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In-store restaurants offer convenience

Places you go to eat rather than shop

Eve Edelheit

Customers Gardner and Kim Cole look at the different Chinese food options at Hy-Vee.

November 11, 2010 | 12:00 a.m. CST

With a shopping cart full of groceries next to the table, eating in one of Columbia’s grocery stores might not be the best choice for a proposal. But it is a simple choice if you want to save time because you won’t have to wait until you get home to cook before you eat. At stores across town, patrons can leave with prepared food, and at some markets they can even eat in the store.

Shoppers entering grocery stores are welcomed with a variety of smells: the fresh, fruity aroma of produce begging to be squeezed and sniffed, the bakery emitting the familiar scent of bread baking as the loaves brown and the seafood counter sometimes giving off the unpleasant stench of fish. Customers walking into one of Columbia’s Hy-Vee stores, though, are hit with the spicy, garlicky aroma of Chinese food. At stores like these, shoppers go not just to buy the ingredients, but also to dine.

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Other grocery stores in town offer similar selections but have less room to eat on the premises. The recently remodeled Schnucks on Forum Boulevard offers premade salads, fried foods and deli options that have become standard in stores, but it also features sushi, a shrimp and seafood bar and a Kaldi’s Coffee shop complete with gelato. Seating near the Kaldi’s outpost is separate from the other food options.

Gerbes and Walmart offer typical salads and fried foods in a deli-style display, but Walmart expands on that fare with Subway locations in its Broadway and Grindstone Parkway venues and a McDonald’s in its Conley Road store. The Subway and McDonald’s locations seem like miniature versions of the franchises that simply happen to be in the store.

The dining options at Hy-Vee bring a diverse crowd. Paula Vandelicht, a dietitian at the Rock Bridge Hy-Vee, says high school students come in for lunch and college students come in for the Chinese and Italian. Some people pick up grocery items while others come just for the food.

The grocery store makes it easy to come in just for a meal with serving lines near the entrance so hungry patrons don’t have to weave through store aisles and displays. The dining rooms at Hy-Vee are separated from the store so eating is reminiscent of a more traditional restaurant. Diners include the regular mix of college students, families and couples. The only difference: At Hy-Vee, there is also a case of between-shift Hy-Vee employees. Everyone eats using the real plates and utensils that would be out of place in a regular fast-food joint.

Don and Loretta Hartley have eaten at Hy-Vee since the first grocery store came to town in 2001 at Broadway and Fairview Road.“It probably has the best salad bar in town,” she says. She explains it would be hard to make a salad with as many toppings as Hy-Vee offers for just her and her husband. She sometimes goes to Hy-Vee with her friends. On their trips, Loretta walks with them and plans their route so they end up at Hy-Vee.

The convenience of Columbia’s in-store dining options attracts people to sit down and eat a meal or grab one to-go after doing their grocery shopping. These restaurants economize eating and provide easy choices for Columbians.

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