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The Social - Macy's interior.jpg Photo courtesy of Macy's
Macy’s opened its newest proprietary restaurant, called The Social Kitchen & Libations, in mid-June in Minnetonka, Minnesota.

Why retail giant Macy’s prioritizes its restaurant program

Macy’s food and beverage division dates back to 1890 and now includes over 120 licensed, franchised and proprietary concepts.

Macy’s opened its newest proprietary restaurant, called The Social Kitchen & Libations, in mid-June in Minnetonka, Minnesota. The concept features tableside service with glassware, China, and cloth napkins, and an open kitchen serving dishes such as the brand’s signature chicken pot pie, Mandarin salad, Porchetta sandwich and meatloaf sliders.

There is also a brunch menu with a Bloody Mary Bar, which could easily inspire shoppers to stay longer and spend more.

Tom Leuer, senior director of Macy’s Food Division, said food and drink are important parts of the retail giant’s customer experience. And that has been the case for a very, very long time. In fact, Macy’s food and beverage division dates back to 1890, when the first tearoom opened at Marshall Field’s department store in Chicago.

“Mrs. (Sarah) Hering, a salesclerk in Marshall Field's ladies' hat department, introduced the concept by offering her homemade chicken pot pies to customers during the lunch hour. This successful initiative led to the establishment of a tearoom, which eventually evolved into the iconic Walnut Room,” Leuer said.

The Walnut Room continues to operate on the seventh floor of Macy’s State Street in Chicago. It first opened in 1907 as the South Tea Room and was officially named The Walnut Room in 1937.

“It quickly gained popularity among the ladies of Chicago. Adorned with beautiful Circassian walnut paneling and exquisite Austrian crystal chandeliers, it became an iconic destination. In 1937, it was officially renamed The Walnut Room and has continued to operate ever since, making it a historic institution with a rich, 116-year history,” Leuer said. “One of its most beloved menu items is still Mrs. Hering’s chicken pot pie.”

That said, Macy’s has also evolved its offerings across its growing portfolio of restaurants, especially throughout the past decade. That portfolio includes a mix of proprietary concepts, such as Seven on State, The Social and the Walnut Room, as well as licensed and franchised locations, such as The Cheesecake Factory, Au Bon Pain, Subway, Just Salad, and Wetzel’s Pretzels. The retailer also partners with local concepts, such as the Liliha Bakery in Honolulu, Boudin Bakery in San Francisco, Sessions Deli in Southern California, and Zaro’s Bakery in New York City.

“We also feature 20 Macy's Cafés, which showcase the Starbucks ‘We Proudly Serve’ program, in addition to owning and operating over 70 licensed Starbucks locations,” Leuer said. “And we have a longstanding relationship with the Patina Group, which manages our Macy’s flagship, Herald Square, Stella 34 and Rowland’s Bar & Grill.”

All told, there are approximately 120 food and beverage concepts embedded in the Macy’s system throughout the country. For additional context, there are about 500 Macy’s store locations. The restaurants division is a nominal part of the business and doesn’t tend to be discussed during the retail giant’s earnings presentations, but it continues to grow, and Leuer said there are plans to add new locations in “various stores.”

We are continually looking for new concepts, trends, and new brand partners to join our portfolio. When considering concepts, we look for alignment with our customer demographic, resonance with our customers, physical footprint requirements, and more,” he said.

Food, he adds, plays an important part in the overall customer experience, and keeps shoppers in the store longer. Ben Adams, a franchisee who recently opened a Wetzel’s Pretzels at Macy’s Dallas Galleria location, confirmed such benefits exist.

“We get a steady flow of traffic and Macy’s may get some traffic because we’re there, or get people to stay and shop more. It’s definitely been a win/win,” Adams said.

Adams adds that the relationship between operators and Macy’s is collaborative; Leuer’s team works with its partners on internal marketing opportunities to maximize visibility and awareness in the store, for instance, while food and beverage operators feature exclusive promotions and offers that are unique to Macy’s.

“We also collaborate with our teams to provide special event opportunities specifically for our Macy’s Star Rewards members at our food and beverage establishments,” Leuer said.

Adams adds that the Macy’s team helped him coordinate everything from build-out cost forecasting and rent structure to the timing of his Wetzel’s opening and local advertising support.

“In most mall environments, you’re just on your own. Having a partner that has helped us with everything, I know they’ve got our back. They’ve been a true partner,” Adams said.

Creating a successful partnership is Macy’s priority as the retailer continues to build out its food and beverage program. After all, a successful partnership, Leuer said, will create happier customers.

“Our programs contribute value to the overall shopping experience by catering to customers' needs, whether it's for a snack, meal, or drink,” he said. “We strive to ensure their needs are met while they shop, providing a convenient and satisfying dining option.”

Contact Alicia Kelso at [email protected]

TAGS: Marketing
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