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Rainbow Foods Partners With Leeann Chin

EDINA, Minn. - Rainbow Foods here announced yesterday that it will open Leeann Chin carryout restaurants at two of its stores in July, with plans to put the eateries in at least another 10 supermarkets by the end of the year, the Pioneer Press reports.

"This is our first venture with another company to offer an in-store food offering," said Dale Riley, Rainbow Foods v.p. and g.m. The first two Leeann Chins will be at Rainbow's Bloomington and Maple Grove stores. Depending on locations, some of the Rainbows may include space for sit-down eating.

The parties' five-year partnership agreement arrives as Leeann Chin winds down a long-standing partnership with Lund Food Holdings, the parent of the Byerly's and Lunds upscale supermarket chains. Byerly's first joined with Leeann Chin in 1991. Leeann Chin and Lund mutually agreed to let their contract expire in December.

"When our stores first offered Leeann Chin services, it was a food concept that was new for its time," said John Pazahanick, a Lund v.p., in a statement. He added that in recent years, however, Leeann Chin sales at Byerly's and Lunds stores have decreased.

Leeann Chin said switching its Twin Cities' grocery allegiance to Rainbow will allow it to offer a new restaurant concept called Chin's Asia Fresh.

Leeann Chin's contract with Lund prevents the restaurant firm from putting its stores within a three-mile radius of any supermarkets, said Steve Finn, company chief executive of the Bloomington-based restaurant firm. Chin's deal with Rainbow has no similar restriction that would affect the opening of quick-casual Pan-Asian restaurants, thereby giving "us an opportunity to control our own destiny," he said.

At the present time the company has five Chin's Asia Fresh units; one in Rochester, Minn.; and four in Wisconsin. It plans to open a handful of the restaurants by the end of the year in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.

The joint venture with Leeann Chin will expand Rainbow's food offerings and give it the cachet of a restaurant company with a strong Twin Cities' following, Riley said in an interview, while the partnership lets Leeann Chin establish ties with Rainbow's parent firm, Milwaukee-based Roundy's Inc., one of the Midwest's largest supermarket chains. Besides its 31 Rainbow Foods supermarkets, Roundy's owns more than 80 grocery stores in Wisconsin under the Pick 'n' Save and Copps Food Centers banners.

According to Finn, Leeann Chin is now selling its prepared food at two of Roundy's Wisconsin supermarkets and expects to add a few more by the end of the year. Leeann Chin currently has 55 locations in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

In signing a five-year agreement, Rainbow and Leeann Chin said they hope their partnership will become a long-term venture. Finn said he sees opportunities for both companies to do cross-promotions and marketing.

Riley said it's too early to tell whether all Rainbow supermarkets will have Leeann Chin takeout restaurants, however.
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