Before the coronavirus, the grocery industry talked a great deal about battle for share of stomach and the competition from both fellow retailers and restaurants down the street. But that was then, and this is now. Increasingly, supermarkets are joining forces with local restaurants to offer the best of both worlds under one roof.
H-E-B is the latest grocer to strengthen the ties between supermarkets and restaurants, by partnering with Max & Louie’s New York Diner to bring the beloved San Antonio deli’s soups and prepared foods to H-E-B.
Part of a pilot program to help restaurants during the coronavirus crisis, Max & Louie’s is the first restaurant fare to be featured at five H-E-B stores, Dya Campos, H-E-B’s director of government and public affairs, told the San Antonio Express-News. Campos, who said all proceeds from the sales go directly to the restaurants, added that plans are underway to expand the program to include dishes from Rosario’s Mexican Cafe Y Cantina in San Antonio, Fresa’s and Ramen Tatsu-ya in Austin and chef Chris Shepherd’s Underbelly Hospitality in Houston.
Rouses Markets of Thibodaux, La., recently began selling restaurant dishes from iconic local hot spots, including Commander’s Palace and Ye Olde College Inn. In some stores, it is merchandising the restaurant-made grab-and-go dishes in the areas that used to function as salad bars.
In a recent video posted to H-E-B’s Facebook page, President Craig Boyan and staff members addressed product availability and out-of-stocks in the wake of unprecedented demand. Some H-E-B stores have temporarily shut down the service deli, floral and bakery departments to redirect resources to other departments, such as the meat department, which is shipping almost 2 million pounds more per week than before the coronavirus outbreak. “Even for Texas, that’s a lot of meat,” said Boyan.
Adding branded restaurant fare to its prepared foods/deli areas could be a win-win for both H-E-B and its restaurant suppliers. It’s a way to allow H-E-B to keep feeding its loyal shoppers prepared foods and for local restaurants to stay top of mind with Texans.
“If you’re able, please find a way to support your local businesses during this crisis, especially the restaurants around the state,” Boyan said at the end of the video. “Most of them are still open for takeout and delivery.