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Special Report: Supermarket dining becoming more popular

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Updated: 3/29/2012 8:59 am
It sounds like a menu at the latest hot spot. But we're not talking about your typical restaurant - we're talking about the grocery store.

"I got the chili, vegetarian chili,” Whole Foods Shopper Nikki Georges-Clapp said. “She got a pulled pork sandwich and arugula salad."

"There's not a restaurant that I can mix a sushi and a beer and a crème brulee all at once, but this is a place that you can do it and nobody blinks an eye!" Whole Foods Shopper Clara Wong agreed.

Whole Foods Market in West Little Rock even lets you enjoy your meal with seating extending outside the store.

Phil Lempert, aka The Supermarket Guru, says a growing number of grocers across the country are serving up high-quality restaurants, world class bars, food education classes, and more…right in-store.

"Since the recession hit, less people are eating out, so this really created a new opportunity for supermarkets that really compete with restaurants,” Lempert said. “Typically, the foods are fresher and also less expensive."

You can sink your teeth into everything from vegan to sushi, pub grub to barbeque - even fancy desserts, depending upon location. And here's a bonus: tipping isn't required!

"It's a whole different experience, which is much more community oriented, much more in the open, and much more fun," Lempert said.

And the specials are constantly rotating, giving supermarkets a unique edge. Take whole foods market, where trained chefs prepare menus daily.

"When certain foods are in season, or we know that certain foods are becoming popular among shoppers, we can add those to our menus almost immediately because we have those items at our disposal," Michael Sinatra of Whole Foods said.

Whole foods is also one of many offering full-fledged pubs and wine bars, and they're packed from open to close.

"A lot of our stores are working with local musicians, or doing local poetry nights, or local art exhibits," Sinatra said.

Foodies are also "eating up" cooking and wellness classes. And that's not all.

"A lot of stores are putting in registered dieticians to help people figure out what they're eating, as well as helping to advise the store," Lempert said.

Leaving customers "full" of unique dining options to shop for.

Some grocers also offer in-store tours on how to save money, or how to eat healthy.

All of these options vary depending on the grocery chain, as well as where you live. Lempert says some supermarkets will list these features on their web site, but your best bet is to visit the actual store.
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