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Gallery: Whole Foods welcomes fast-casual restaurant

Mendocino Farms opened its first location within a Whole Foods Market in Tustin, Calif., on Thursday, anchoring a 140-seat shared dining room within the store that includes a bar with craft beer and wine and the grocer’s typical prepared foods.

Whole Foods has been adding outside local restaurant operators to its food line up in stores across the country, including Los Angeles chef Roy Choi’s Kogi and Chego restaurants in Southern California; and the CheU Noodle Bar in Philadelphia.

The grocery chain’s relationship with Mendocino Farms, however, included a minority investment in 2015 that will help the better-sandwich concept grow.

Mario Del Pero, Mendocino Farms’ co-founder, said the company will study how the in-market location works before moving into more Whole Food stores. “But we do have a lot of interest from our friend restaurants that are in different regions to see if this is a viable opportunity for unique partnership and growth,” he said.

Take a look inside Mendocino Farms’ first location inside a Whole Foods Market, in Tustin, Calif.

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