Wegman's Plans A Pair of Pubs as It Tests Full-Service Restaurants

Last Updated Oct 12, 2009 9:04 PM EDT

Wegmans is going into the bar business with not one but two versions of The Pub, a combination restaurant and watering hole it has launched in its just-opened supermarket in Collegeville, Pa. Jo Natale, a company spokesperson, told Bnet that another Wegmans unit, currently being readied in the Pennsylvania town of Malvern, also will include The Pub.

Natale said the decision to test a restaurant concept came in part because Wegmans already held a liquor license in the Keystone State, which is necessary due to complex laws touching on adult beverages. Most smaller beer purchases in Pennsylvania, for example, have traditionally been done in bars that mount coolers for the trade.

Wegmans has, of course, been involved with foodservice for a long time, Natale noted, offering everything from sandwiches to Indian entrees as well as extensive seating in the Market Café food court sections of its supermarkets. Larger Wegmans supermarkets are well over 100,000 square feet and can mount more than a dozen counters plus food bars where shoppers can purchase edibles for consumption in store. The new Collegeville location tops out at 132,000 square feet and began welcoming customers least week. The Pub doesn't have a separate entrance but is full structure positioned in the Market Café section of the Collegeville store. Wegmans regards the new operation as an extension of its initiatives to provide customers with the widest range of food options possible. Not only does it serve adult beverages, but the full-service restaurant also includes a food bar where guests can oversee the preparation of the meals they are getting ready to enjoy.

Natale said:

Food is still for us what it's all about. Wine, beer and spirits can be a complement to a meal. We're in the food business, but we're also in the restaurant business and have been since we introduced our Market Cafes in the '80s. This is the next step in the offering to our customers. We never had that full-service option. We wanted to extend that additional service to our customers. Just as they can at other casual restaurants, we wanted them to get the chance to order a glass of beer or wine with a meal.
Another Wegmans goal for The Pub is to increase interactivity between the store and customers. As The Pub's food bar is open to the kitchen, diners are able, even encouraged, to chat with and quiz the chefs preparing their meals.

Natale noted:

The fact is, this is a foodservice operation, and the supermarket is the super-sized pantry next door. If you are sitting at the food bar, you can talk to our chefs about how to prepare the food. Restaurants usually want to keep recipes a secret. We don't. If want you want to enjoy at home what we have in The Pub, we'll tell you how to do it."
After the Malvern opening of The Pub, Wegmans will evaluate the operation before rolling out any more, Natale said. If, however, The Pub turns out to be the toast of the town -- or towns in this case -- the retailer won't bar the possibility of more in the future.