Whole Foods is planning to carve out space in its new downtown store for the chicken and robots restaurant Birdcall, the grocer announced Monday.
The grocery store near Denver Union Station is slated to open along with Birdcall ahead of Thanksgiving, Nov. 23. The partnership is part of the Friends of Whole Foods Market program where the Austin-based grocer provides space in its stores for restaurateurs, according to a spokeswoman for Whole Foods.
In coming days, Whole Foods is expected to unveil its targeted opening date for the store near the north corner of 17th and Wewatta streets. The store in Capitol Hill will likely close shortly before the new supermarket opens within Union Denver apartment complex.
Whole Foods plans to hold on to its lease in Cap Hill, but the grocer has not yet announced what it will do with the location near the corner of East 11th Avenue and North Emerson Street.
The Friends of Whole Foods Market program is still relatively new, during the last five years the grocer has partnered with about 65 drinking and dining companies nationwide. There are six spots planned or operating for companies in Colorado, according to Whole Foods.
“Being able to support the local community and the different chefs that have great ideas is a great way to differentiate ourselves and also support them,” said Amador Acosta, culinary coordinator for Whole Foods Market.
Yellowbelly Chicken is expected later this year to test out the Whole Foods near Belmar mall in Lakewood. The store in Southglenn has Genji Ramen. Biju’s Little Curry Shop moved into the stores in Boulder and near Tiffany Plaza Mall in Denver. And Pressery juice bar has space in the Whole Foods in Longmont.
“Our goal in our region is to have these be kind of rotating venues,” said Heather Larrabee, Rocky Mountain region spokeswoman for Whole Foods.
“For these smaller venues, like at Pearl Street or Tamarac or Belmar, those are on a one-year contract. And it’s maybe similar to Avanti where if the chefs and the restaurants are liking it and they want to stay, that’s great. But if not, they can use it as a one-year opportunity to test new concepts,” Larrabee said.
Tom Rich, vice president of operations and merchandising at Whole Foods, helped land Birdcall. He said Whole Foods and Birdcall planned the restaurant space downtown together, leading to a higher investment and longer contract than at other Friends of Whole Foods Market locations.
“Because we put so much time and money into it and we want it to be successful — and we really believe it’s going to be very successful — we wanted to give that more time contract-wise,” Rich said.
Birdcall is planning to be a stand-alone, full-service downtown dining option within the new Whole Foods. The company’s co-founder, Peter Newlin, is scheduled to share more details about his Denver-based, fast-casual restaurant chain during Denver Startup Week.
In addition to fried chicken sandwiches, Birdcall is also expected to offer salads, milkshakes, breakfast biscuits and beer and wine within Whole Foods, marking the first time a Colorado Whole Foods Market location will sell beer or wine inside.
Birdcall opened its first location in Five Points earlier this year. The restaurant uses kiosks and other technology to serve chicken and other food options at affordable prices.
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