Grocery Foodservice Strides:<br />Wegmans Bows Two Restaurant Concepts
Long a leader in all things supermarket, 75-store Wegmans Food Markets has opened its first full-service in-store restaurant, The Pub, inside the Market Café in its new 132,000-square-foot store in Collegeville, Pa., home of Ursinus College and the Collegeville Inn, the latter of which is locally renowned for its bodacious buffet.
In seeking to create a full-service, in-store dining niche, Wegmans joins a short list of food retailers including Whole Foods, Lunds/Byerly’s, Buehler’s and Bristol Farms, which rank among the vanguard of supermarket restaurateurs.
Combining indoor and outdoor seating for more than 300, including Pub seating and more than 60 seats in the Café’s Timber Room, Wegmans’ Collegeville Market Café offerings include everything from burritos and panini sandwiches to freshly made sushi, pizza, subs, an Asian-inspired Wokery buffet and a fresh food bar. Also available are Wegmans’ $6 meals and $5 pasta bowls, developed by the company in response to customers’ desire for more affordable healthy prepared foods.
Featuring a working fireplace and a 24-seat bar where patrons can order from the menu, The Pub is modeled on a traditional Irish tavern, and also offers a medley of beer, wine and liquor. The restaurant, meanwhile, offers a broad range of selections priced in the range of casual-dining venues. Its signature crab cake with remoulade sauce is priced at $10.99, Australian lamb chops with chimichurri sauce or demi-glace are $11.99, and Vietnamese black tiger shrimp with bouillabaisse sauce is $9.99.
Explaining that the Market Café and Pub menus were designed with quality family dinign in mind, executive chef Chris Happel said: “Our philosophy is to start with the best ingredients, go easy on the sauces and seasoning, and let those simply prepared foods shine on the plate. Customers can watch dinner being cooked in The Pub and ask the chef any questions they’d like — so they’re learning more about making something they may want to try at home.”
Wegmans has long been a supermarket destination, drawing mainstream customers and so-called “foodies” from a shopping radius far wider than most food markets, and The Pub could extend the company’s reach even further.
The Rochester-N.Y.-based retailer plans to open another Pub in its store in the Philadelphia suburb of Malvern, Pa., later this spring and will continue evaluating the progress of its first two units before making further incursions into the full-service restaurant arena.
Wegmans has also opened Next Door Bar & Grill in Pittsford, N.Y. The casual dining concept is being staffed by the crew from Tastings, Wegmans’ first full-service stand-alone restaurant that opened in 2002 and closed this past November.
Twice as large as Tastings, which was across Monroe Avenue, Next Door Bar & Grill is “a new direction that’s more informal and laid back,” according to general manager Alex Berentzen. Among the restaurant’s features are a spacious, horseshoe-shaped bar with a roomy adjacent lounge; a large main dining area decorated with unique artwork and serving meals influenced by French, Italian, New American and Asian — primarily Japanese — cuisines; the Robata Grill and Sushi Bar, where food is prepared in full view of guests; four rooms for private parties, including the Test Kitchen, which is used by Wegmans as an educational and recipe-development space; and a wide assortment of craft beers, fine wines and specialty drinks.
Total seating of the new Wegmans restaurant is about 270, and an outdoor patio seats an extra 44.