Headlines Water cooler chatter for eaters Shoppers flocking to grocerants for grab-and-go eats

Harold’s Cabin has a dedicated area for grab-and-go items.

“In-store dining and take-out of prepared foods from grocers has grown nearly 30 percent since 2008, and accounted for 2.4 billion foodservice visits and $10 billion of consumer spending in 2015.”

— The NPD Report, June 14, 2016

Restaurant spending nationwide has been steadily gaining on grocery store sales since the early 1990s, coming out on top for the first time in 2015. That’s because Americans, particularly the influential millennial cohort, are attracted to the convenience, freshness and variety offered by grocery stores, but a growing number of them balk at cooking.

Turns out the folks running supermarkets aren’t fools. They’re now luring back customers with prepared dishes, such as the kung pao tofu and baked ziti on the Whole Foods hot bar, and no-thinking-required meal kits, much like those popularized by delivery services such as Blue Apron.

In industry parlance, the ready-to-eat section of a grocery store, airport terminal or convenience store is known as a “grocerant.” Last year, Progressive Grocer hosted its first grocerant conference; this year, the trade group is moving its grocerant meeting to a larger venue.

Restaurants are countering grocers’ efforts to corner the ready-made market by installing display cases for their grab-and-go items, which can be warmed up in the microwave and still retain restaurant cachet. (Those dedicated retail areas are considered grocerants, too.) In Charleston, that’s the strategy at Harold’s Cabin and The Junction Kitchen, and has lately become a bigger part of The Daily’s business.

Hanna Raskin