Combining a love of shopping with a taste for fine food has never been easier. Some of the best boutiques and department stores in the world house top-notch restaurants, where visitors can take a break from buying and even non-shoppers can dine.
According to restaurant consultant Clark Wolf, who has worked with clients like Rosewood Hotels & Resorts and the Guggenheim, the retail-restaurant concept goes way back, when upscale department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom and I. Magnin operated ladies’ tea rooms as a respite from shopping. Others—Harrods (London), Takashimaya (Tokyo)—also ran, and continue to manage, food halls famous for impressive selections of edibles.
Wolf recalled luncheons held in the café at J.W. Robinson’s department store in Southern California, where his mother once worked, when fashion shows were held while the female clientele ate. “It was like being at fashion week with a sandwich,” he says.
Today’s fashion shows aren’t known for their food, but top designers have warmed to the in-store restaurant. Armani Ristorante, for example, located in the Armani boutique on Fifth Avenue in New York, recently garnered an enthusiastic two-star review from The New York Times during (appropriately) this month’s fashion week.
And while retail restaurants were at one time considered an amenity, they’re now a necessity. “People are out a great deal more, with less structure, and more interested in a broader range of things,” Wolf explains, adding that retailers are also collaborating with known chefs—a trend that began overseas but has caught on in the United States. Jean-Georges Vongerichten helms ABC Cocina in New York’s ABC Carpet & Home; restaurateur Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group (of Shake Shack fame) handles the food at Ralph’s at the Ralph Lauren boutique in Paris.