grill, a juice and smoothie island, and a Cocina Mexicana and Hickory House Comfort Foods area. Modeled after a streetscape concept, customers can select their favorite dishes, have them made on the spot, and enjoy their meals in our general dining area, which varies in seating capacity at each store. We want Hy-Vee to be the best when it comes to offering quality meals that are fresh, customized and convenient, and we believe these new offerings achieve this.
 
FRG: Describe the importance of the grocerant to the total store.
 
JG: We bridge unique offerings between our Hy-Vee stores and Hy-Vee Market Grille restaurants. Our restaurants specifically highlight our charcuterie, private brand Nori Sushi and Responsible Choice seafood on the menu, all of which are popular in our stores as well.
 
FRG: In your experience, can a grocerant change how shoppers view a store?
 
JG: Absolutely. No longer is Hy-Vee viewed as just a grocery store. Instead, our customers see us as a one-stop location where they can buy groceries, meet with a dietitian, visit a health clinic, fill their floral and bakery needs, and eat a fantastic meal created by a professional chef in our Hy-Vee Market Grille restaurants. Our customers’ lifestyles are changing, and our company and stores are adapting to meet their needs at every turn. It’s key that we offer customers the conveniences they seek. If we don’t, they’ll find it elsewhere.
 
FRG: Share with us your own food background, and how you see the role of grocerant chef enhancing a club's success.
 
JG: I started my career with Hy-Vee as a part-time clerk in 1995. I served in a variety of different positions at the store level, including manager of general merchandise and perishables and store director, before working at the corporate office. I’ve seen Hy-Vee grow and evolve into the company it is today. Hy-Vee’s chefs do more than simply cook the delicious food served in our restaurants and foodservice areas. They use their expertise to educate customers and elevate the offerings of every perishable department in the store. Our chefs develop and refine recipes and catering menus, collaborate with dietitians on meal kits, host food pairing events and visit schools and community groups to talk about nutrition and other health topics. Hy-Vee chefs play a vital role in our stores, restaurants and local communities.
 
FRG: What can NRA Show 2017 do to help your grocerant be more successful?
 
JG: I like to see and experience the innovative ideas others are implementing nationwide. Whether it’s learning an interesting way to prepare a dish or finding out about a differentiating concept, I enjoy staying ahead of the curve so we can introduce new trends to our customers.