Consumers weighing whether to dine out at a tablecloth restaurant or a fast-food joint now have additional options to consider: the grocery store and the minimart.
Supermarkets have long offered items like rotisserie chicken, and convenience stores have served roller-grill hotdogs and heat-lamp pizza. But in recent years companies in both categories have reformatted their stores and beefed up their menus with fresh, made-to-order offerings that they hope will woo eaters from traditional restaurants and burger joints and lead them to buy other goods the stores sell as well.
Sales of prepared foods and baked goods at Whole Foods Market Inc., which pioneered the sale of fresh-cooked items in its stores, more than doubled to $2.7 billion in fiscal 2014 from $1.3 billion in 2007. That puts Whole Foods on a par with restaurant companies like Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., whose sales were $3.2 billion last year. Other grocery chains are following suit. Industry giant Kroger Co. is experimenting with putting grilling stations between its meat and seafood areas, and Mariano’s, a Chicago-area unit of Roundy’s Inc., has opened new outlets with sushi counters and oyster bars.