Appetites: Restaurants with a side of retailby Tom Crann, Minnesota Public Radio
ST. PAUL, Minn. — There's a new restaurant trend in the Twin Cities that does not involve foie gras-topped hamburgers, heirloom beet foams, or anything served on a plate.
It has to do with the plate, actually... or the button-down shirt, or the bedroom set that you just might decide to purchase while you're waiting to be seated at your table. Rachel Hutton, senior editor of Minnesota Monthly magazine speaks with MPR News about several new restaurants with retail collaborations.
Tom Crann: Where did this dinner-and-a-shopping-bag trend come from?
Rachel Hutton: The restaurant and retail connection isn't really new. I think it began locally, in earnest, in the early 2000s, when Southdale upgraded its restaurants. Suddenly, the food courts we loitered at as teens were joined by several upscale, date-worthy restaurants. After you shopped until you dropped, you could relax with a Champagne cocktail.
Tom Crann: Ok, got it: People who come to the mall to shop decide to stick around for dinner, and people who come for dinner might buy something on their way out.
Rachel Hutton: That's it. Around the same time as Southdale's expansion, ambitious restaurants seemed to be wrapped into every new boutique hotel or cultural institution in town -- from the Chambers to the Walker --sharing the same guests. The latest crop restaurant/retail partnerships have taken place on a smaller scale that seems to connect with people on a more personal level.
Tom Crann: Can you give us an example?
Rachel Hutton: Sure. In 2011, Eric and Andrew Dayton opened The Bachelor Farmer restaurant in Minneapolis's North Loop. Considering their family history with the state's most famous department store, it's not surprising that the brothers also included an adjoining retail shop, called Askov Finlayson, in their plans. The shop's primary focus is menswear, but they sell everything from lip balm to children's toys.
Tom Crann: And I suppose there are advantages to the Daytons running both operations?
Rachel Hutton: Yes, including the fact that it makes it easy for them to coordinate joint events. For example, this Saturday afternoon, they're hosting a bubble hockey tournament -- the hockey version of foosball -- in Askov Finlayson, but they're going to open The Bachelor Farmer's bar early so participants can drink and snack between games.
Tom Crann: What about another example?
Rachel Hutton: The newest of these concepts is a restaurant on East Lake Street in Minneapolis called Parka, which shares space with a retail shop called Forage Modern. The guys behind Forage are contractors who specialize in historical remodeling, and when they renovated the building, they reached out to the culinary team behind Parka and invited them to share space. The restaurant has only been open for a few weeks now, but the partnership feels so organic that, apparently, when one of the city health inspectors visited Parka, even she remarked on how smart she thought the collaboration was.
Tom Crann: Do the food and goods influence one another?
Rachel Hutton: Not directly, perhaps, but both seem to have a similar style or approach. Parka, for example, serves contemporary comfort food, which has a similar sensibility to Forage Modern's retro-modern, handcrafted furnishings and accessories. People who share your culinary tastes are likely share your taste in fashion, I suppose.
Tom Crann: Both of those restaurants seem successful enough that they wouldn't need more traffic? Why take on the partnership?
Rachel Hutton: Both concepts are undoubtedly strong enough to be freestanding, but I think that restaurant people and style people tend be creative thinkers and have a lot of crossover interests, so the collaboration keeps things more interesting for them.
Tom Crann: Has it increased sales?
Rachel Hutton: From what the owners of these businesses tell me, yes. I'd say maybe a little too well, at least in my personal experience. I went to lunch at Parka a couple weeks ago and ended up buying a bedroom set.