"Of about 130 people, 129 people were on their phones," said Werts, who owns the brands American Rag Cie clothing and Maison Midi home goods. "So it struck me that there's an enormous opportunity while you're eating to combine selling decor in a restaurant."
The epiphany led him to create Beau Soleil Kitchen & Bar in Huntington Beach, where people can buy home goods on display, colorful mismatched tiles on the floor and even the tables and chairs. The Maison Midi website is posted throughout the restaurant, giving diners tacit permission to keep their eyes glued to their phones in case they feel the urge to order something besides food.
"The whole experience is for sale," Werts said.
Werts' restaurant-retail hybrid is perhaps the ultimate example of the eating-shopping mash-up working its way across the merchandising landscape.
As retailers try to capitalize on the millennial generation's interest in doing things with friends rather than buying things at malls, there's been a proliferation of restaurants inside grocery stores, shops inside eateries and even snack bars near the dressing rooms. Adding food to the equation is a way for retailers to make shopping an experience and tap millennial consumers' love of eating out, analysts said.
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