Thanks to Amazon, e-readers, and the much-talked-about death of print media, the brick-and-mortar bookstore business has been tough in recent years. Barnes & Noble has a revitalization plan, however — and it involves booze. As Bloomberg reports, the chain is planning to open four new concept stores that will include restaurants serving beer and wine.
Said concept stores will be located in Eastchester, New York; Edina, Minnesota; Folsom, California; and Loudon, Virginia, all affluent suburbs located in major metropolitan areas. A press release notes said restaurants will serve "an expanded menu" to go along with the alcohol, though it's not quite clear what form that might take. (Barnes & Noble's current in-store cafes serve Starbucks coffee and espresso drinks, along with a selection of baked goods, sandwiches, soups, quiche, and things of that ilk.)
Is Barnes & Nobles taking a cue from the world's biggest coffee shop chain? Starbucks rolled out its Evenings program in 2015, and now serves beer, wine, and small plates at hundreds of stores across the U.S.
"I think [the Barnes & Noble move] was inspired by the goal to drive more traffic by offering a broader experience to its existing and new customers," says Bonnie Riggs, restaurant analyst for market research firm the NPD Group. "Grocery stores and other outlets are also expanding into the restaurant business. From a consumer standpoint, the offer to dine and shop for books at the same time meets multiple needs and turns shopping into an experience. From a business standpoint, it reinvents the retail model for bookstores and will drive incremental visits and revenue."
"Brick and mortar bookstores have been challenged by online book selling. A dining out experience isn’t something online booksellers can offer," Riggs points out. Of course, only time will tell if this new venture pays off: "If Barnes & Noble can provide customers a pleasant dining experience with good food and drink – a must for restaurant success – and not to mention, an array of wonderful books, they may just have something."
Eater has reached out to Barnes & Noble for further information on the upcoming restaurant concept.