CHICAGO—Will the trend of food at retail locations continue in a post-pandemic world? That question appears to be on pause as stores close or limit customers. But pre-COVID-19, consumer spending on experiences jumped 70% compared to 30 years ago, with some retailers looking to grab some of that market share with in-store eating experiences, FSR Magazine reports.

For example, pre-pandemic, Crate and Barrel and Restoration Hardware had incorporated food and beverage concepts inside some stores, while Ikea baked the concept into the entire shopping experience. Smaller, non-traditional retailers also jumped on the bandwagon, with boutiques, banks and cellphone companies adding restaurants inside some locations.

“Each of these retailers was providing a unique dining and shopping experience, allowing the customer to engage the brand differently than their competition,” Forbes noted. “In a post-COVID-19 world, having these amenities back in full swing may help retailers recover.”

Prepared food is another trend that has found an added boost during the pandemic. Drug stores, grocery stores and convenience stores all offer fresh, prepared foods for customers eager to eat on the run. Food delivery has skyrocketed as well.

What will be the future of eating and shopping? “While the retail, convenience and restaurant industries are continuously evolving, nothing has added pressure to evolve like COVID-19 has,” Forbes concluded. “Retailers and restaurateurs have created safer work environments, developed contact-free delivery methods and navigated regulation changes which have influenced every aspect of the store and the new customer experience. … One thing is certain, even with these implementations, tomorrow’s retail stores and restaurants are going to look a lot different with safety and convenience leading the way in design and operation.”

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