By  on April 25, 2007

Bloomingdale's is showing off its good taste by partnering with Charlie Palmer, the New York chef whose restaurants include Aureole and Metrazur in Manhattan and Charlie Palmer Steak in Las Vegas. Palmer in late fall will open a signature restaurant and wine store at Bloomingdale's 291,000-square-foot South Coast Plaza unit in Costa Mesa, Calif., which opens to the general public next month.

The classically trained chef, who favors seasonal American ingredients, serves oakwood smoked salmon, grilled lobster and citrus salad and carmelized organic chicken at his flagship, Aureole.

"Luxury shopping and dining go hand in hand," said Palmer, noting that Aureole, on East 61st Street, has many of the same clients as Bloomingdale's, which is at Lexington Avenue and 59th Street.

Restaurants are no longer afterthoughts for stores, which view eateries not merely as places to quickly refuel but as vehicles for lengthening customers' stays. Restaurants are also branding devices, and marquee-name chefs lend cachet to a department or specialty store.

Bloomingdale's said it planned to open two four-star restaurants in the South Coast Plaza unit, which is expected to generate $80 million to $90 million in annual sales, according to market sources. The restaurants will occupy prime spots in the store, by the main entrance — about 20,000 square feet in total. The name of the second restaurant will be revealed at a later date, Bloomingdale's said.

Michael Gould, Bloomingdale's chairman and chief executive officer, said an e-mail survey the chain conducted in Orange County, California, found that 86 percent of the respondents said dining out was their first form of entertainment.

"We feel food is really important," Gould said. "We know someone who eats in one of our restaurants spends more in the store than other shoppers who don't eat in the store. If you go to Paris, London or Tokyo, you see how retailers treat food. At Selfridges, Harrods, Bon Marché, it's a whole different world."

Bloomingdale's 59th Street flagship in 2005 enlisted star chef David Burke of davidburke & donatella. He opened Burke Bar Cafe and Burke-in-the-Box takeout along the 59th Street corridor.

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