Aligning with changing customer tastes, Midwestern grocer Hy-Vee aims to discontinue its Market Grille full-service restaurant concept and convert all 21 locations to Wahlburgers fast-casual restaurants.
A Hy-Vee spokeswoman confirmed the plan Thursday after news of the change emerged earlier this week. The West Des Moines, Iowa-based retailer operates Market Grilles in five states: Minnesota (nine locations), Iowa (six), Illinois (three), Missouri (two) and Nebraska (one). All of the restaurants are within or abutting Hy-Vee stores, with direct access for customers.
A franchise partner of Hingham, Mass.-based Wahlburgers, Hy-Vee will own and operate all of the converted locations, according to Christina Gayman, public relations director at Hy-Vee. Plans call for the Market Grille locations to be remodeled into Wahlburgers restaurants during the spring.
“Our customers are wanting more fresh and convenient meal options. Our 21 Hy-Vee Market Grille full-service restaurants will transition to casual, counter-service Wahlburgers restaurants by early summer,” Gayman said in an emailed statement. “During this transition, the dining area will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week, and will serve a modified Market Grille menu, including breakfast, appetizers, burgers, sandwiches and other daily specials that can be ordered at a kiosk. The full-service bar will remain.”
Wahlburgers restaurants serve signature burgers as well as made-from-scratch recipes, homestyle dishes, fish, chicken and vegetarian options. They also house a full bar, including specialty drinks like adult frappes and floats.
In 2017, Hy-Vee unveiled plans to build, own and operate 26 Wahlburgers restaurants. The supermarket retailer opened its first Wahlburgers in May 2018 inside the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn. There are now six Hy-Vee Wahlburgers locations, the most recent being a 6,100-square-foot restaurant opening last month in Maple Grove, Minn. In January, Hy-Vee also opened a 5,300-square-foot Wahlburgers in Milwaukee. The other three locations are in Brookfield, Wis.; West Des Moines, Iowa; and Olathe, Kan.
The Market Grille conversions, when completed, will give Hy-Vee 27 Wahlburgers locations overall. Gayman said grand opening dates and details on the new Wahlburgers are upcoming.
Though the full-service Market Grille concept is being phased out, Hy-Vee will still operate more than 100 Market Grille Express outlets across its eight-state market area. At the Express locations, customers walk up and order their food and then have it brought out to them. The menu includes breakfast, burgers, sandwiches, side dishes, desserts and a range of beverages.
Wahlburgers currently has 32 restaurants in 18 states, plus two locations in Canada and one apiece in the United Kingdom and Germany. Chef Paul Wahlberg launched the fast-casual restaurant franchise with his celebrity brothers Mark and Donnie Wahlberg in 2011.