Hy-Vees to add sit-down restaurants
The Hy-Vee grocery chain plans to upgrade the in-store restaurants in its three Rochester stores to fit its full sit-down model, which serves beer and wine.
Remodeling the current spaces into Hy-Vee's Market Café casual restaurant format could begin as soon as June at the Barlow Plaza and Crossroads Plaza stores, said Chris Friesleben, the Iowa-based grocer's director of communications. She estimates that the new cafes could be ready to open by August.
The Hy-Vee store on 37th Street Northwest also has a new Market Cafe on the menu, but it will always undergo a major renovation. It will get a new pharmacy, customer service counter and floral area. The exterior will get a major face-lift and the parking lot will be repaired as well as expanded. That construction project is tentatively expected to begin in July.
When they open, the new Market Cafes will have a wait staff that will take orders at the tables, in contrast to the current cafeteria-style ordering used in Rochester's Hy-Vee eateries. They will also offer beer and wine with the meals.
West Des Moines-based Hy-Vee is an employee-owned corporation operating 235 retail stores in eight Midwestern states. For 2013 the company recorded sales of $8 billion, ranking it among the top 25 supermarket chains in the United States.
The sit-down restaurant is a model that Hy-Vee has found success with in other markets.
"We've always been in food service. We do very well at breakfast and at lunch, but it really drops off for dinner in Rochester now," said Friesleben. "Everywhere we have Market Cafes, we find that the evening traffic picks up. By adding these to the Rochester stores, we hope to capture more of that dinner crowd."
She explained that by the end of the work day, customers want to relax and have someone come to take their order. They also seem to be more interested in having a glass of wine or a beer with dinner.
The seating in the Hy-Vee's food service areas will close down for construction, which should take about two months. New tables and booths will be installed as will new decor.
"They will have a completely new look," Friesleben said.
The Market Cafes will also have a larger, dedicated staff than the store's restaurants have had in the past.
While Hy-Vee is moving decisively ahead with upgrades of its existing Rochester stores, it's "re-visiting the layout" of the proposed 95,000-square-foot store to be built along West Circle Drive, she said.
The project is still slated to move ahead, though the time line is uncertain until the plans are finalized. This fourth Rochester store was first announced in October 2011 after Hy-Vee purchased the property just south of the Northern Hills Golf Course for $3.19 million. It will be part of Rochester developer Dale Ragan's planned Northern Hills Commercial Park.
Previously estimated at costing between $15 million to $17 million, the proposed store is anticipated to be the largest of Hy-Vee's Rochester locations once complete. By comparison, the Hy-Vee in the Barlow Plaza is 78,000 square feet; the Crossroads store is 70,000, and the 37th Street store is about 60,000. Hy-Vee estimates that about 450 people will be hired to staff it.
Unlike the other stores, the new one is expected to have a different restaurant format called Market Grille. That model, which Hy-Vee uses in its newly constructed stores, has a more elaborate kitchen allowing for a more extensive menu.