© Barnes & Noble [Official] Affected books serve as adornment central the Barnes & Noble Kitchen in Eastchester, New York
Facing annealed antagonism from Amazon, the bookstore chain’s latest Hail Mary is in-store restaurants
Clad in a denim a, a server rattles off a account of convalescent meats and their origins, including La Quercia prosciutto from Iowa. But the charcuterie ortment, broadcast with Marcona almonds and a corue of olive oil, is not on action at the latest adjacency restaurant touting aggregate plates and ability affair — rather, it’s on the card at a burghal Barnes & Noble.
The newest Barnes & Noble Kitchen — a restaurant abstraction the bookseller began installing central its retail aliment in backward 2016 — opened beforehand this year in the bougie Dallas ‘burb of West Plano. Additionally on the card are usemade barbecue potato chips topped with crumbles of Pt. Reyes dejected cheese, and a $19 bowl of fizz craven that comes with a ancillary of carrot-kale slaw. (The best accepted dishes alter from area to location, but sers say that the chicken, forth with avocado toast, a turkey panini, and a broiled cheese-tomato soup combo, are amid diners’ favorites.) At the restaurant’s bar, sers cascade pints of bounded beer and cull espresso sts.
There are now bristles Barnes & Noble Kitchens in the U.S., including the one in West Plano. The aboriginal opened in Edina, Minnesota in November 2016, and the aggregation has aback added four added outposts, all in flush suburbs. (The newest is in Ashburn, Virginia, amid in the richest canton in America.)
Barnes & Noble, which opened its aboriginal abundance in New York City in the backward 19th century, has suffered a above slump in contempo years: In March, it appear its ninth after ision of crumbling sales. Times are boxy for bookstores in general. In the U.S., they brought in $684 actor in October 2017, about a 40 percent abatement from a decade ago, according to Census Bureau abstracts cited by the New York Times. Amazon, surprisingly, is now the fourth-largest brick-and-mortar bookstore chain.
So, it seems that hawking $12 avocado acknowledgment and $16 brisket burgers is Barnes & Noble’s latest attack to break accordant in a amplitude that’s added accident business to online retailers like Amazon. But entering the restaurant business, with its awfully low aculation margins and aerial amount of failure, is an absurd Hail Mary for the nation’s better bookstore chain.
At the West Plano area of Barnes & Noble Kitchen, the aliment is real, but the books, abnormally enough, are fake. Resting aloft board shelves that jut out from the aback wall, they accept neither pages nor les, activity alone as decor. To acquisition the absolute books, diners charge alone advance aback their dejected adipose chairs — which, appropriately, resemble appliance that ability be begin in a accessible library — and stride to the adverse ancillary of the bar. Abate than a archetypal Barnes & Noble, with a book alternative abundantly foed on best-sellers, the absolute West Plano abundance occupies about 10,000 aboveboard feet. Bisected of that is adherent to the bookstore, and the added bisected to the restaurant, with its quiet blush palette of copse tones and serene blues.
Over the accomplished decade, added and barter accept alone abundance adventures like these for online spping, absorbed by accessibility (o, Prime shipping), all-inclusive inventories, and frequently, lower prices. “Books are a cl that lends itself actual able-bodied to dial,” says Barbara Kahn, business istant at the Wharton Scol at the University of Pennsylvania. “Amazon has actually ample out the book affairs business and actually dominates it. It does aggregate you can do in store, online — there are alike agenda books you can [flip through], it has alert the array of ucts, and it’s cheaper.”
At Barnes & Noble Kitchen, the aliment is absolute but the books are fake.
When sppers can adjustment aloof about annihilation with one bang and accept it delivered to their aperture in a brace canicule — or a brace urs — why bother arcade in actuality at all? That’s a bewilderment that retailers beyond the spectrum are facing, and they’re added attractive to what ysts alarm “experiential retail” in an attack to drive barter into brick-and-mortar stores. According to bazaar ysis close NPD Group, “The abstraction is that a banker offers consumers a advenious to buy an acquaintance rather than aloof an article or service. Or to put it accession way, the chump buys a memory.”
Barnes & Noble’s book alternative may not be abundant to get sppers to carelessness the advantageously apathetic accessibility of Amazon’s one-click acclimation — but the aggregation is acquisitive that the affiance of a meal aggregate with accompany or ancestors will.
“Honestly, we all aloof appee to feel appropriate back we go into a store,” says Taylor Coyne, chief retail yst at JLL. “It’s all about cultivating that experience, and the balmy and down-covered animosity you get back you boutique and you buy article that you’re actually aflame about [versus arcade online]. That is a actually appropriate activity that retail can tap into.”
So are in-store restaurants a way for Barnes & Noble to accord its barter article Amazon can’t? “Frankly I ane Amazon can do annihilation Amazon wants to,” Kahn says. “If Amazon doesn’t appee to do something, there’s about a reason,” she credibility out, acknowledging that restaurants about accomplish on actual attenuate aculation margins.
Other retailers accept looked to enhance their #brands with restaurants, too — Urban Outfitters, Restoration Hardware, Tiffany & Co., Tommy Bahama — but conceivably none are adverse as big a disruptor in their corresponding fields as Barnes & Noble is with Amazon.
“With so abundant antagonism these days, retailers actually charge to bazaar their brand,” Coyne says. “The added cast acquaintance they can cultivate, the added cast adherence [they’ll win]. If you can get bodies to actually affix with your cast and adore your artefact — well, that’s w you’re activity to actually succeed. You can’t affectionate of aloof be done away.”
Put accession way, if a chump has a memorably abundant dining acquaintance at Barnes & Noble Kitchen, aing time they charge a book, they ability accede autritative the expedition to the abundance instead of resorting to Amazon Prime.
But according to Kahn, the best able in-store adventures both reinforce the retailer’s cast and action sppers “an acquaintance that bodies would go out of their way to booty allotment in” — ane affable cles at Williams-Sonoma, makeovers at Sepra, or yoga at Lululemon. Barnes & Noble’s in-store restaurants may not be different abundant to argue sppers to get off the internet. “I don’t actually see the synergy, unless there’s a continued band at the restaurant” so bodies are affected to boutique while they wait, she says.
Kahn mentions Barnes & Noble’s longstanding in-store cafes, which serve Starbucks coffee alongside pastries (and desserts from the Cheesecake Factory, in some locations), as a abstraction that “makes added sense” central a bookstore. “Tse are accessible places to sit bottomward and brush through a book or magazine,” she credibility out.
But coffee boutique ability has confused in contempo years: Patrons are now added acceptable to sit abandoned and ignment on a laptop than to apprehend a book or besiege with friends, and sipping a latte amidst by laptop squatters doesn’t actually accomplish for the affectionate of in-store acquaintance that will animate barter to return. (Several of Amazon’s IRL bookstores additionally accommodate coffee sps.)
Barnes & Noble’s adventure into full-service dining is additionally coating of the all-embracing about-face against aculation restaurants into es commonly bedeviled by retail.
Chef and restaurateur David Chang afresh batten to CNBC about this movement, saying, “I bethink aggravating to acquisition leases [for his aboriginal restaurant in 2004] and bodies were like, ‘No. We don’t appee a restaurant in our building. It’s activity to abatement the amount because of problems with smells or whatever. And now, anybody wants a restaurant. Restaurants now are ballast tenants in buildings.” According to absolute acreage close CBRE, today restaurants absorb amid 20 and 40 percent of a archetypal arcade center, against 10 or 15 percent a decade ago.
“It’s not aloof a phase,” says Coyne. “Eating and bubbler is so abundant of w we end up spending time with our accompany and family. So, I ane [Barnes & Noble] is actually borer into a trend that’s actual real.”
But while online chump reviews for Barnes & Noble Kitchen accept been abundantly favorable, the restaurants aren’t actually breeding a ton of buzz. Unlike the troughly branded dining acquaintance at, say, Tiffany & Co., the aliment and atmosphere at B&N Kitchen ume like they could be begin aloof about anywhere. While the restaurant’s website is brindled with accordant arcane quotes — such as Virginia Woolf’s “One cannot ane well, adulation well, beddy-bye well, if one has not dined well” — that affair isn’t activated central the restaurants themselves (except for tse awe-inspiring faux books), giving the dining es a absolutely all-encomping feel that seems absurd to bolt on with barter in an already-crowded restaurant landscape.
Tiffany’ NYC restaurant has the above account of actuality a affluence cast that’s all about aspirational aesthetics: Diners w can’t allow a $25,000 design chaplet can instead Instagram their adorned afternoon tea account at the in-store Dejected Box Cafe, served on robin’s egg dejected ceramics for the almost low amount of $49. In the case of Urban Outfitters, the cast looked to actomed chef names — Ilan Hall, Marc Vetri — in adjustment to ample seats at its in-store restaurants. (Neither Hall nor Vetri are still in business with UO, admitting the closing did end up affairs his restaurant aculation to the retailer.)
And as Barnes & Noble continues to lose business from Amazon (which appear added than $60 billion in sales for the best contempo quarter, compared to Barnes & Noble’s $1.2 billion), it’s additionally accepting awkward from below: Indie bookstores are booming, acknowledgment in allotment to a absolute backfire to the affectionate of cold, abstract acquaintance provided by agenda giants like Amazon. Unfortunately for Barnes & Noble, it lies about in the middle: It’s not big or tech-savvy abundant to accord Amazon a run for its money, but it’s too big and aculated to attempt with the affectionate of smaller, quirkier indie aliment that advance loyal adjacency followings.
Barnes & Noble beneath to acknowledgment questions about its restaurant adventure and is blockage tight-lipped on any approaching amplification affairs for now, but it did accede that the Kitchens are still in the ysis phase. “Our barter accept admired these new restaurants, and we are continuing to apprentice from them as we innovate and ysis new abundance offerings,” a agent said via email. (In accession to the tering of full-service Kitchen locations that are now open, it additionally debuted a fast-casual adaptation of the abstraction in Virginia backward aftermost year.)
In the meantime, it seems diners aren’t actually absorption to bandage bottomward $22 plates of apricot at Barnes & Noble’s restaurants. A agents affiliate at the Plano abundance said there’s “typically never a wait” for a table, alike during prime weekend banquet urs, while a st at the Folsom, California, area said waits during aiguille meal urs never beat bristles minutes. In added words, it charcoal to be apparent aloof w abounding diners adjudge to chase up their in-store avocado acknowledgment with a anew bought book to booty me.
Whitney Filloon is Eater’s chief accessory editor.
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