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Emerging Brands

Barnes & Noble’s foray into full-service restaurants flops

The bottom line for Barnes & Noble Kitchen is “awful,” the bookseller’s founder says.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Full-service restaurants are not, it appears, a magic pill to cure ailing bookseller Barnes & Noble.

Two years after opening the first Barnes & Noble Kitchen, the bottom line for the five units is “awful,” Len Riggio, the book chain’s founder and chairman, told analysts during a conference call Thursday.

“We do not have a culture of operating restaurants,” Riggio said. “We have no experience in the hospitality area. Things like controlling food costs and payroll costs are not in our DNA. It’s a lot harder than you think.”

The bookseller, which posted a 6.1% drop in same-store sales for the quarter ended July 28, is experimenting with smaller-footprint stores that will have space for a cafe but not for the full-service concept.

“I don’t think it’s a done deal that we’re going to have full-boat restaurants in the future,” Riggio said.

Barnes & Noble representatives did not respond to a Restaurant Business request for further details about the future of the restaurants.

Improvements will be made to the chain’s cafes, Riggio added, “based on what we’ve learned in our restaurants.” He did not provide details on what those upgrades might include.

Barnes & Noble launched its first Kitchen unit in late 2016, featuring an “upscale casual American” menu of high-end offerings such as a $16 brisket burger and $22 plancha-cooked salmon. The units also feature beer and wine.

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