Everyone knows the best part about the IKEA experience is the meatballs. You might say that you visit the Swedish chain for its furniture or its various home accessories or to watch basketball since you don’t have cable TV. But, we all know you’re really there for the food and so does IKEA…apparently.
The company has decided to put an even greater emphasis on food and a little less on the furniture. It remains to be seen where they are headed with this, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if the company opened up a stand-alone restaurant at some point in the future. In fact, they’ve already tested it out.
In the past few years, the company has dabbled in the pop-up restaurant business with stops in Paris, London, and Oslo. How long before IKEA decides to open one permanently? Surely when they do, there will be hysteria on the level of the Saved By The Bell restaurant or Bill Murray’s Caddyshack restaurant. IKEA has more fans than Lady Gaga, The New York Yankees, and Netflix combined. But will they come for the food?
“We’ve always called the meatballs ‘the best sofa-seller,'” Gerd Diewald, the head of IKEA’s US food operations told Fast Company. “Because it’s hard to do business with hungry customers. When you feed them, they stay longer, they can talk about their [potential] purchases, and they make a decision without leaving the store.”
While studying their customers’ wants and needs, IKEA determined that 30% of its customers visit the stores for food alone. That’s a fairly large chunk of its customer base. “The mere fact that we don’t need so many square feet to do a café or a restaurant makes it interesting by itself,” Michael La Cour, IKEA’s Food Managing Director told Fast Company. “I firmly believe there is potential. I hope in a few years our customers will be saying, ‘Ikea is a great place to eat—and, by the way, they also sell some furniture.’”
IKEA is already serving 650 million diners per year. That’s an awful lot of customers for a chain that is more known for its BILLY Bookcases and KLIPPAN sofa than its Lingonberry Syrup and Elk-Shaped pasta. Maybe, in the future, we won’t even think of IKEA as a furniture store anymore. If they base it around the meatballs alone, count us in.