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The Orange County Register reports on the renovation of a nine-year-old Whole Foods store in Tustin, California, pointing to what to some appears to be an inconsistency in the company's approach.

Here's how the Register frames the story:

"When Whole Foods Market opened a megastore in Tustin in 2007, it boasted premium services from a seafood-grilling center to wine and tea bars.

"But after surviving a Great Recession that forever changed consumer buying habits, the Orange County store is unveiling a major overhaul to meet consumer demand for chef-driven dining, value, convenience and personalization. The remodeled store, the biggest overhaul since it opened, features easier-to-navigate aisles, a wider selection of takeout foods, order-ahead coffee service, meat value packs, expanded selection of craft beers, a self-serve pizza station and more express checkout lanes.

"Yet the centerpiece of the year-old makeover has little to do with shopping for GMO-free crackers or organic hemp nut ice cream. In fact, no shopping cart is required. The 60,000-square-foot market, a key anchor at the District shopping center, has added two dining venues: gourmet sandwich chain Mendocino Farms and the Hangar Bar."

At another remodeled Whole Foods, in El Segundo, California, the company "unveiled a Kogi restaurant; it also recently added a bar. The Kogi eatery is popular Los Angeles chef Roy Choi’s second food venue inside a Whole Foods. Last year, the food truck pioneer opened Chego at a downtown Los Angeles store."

The question raised by the story is whether these efforts will address the problems that Whole Foods seems to have - the image of high prices, the seeming lack of appeal to millennials.
KC's View:
I suppose it is possible that Whole Foods wants to be even more exclusive and upmarket with its flagship format, and will use its 365 format to address the other issues in select markets. (Which would mean, I suspect, that we could see a number of traditional Whole Foods stores could be converted to the 365 format.) I'm still not convinced that 365 works as a long-term plan...but I'm willing to give it a chance to play out.

That said, MNB fave Burt Flickinger, managing director of retail consulting firm Strategic Resource Group, is quoted by the Register as saying that the var program in Tustin seems "really ill-advised" and "an expensive initiative when they have so much more to fix.” And he says that the Whole Foods dining experiment is a waste of “productive space."

I keep getting the sense that Whole Foods may be throwing stuff against the wall to see what sticks.