Brooklyn, N.Y., may be a long way from Indian Land, S.C., but beside the physical distance traveled, the move represents the fulfillment of a dream for TR Burns, who recently celebrated the grand opening of the first location of his Food Geeks Eatery inside a Walmart in the Charlotte, N.C.-area community. The Black-owned, family-run in-store restaurant offers comfort food fare inspired by Burns’ upbringing in the New York City borough’s famed Marcy Projects. The eatery’s hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11a.m. to 8 p.m.
Asked how the collaboration with Walmart came about, Burns exclusively told Progressive Grocer, “I reached out to them and submitted my concept and history of my restaurants, and how it could add value to the Walmart stores by giving people a scratch-kitchen option that’s fast but tastes like home.”
[Read more: “Giant Food Opens In-Store Fast-Casual Restaurant in Maryland Store”]
Not surprisingly, Burns offered a positive view of in-store restaurants. “I feel the advantages are we are constantly in front of every type of person daily,” he explained. “Walmart gives us a real opportunity to reach customers with our brand that we would normally miss.”
As for whether it matters for retailers to feature smaller, diverse restaurants within their stores, Burns noted, “I think it’s important if they want to grow and even test out new concepts.”
The Indian Land Food Geeks Eatery menu is described as “a curated journey through Brooklyn's food culture, reimagined with a modern twist.” Dishes include wings, burgers, slow-cooked collard greens, and platters featuring lamb, Cajun grilled chicken and salmon.
In addition to its current location, the business plans to expand to four additional locations within Walmart stores, all featuring scratch kitchens and a quick-service format to provide an authentic and efficient dining experience.
Will at least one of those restaurants be located closer to where it all began? “New York is in our sights,” replied Burns, affirming his deep Brooklyn roots, while his wife hails from nearby Jersey City, N.J.
Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart operates more than 10,500 stores and numerous e-commerce websites in 20 countries. Walmart U.S. is No. 1 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2023 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. PG also named it one of its Retailers of the Century. Walmart’s Sam’s Club division, operating nearly 600 clubs in the United States and Puerto Rico, is No. 8 on The PG 100.