Fast-food chains are finding more and more ways to work themselves into every aspect of our society, and they’ve found a new host to sink their claws into: supermarkets and big-box stores.
Massive chains including Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, and Starbucks have long partnered with big retailers like Walmart and Target as well as smaller places where people congregate (there was even a Pizza Hut in my local bowling alley growing up), but now smaller-scale operations, like Checkers, are taking advantage of the opportunity to open scaled-down outposts inside supermarkets, according to Nation’s Restaurant News.
Two Checkers locations opened inside Walmarts last year, Huddle House has opened in five highway rest stops, Fazoli’s opened inside two rest stops, and Caribou Coffee has signed a deal to open inside Jewel-Osco, Chicago’s largest grocery store chain. Each has plans to continue opening stores in "nontraditional" locations in 2013.
These developments may sound insignificant on the surface (highway rest stops are full of fast food), but there’s something deeper going on here. These are relatively small regional chains that have tended to stick to the tried-and-true model of building a standalone restaurant and operating it alone. But now they’re teaming up with some giant companies, finding less-expansive ways to open in places where they know there will be lots of people.
If this trend continues (and signs indicate that it will), don’t be surprised if your local gas station gets a full-service fast-food chain in the coming years.