By  on May 27, 2008

Bloomingdale's is bullish on fine dining.

Chef Charlie Palmer's restaurant opening Thursday at Bloomingdale's South Coast Plaza store in Costa Mesa, Calif., is evidence of the retailer's belief that food extends the time shoppers spend in the store, leading to more sales.

Palmer's 11,000-square-foot establishment features what the chef — who runs the highly rated Aureole restaurants in New York and Las Vegas — calls "progressive American-style" food, including entrées such as lemongrass poached lobster and pancetta-wrapped quail. A wine shop operated by Palmer, called Next Vintage, is opening alongside the restaurant.

In addition, a second eatery is expected to open at the South Coast Plaza Bloomingdale's. Chairman and chief executive officer Michael Gould said, "It's an exciting San Francisco/Beverly Hills concept," but he declined to reveal the name.

"Food is becoming more and more important to our business," Gould said. "Our statistics show that a customer who also [visits] the restaurants will end up spending as much as twice as much [money] in the store during the course of the year. We wanted something very unique in South Coast Plaza. We were coming into a center that's been so established for so long."

Tony Spring, president and chief operating officer of Bloomingdale's, said, "We're taking the shop experience to another level. This is a model that has possibilities in other [Bloomingdale's] locations. These types of little indulgences are ways consumers, even in this environment, will want to treat themselves, when they can't have an extreme indulgence."

Bloomingdale's will open a 12,000-square-foot chef-driven restaurant on the third floor of a unit slated to open at CityNorth in Phoenix in fall 2009. And the retailer continues to tinker with the dining offerings at its 59th Street flagship in Manhattan.

"As we're redoing the lower level men's area, we're taking out the 59 Lex restaurant and will have a whole new concept coming in," Gould said. "We're looking at doing some other things on 59th Street with food."

The successful 40 Carrots, which sources said does more than $3 million in annual sales, is being expanded. "Forty Carrots is a main opportunity," Gould said. "In the Chestnut Hill, Mass., store, which we redid about a year ago, we're opening a 40 Carrots on the main level, facing the main door and Route 9."


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