The Uptown location of Whole Foods opened this week, ready to embrace the millennial swarms and stymie traffic along McKinney Avenue. In addition to providing neighborhood locals with both organic and a growing selection of conventional foods, the latest Whole Foods location also provides a window into the direction the grocery giant plans to take with its future stores. Earlier this year, Whole Foods announced its desire to court younger customers but said little about how they planned to accomplish the goal. Now some of the changes being tested are on display.
Some differences from other Dallas-area locations are easy to spot. Apparently, millennial customers like to cook but lack knife skills. The new Whole Foods offers more prepackaged, chopped vegetables for cooks who can't be bothered with a cutting block. Combine the processed veg with some bottled sauce in the ethnic food section, and customers are on their way to a quick and easy stir-fry, provided they can figure out how to turn on their range. Prepackaged salads and other items take up much of the reach-in refrigerator space as well.
Customers who grab sandwiches at the Lakewood Whole Foods, will probably appreciate the upgraded ordering process at the Uptown location. Touch screens replace the reusable laminated cards that have been worked over by thousands of greasy hands and provide clear, concise options for customizing sandwiches and other dishes.
Whatever you're buying, the level of customer service at the new location is off the scales. Every associate seemed fresh from a corporate pep talk and ready to cater to my every desire. I was asked if I needed help once for every item in my basket, and an associate pointed out the very obvious location of the registers not once but twice when I was ready to check out.
Not interested in checking out just yet? The bar area is flanked by more seating like a cafe, giving you the option of eating a meal on-site with a cold beer in your hand. Or grab a growler from a large stack and take home beer from one of the 24 taps.
One section of the store in particular seemed like a significant departure for the chain. While it's easy to picture customers taking home a gallon of fresh-from-the-keg Lakewood, the retail clothing section seemed like a much harder sell. The selection of shirts, dresses and loungewear lends the space a sort of high-end, hippy Target feel, and leaves open for debate what other goods and services Whole Foods will venture into to keep growing its market share. I've got my money on a selection of vinyl records bearing yoga music and Crosley turntables near the registers. For now, though, the new Whole Foods gives Uptowners a second grocery option that they can walk or bike to.
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