Restaurant visionary Richard Melman has something new in his sights: upscale grocery stores.
In a first for his Lettuce Entertain You chain, Melman is partnering with Minneapolis grocery chain Lund Food Holdings to open a new, in-store Asian food counter in its Lunds and Byerly’s grocery chains.
The deal stretches Lettuce into new territory once again as it tries to capture consumers outside traditional restaurants.
“Lettuce isn’t afraid to look at other ideas,” said Kevin Brown, president and chief executive of Lettuce, whose varied restaurants include Scoozi, Wildfire and Mon Ami Gabi.
“There’s a convenience factor. People are trying to merge what they do.”
Lettuce hopes that when people shop, they’ll want to grab a fresh meal to reheat at home.
The takeout concept won’t borrow from the company’s existing stable of restaurants, Brown said.
Analysts are not surprised and see it as another extension of consumer palates that are rapidly becoming more sophisticated.
“What we’ve seen with the success of [such grocery concepts as] Whole Foods is a strong demand for high-quality prepared foods,” said Ron Paul, president of Technomic, a food industry consultant.