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Stores like Bass Pro Shops and Restoration Hardware add restaurants and bars

A 130,000-square-foot Bass Pro Shops with an attached Islamorada Fish Company is opening in Brandon next week. [Courtesy Bass Pro Shops.]
Published Jul. 23, 2015

How about a glass of wine to celebrate the $11,230 purchase of a Parisian burnham leather recliner from Restoration Hardware?

At the new Restoration Hardware store opening in International Plaza this fall, shoppers won't have to go farther than the three-story retailer's rooftop garden bar for some wine and hors d'oeuvres. Tampa is among the first cities in the country to get a Restoration Hardware gallery store concept, which is currently under construction next to the Capital Grille at Bay Street. When it opens in November, Restoration Hardware will be one of several retail chains in the Tampa Bay area that let customers eat and drink where they shop — a trend that has been revived by names like Nordstrom, Bass Pro Shops, IKEA and others in recent years in an effort to give shoppers more reasons to come to brick and mortar stores.

"The basic proxy is that the longer you keep people in the store, the more stuff they're going to buy," said Steve Kirn, executive director of the David F. Miller Retailing Education and Research Center at the University of Florida. "They want you to linger longer and take in the sights, tastes and smells you're not going to get from an LED screen if you're shopping online."

Bass Pro Shops is opening a 130,000-square-foot Outdoor World store in Brandon next week, and will include a 7,000-square-foot Islamorada Fish Co. restaurant, which will serve seafood and other entrees, as well as cocktails.

The average Bass Pro enthusiast shops inside the store for up to two and a half hours and drives more than 50 miles to get there, a draw that makes the mega outdoor retailer a unique destination, said Katie Mitchell, a spokeswoman with Bass Pro Shops.

"The restaurant does make a nice 'perk' for customers, but it is possible for customers to just come and enjoy full-service dining at our restaurant entities," Mitchell said.

Some Bass Pro Shops concepts have a restaurant with an attached bowling alley inside.

Similar to IKEA, the Swedish home furnishings retailer whose mammoth stores have cafeterias known for European fare and cheap prices, Bass Pro Shops is an entertainment destination that is able to span different demographics of shoppers with additional amenities. By adding a restaurant component, the store becomes more family-friendly, said Jeff Green, a retail analyst based in Phoenix.

"A man can shop at Bass Pro Shops and then head to the restaurant with his family," Green said. "Or the mom heads to the mall nearby while the husband shops at Bass Pro Shops, and they meet for dinner."

Dining in department stores isn't new. It was fairly common to find lunch counters and restaurants in stores like Maas Brothers in the 1960s. But as more stores emerged and competition increased, restaurants were converted to additional sales floor space to make way for more merchandise.

Food and fashion have re-merged in recent years. Nordstrom has its own cafe at International Plaza, which serves lighter fare, coffee and cocktails. Saks Fifth Avenue opened its second in-house restaurant, called Sophie's, at the Mall at University Town Center in Sarasota last year. A third opened in San Juan, Puerto Rico, this year.

"The first thing that comes to mind is 'ladies who lunch,' but it's much more than that," said Cathy Green, vice president of Fifth Dining, the joint venture behind Sophie's restaurant, which is named after Saks fashion designer Sophie Gimbel. "The restaurant serves customers who come to Saks for personal shopping experiences in private rooms and cater trunk shows and other events at the store. It kind of has a global use beyond just being another restaurant."

Macy's has dabbled with restaurant concepts in some markets, like Stella 34 Trattoria, an Italian restaurant found on the sixth floor of the Macy's department store in New York.

The new Crayola Experience children's store in the Florida Mall has its own cafe.

"Even if the food operation barely breaks even, it encourages sales in other parts of the store, which they must think is worth it," Kirn said. "The idea of integrating eating and relaxing into a retail atmosphere keeps people browsing for longer."

Contact Justine Griffin at jgriffin@tampabay.com. Follow @SunBizGriffin.

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