We’re Honestly Impressed by How Grocery Stores Have Reimagined the Salad Bar Sections During COVID-19

updated Feb 24, 2021
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Salad bar
Credit: Juanmonino/Getty Images

Among the many changes in grocery stores stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, one of the most obvious to consumers has been the disappearance of the salad bar buffet, a staple particularly of upscale and natural grocers like those of the Whole Foods chain. But while the idea of ready-to-eat food sitting out in the open, protected by little more than a sneeze guard, has gone from appealing to horrifying in short time, grocery stores around the country have found ways to repurpose the same chilled display fixtures to entice customers into purchasing something that seems a little safer.

“The new Florida Ave. Whole Foods features an onion bar,” tweeted Washington reporter Jacob Fenston, with a photo of that location’s new use for the salad bar — a rather attractive display of alliums. But it turned out that was just the beginning: people responded with photos of a wild variety of new fillers, including an impeccably lined-up selection of beer bottles, this absolute sea of colorful beer cans, and what writer Bradford Pearson called the “chaotic honesty” of bags of soup loaded into the bar at the Philadelphia outlet of Sprouts. 

The chilled aspect made the bars a good spot for grab-and-go singles of various drinks, often alcoholic, but one shop really took the drinks idea and ran with it, just dumping in a variety of mini-bottles of liquor.

Another a sign of the times and trends is that the most common answer to what to put into the salad bar seems to be the hard seltzer White Claw. It’s shown up at Harris Teeter, Giant Eagle, and more around the country. But one shop reported on Twitter seems to have really nailed the most appropriate way to pandemic-proof their salad bar: using it to display their hand sanitizer options.