Kroger’s Sushi Sales Blur Line Between Grocery Stores and Restaurants

Consumers prefer to pick up their restaurant meals, but where they purchase them is no longer as clear-cut. 

Kroger has been crowned the nation’s top sushi seller, with consumers purchasing more than 40 million pieces from the grocery chain per year. The top title comes as Kroger focuses on growing sales outside the grocery sector, with other efforts to meet consumer demand for convenient restaurant-meal replacers amid higher menu prices. These include opening in-store, multi-brand, pickup-and-delivery “restaurants” and expanding its meal kit business.

Kroger, of course, is one of many grocers to offer ready-made meals. Ahold Delhaize’s subsidiary Giant Food launched its first in-supermarket, fast-casual restaurant, which features self-service ordering kiosks. Consumers can also get meals delivered from the Maryland store location via third-party aggregators. Costco is meeting customer demand for more affordable restaurant alternatives with their own prepared line, and Whole Foods followed suit this past spring. Walmart recently sealed a deal with Gordan Ramsay to launch an exclusive line of eight frozen meals created by the celebrity chef.  

These big-name moves may well be causing a dent in monthly restaurant purchases, which are down per proprietary data prepared for PYMNTS Intelligence’s July “Connected Dining” report. From May 2023 to June 2023, the share of consumers making restaurant purchases in the 30 days prior to being surveyed dropped 7%. This dip, from 67% to 58%, represents the lowest level in over a year. 

When consumers place restaurant orders, they prefer to pick these meals up, according to PYMNTS’ February “Connected Dining” report. Due to inflationary pressures, 52% of consumers said they were more likely to pick their meals up than utilize delivery or eat-in, both of which include expectations to tip. 

Restaurants have moved to accommodate this shifting consumer behavior, such as adding pickup areas to accommodate the rise of carry-out. However, it may be tough to compete with the lure of lower prices that grocery stores’ ready-made meals offer over ordering from a restaurant.

Competition is growing fiercer as grocers compete with eateries for consumers’ ready-made food spend. While dine-in will likely never die out, consumers grabbing a quick midweek meal may no longer see much distinction between stopping off at a restaurant or supermarket.