No trip to IKEA is complete without a visit to the restaurant for Swedish meatballs. You might technically go to IKEA for the affordable furniture, but that ligonberry sauce makes the trip way sweeter. In fact, the quick eats are so successful that the company may be diving into creating standalone eateries, Fast Company reports.
IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad conceived the idea of including a sit-down dining space a year after opening the first store in Sweden in 1958.
"Because it's hard to do business with hungry customers," Gerd Diewald, who runs IKEA's food operations in the U.S., tells Fast Company. "When you feed them, they stay longer, they can talk about their [potential] purchases, and they make a decision without leaving the store. That was the thinking right at the beginning."
But with food being one of the company's fastest-growing divisions — the company had $1.5 billion in food sales alone in 2013 — the future of IKEA keeps food in the forefront and less of an afterthought. The company has taken active measures to reduce waste; streamline the supply chain; and focus on high-quality ingredients, sustainability, and affordable prices.
In 2015, the company expanded their meatball offerings to include chicken and vegan meatballs. This move increased sales by 30 percent for IKEA. Last year, the Scandinavian store experimented with standalone dining establishments in Europe, where the company dabbled in pop-up restaurants last year from London's Shoreditch district to Paris's Le Marais neighborhood.
With 30 percent of IKEA consumers going into the store to eat, coupled with the annual sales figures and the success of the pop-up restaurants, it is only natural for the company to consider a sit-down brick-and-mortar restaurant.
"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, tells 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.'"