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Whole Foods Adds Bars And Eateries To New Chicago Stores

Whole Foods is set to open seven new stores in the Chicago area that will each include in-store dining options and bars, in hopes that will give adult customers more reasons to visit, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The stores, which formerly belonged to the now-defunct Dominick's chain, have been closed for a year since Dominick's shut down in late 2013. While local competitors bought Dominick's stores and quickly rebranded them, Whole Foods gutted its acquisitions -- all of them in upscale areas -- and reworked them into stores customized for their neighborhoods but also incorporating ideas from existing Whole Foods stores.

For example, a few years ago it would have seemed strange to many people to sit in a grocery store and have wine or beer. Now, bars are a "big trend" for Whole Foods, according to David Schwartz, a regional VP who oversees Midwest operations for Whole Foods. About a quarter of the Austin-based chain's 406 stores now have full-service bars.

All the new stores will accept Apple Pay, which Whole Foods supports chain-wide. But it's not clear whether they will be part of the one-hour delivery service that Whole Foods is testing in some stores in Chicago and 14 other cities.

The first of the new stores to open, in the lakeside Streeterville neighborhood, will include a ramen bar, a juice bar and a coffee bar that adds wine to its menu starting in the afternoon. Another bar has a rotating list of 12 beers on tap, as well as several USB ports and outlets to appeal to plugged-in consumers. The store's prepared foods range from pizza and focaccia to a counter with items made by Raw, a raw and vegan restaurant.

The next store to open, near DePaul University, will include touch-screen kiosk ordering for sandwiches and other ready-to-eat foods. It also will test a walk-up window for passers-by who want a quick coffee or pastry. A store just west of the Loop downtown will have a Mediterranean and boating-inspired theme, with sailcloth and rope accents, while one in the Edgewater neighborhood just south of Loyola University is set to have a mix of an old beach feel with a crafty, "Etsy store" vibe. In suburban Willowbrook, an Airstream trailer will be sliced in two for retro-inspired booth seating.

"We don't build cookie-cutter stores," Schwartz said. "No two stores are exactly alike."

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