Ikea is home to DIY furniture with too many consonants—and some delicious tiny meatballs. Everyone knows this. The meatballs are a cult classic, as is their lingonberry sauce and an entire line of proprietary foods they now sell in stores everywhere. But now the company is considering opening an entire chain of standalone restaurants serving nothing but Ikea’s Swedish comfort food. Would you go?
In addition to reasonably priced end tables and sofas, Ikea’s food department is an important part of the business, and it’s one of the company’s fastest-growing segments. In fact, Ikea Food’s annual sales accounted for $1.5 billion of the company’s total profit in 2013.
With efforts to reduce food waste, promote sustainable eating and do it all for cheap, the food division has grown exponentially. The company now serves about 650 million people a year in 48 countries around the world. That many hungry people adds up to about $1.8 billion in sales in 2016—a not-insignificant jump from just a few years prior.
But could this really translate into successful standalone restaurants? Aren’t the customers just people who came to buy a moderately priced bookshelf and got hungry on their way out? Well, Ikea executives are betting that’s not the case.
And that’s because 30 percent of Ikea Food’s customers have come to Ikea just to eat. And with most of these stores set far out in the suburbs (the warehouses are just too big to be in cities), restaurants located in high-traffic urban areas could represent a major opportunity for Ikea.
Ikea has previously opened successful pop-up restaurants in London, Paris, and Oslo. If those temporary spots were successful, why shouldn’t a brick-and-mortar restaurant be?
“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 Food’s managing director, told Fast Company in an interview. “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.’”
So, do you think the Ikea executives are onto something? Would you go to an Ikea Café just for the meatballs?