Fresh St. Market has opened a restaurant at its Aberdeen Mall store in Kamloops, B.C.
The 50-seat restaurant, called Fork Lift Kitchen & Bar, was originally scheduled to open in the summer of 2021, following the December 2020 opening of the new Kamloops store. However, the pandemic and challenges getting equipment delayed the opening.
“We said, ‘let’s wait until January/February, and then Omicron came along,” says Mark McCurdy, vice-president of retail operations & brand strategy at Georgia Main Food Group, which owns Fresh St. Market.
The opening date was pushed to April 9. “That has turned out to be the best thing for everybody—for staffing, we have all of our equipment in, and the vaccine passport is no longer required for restaurants,” says McCurdy. “A lot of good things have landed on the date we’re opening, so it’s turned out well.”
Fork Lift Kitchen & Bar serves casual fare such as “smashed” style burgers, made with AAA Certified Angus beef, ground in-house daily at the Fresh St. Market Chop House—the grocery store’s meat department. The menu also features entrees from the noodle bar and street tacos from the taco bar. On the drinks front, Fork Lift offers a selection of beers, ciders and wine from around B.C.
On the idea behind the concept, McCurdy says: “In our travels throughout North America, we started to see more and more grocery stores adding restaurants [that gave] customers another reason to come to the store, to stay longer, and to enjoy some of the foods you can purchase at the store.”
The Fork Lift concept debuted at Fresh St. Market’s Vancouver store in February 2020. The dining room subsequently had to close because of COVID restrictions in the province.
“We opened [the restaurant] to online service, which was okay, but between staffing and all the pandemic issues, we closed it,” says McCurdy. Following the opening of the Kamloops restaurant, Fresh St. Market will focus on re-opening the Vancouver location next month.
As for expanding Fork Lift into other Fresh St. Market locations, McCurdy says it depends on the size of the store and what’s in the immediate area.
“[For example], we opened up Whistler Fresh St. a couple years ago, but there are so many restaurants around there. Do we go into that offering when we can be more of just a grocery store?” he says. “So, each Fork Lift location will be based on the neighbourhood and the viability of a restaurant that’s part of it.”