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The Top 4 Disruptors: How Chicago's Food and Beverage Retail Scene is Being Revolutionized

Inside RH store showing couches, chairs, chandelier and products for sale
RH 3 Arts

Lisa Donaldson is our own little pocket-rocket and Director of Retail Experience and Design here at RX Group and recently she attended the IHA Inspired Home Show in Chicago along with this year’s kiwi winner of the Best Homewares Retailer, Smith & Caughey's.  Not only was it a wonderful opportunity to represent New Zealand on the international stage at the prestigious Global Innovation Awards (gia), it gave Lisa an opportunity to explore more of what is happening in retail in one of the epicentres of retail. This is the first part of her dissection of the incredible things she uncovered.


Did you know Chicago has long been known as a prime location for restaurants. Well I certainly didn't and if it's one thing I love is food so my mission was set! Ranked sixth on Food & Wine’s Top 10 U.S. Food Cities list for 2023 and luxury travel magazine CN Traveller  previously named Chicago a ‘Best Restaurant City’, it’s no wonder the top innovators and disruptors in part one of my Chicago retail review has a Food and Beverage focus.


#1 Dom’s Kitchen + Market – Old Town Chicago 

Exterior of a store with a man walking past
Dom's Kitchen & Market


Why it’s disruptive?  

Dom’s Kitchen & Market reimagines the supermarket  

In a nutshell, what makes Dom’s different is its neighbourhood-centric experiential store design, that inspires local shoppers to eat and connect. By presenting:

  • restaurant-quality prepared foods with uniquely curated assortments of artisanal food product,

  • high-end wines and premium spirits, a wide range of organic produce, meat & seafood delivered fresh daily,

  • a charcuterie with over 300 cheeses, and a bakery with store made cakes alongside popular Chicago’s bakery items, wine tastings, cooking demonstrations,

  • and spots to eat or drink in the store…Dom’s is a destination for food lovers! 

Inside a produce department show fresh fruit and vegetabebles
Produce Department - Dom's Kitchen & Market

Inside a store displaying a charcuterie department
Charcuterie - Dom's Kitchen & Market

The retail detail 

Located at 1233 N. Wells St. in Chicago’s Old Town neighbourhood, the 2,508 m2 store, located on the ground floor of an apartment complex (you can’t get more local that!) is 50% bigger than the first Dom’s location, which opened in spring 2021 and now includes 12,000 new items. 

With 20,000 SKUs, the old town store has a European market vibe. There are two entrances to the store with one leading customers to the produce section for a more traditional grocery shop, and another providing easy access to the meal solutions, which has grab-and-go options, food stalls as well as wine and coffee bars.  

People standing at a tea and coffee counter being served
The Brew Coffee Bar - Dom's

Dom’s aims to open a total of 15 stores in Chicago by 2025 with expansion plans across the US made possible with their recent merger with Foxtrot.  

Inside a store showing counters where made to order meals can be ordered
The StackUp - made to order meals
  • From Breakfast to Dinner: Dine-in, Delivery, or Pickup Dom’s Old Town offers a bevy of foodservice options from a.m. to p.m. meaning its busy throughout the day. 

  • The Brew’s coffee bar serves up local coffee along with breakfast sandwiches and bakery items from Corey’s Bagels and Doughnut Vault.  

  • Its wine bar offers wine, beer, and cocktails. Happy Hour is Monday – Friday from 4-7 p.m. 

  • The Kitchen provides multiple dining options – Stackup (for made-to-order Elevated Burgers, Bonci (Roman-style pizza in an exclusive partnership with Bonci), Gohan (sushi rolls, rice bowls, poke bowls), and L’Osteria (hearty Italian mains such as porchetta, grilled salmon oreganata, and macaroni formaggio). 

  • Customers can also select from the hot and cold bars and a wall of grab-and-go options.  

  • Dom’s has jazzed up the salad bar concept with names like “Chef Crafted Hot Meals” and “Plant Butcher” with offerings like Rhode Island-style shrimp; Sicilian cauliflower; salads with a seasonal rotation of greens; and a rotating selection of hot soups, grains and rices. 

  • Customers can order from the counters, from the in-store kiosk or from Dom’s Go app.  


Shop the way you want to – and get rewarded 

‘Dom’s Go’ direct delivery platform and app allows shoppers to order ahead for in-store or curb side pickup and delivery. Dom’s Go is available for all customers within a 5-mile radius of stores, with free delivery for all orders over $150.  


Elevating alcohol  

While meal solutions are a focal point, alcohol is certainly not an afterthought. 

  • The liquor selection has a dramatic display, known as the “Wine Library.”featuring tall shelves filled with wines, liquors, seltzers and beers.  

  • There’s an extensive selection of whiskey, bourbon, gin, rum, vodka, tequila, and other liquors, along with a section dedicated to zero-proof drinks and mixers. Shoppers can find both local and global beers.  

  • A special refrigerated room holds reserve wines and high-end alcohol.  

Customers taste testing wine
The Wine Library - Dom's Kitchen



Dom’s aims to provide aplace for social gatherings outside of people’s homes and workplaces.

  • The store has a warm friendly vibe, consistently full of local customers working, lingering for interviews and dates. It features indoor and outdoor seating situated by the entrance to the meals hub. The indoor seating area is cosy with chairs, tables and sofas in earthy green and brown tones.  

  • To capitalise on neighbourhood pride, the store sells Dom’s-branded baseball caps that say “Old Town” as part of its merchandise section. 

  • The store hosts events like cheese board making classes to bring the community together.  

Why we love it 

Maybe it’s because I was hungry, but the offering is just so bloody good! The quality and array of meal solutions offered was truly next level.  The busy vibe in the seating area at 2.40pm on a Wednesday gave you the feeling they’d got this 100% right - this was the place locals choose to hang out, work, and catch up. 


POST VISIT NOTE: Foxtrot and Dom’s Kitchen & Market, two popular Chicago-based grocery startups, abruptly ceased operations on Tuesday 23 April.. The news comes five months after the two businesses announced they were merging into one entity, Outfox Hospitality. There are many reasons why Dom's has got caught up and it is largely to do with Foxtrot's ambitious expansion but unclear strategy.


#2 Gangnam Market 

Korean style cartoon graphics on roof over a coffee and drinks bar in a store
Gangnam Markets

What makes it so disruptive?

What makes Gangnam Market different to other local Asian grocery competitors? 

Unlike competitors who offer predominantly Asian groceries and only a limited number of American products, Gangnam Market takes a more balanced approach to its product assortment.  

You can purchase much of your conventional grocery shop in addition to recipe-specific ingredients for Asian-inspired dishes and snacking, lessening the need to supplement your shop with conventional groceries from elsewhere. 


The retail detail 

The 28,000 square foot market located at 1001 W. Chicago Avenue, is a full-scale grocery store featuring a mixture of American and Asian staples. As with Dom’s Market, Gangnam Market is situated on the ground floor of an apartment building, in a popular neighbourhood, ensuring a regular local customer base.  

The first-of-its-kind supermarket is the brainchild of local restauranteur Kenny Yang. 

Gangnam’ means really good, really nice neighbourhoods to Asians, so Yang took this name and tried to give Chicago the experience of Gangnam. I think he succeeded! 

  • The store design is next level with vibrant, eye-catching neon signs throughout the space and music from K-pop bands like Blackpink playing overhead, Gangnam Market has a unique international vibe. As a result, Gangnam Market is creating a buzz on social media going viral on TikTok. 

  • The two-in-one combination of restaurant and grocery not only gives Zillennial foodies the opportunity to order new dishes to try but also purchase ingredients to experiment with cooking Asian cuisine at home, making it more appealing to those less familiar with navigating traditional Asian supermarkets. 

  • The grocery section of Gangnam Market offers a mix of American and Asian staples, with a product range that mirrors what you find at a traditional supermarket, but with an Asian flair.  

  • Fresh departments, like meat and seafood, are more traditional from an offering standpoint – but what Gangnam Market lacks in global options along the store perimeter, it makes up for with the diverse range of dining options available in its food court.  

  • The restaurant side of the store includes a full-service bar, bubble tea counter, and six food court vendors offering a destination for pan-Asian cuisine. The eclectic array of fast-casual options includes Korean tacos, Hainanese chicken rice, Hong Kong-style bakery items, the nation’s first turkey ramen, sushi, and more. 

  • Gangnam Market is open 8 a.m.-9 p.m. daily. The food court is open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. 


Why we love it 

It’s just so different… a unique destination and feeling. Granted, we visited when it was dark so the neon street vibe was totally on point. Not sure how this would translate into a daytime shop, but it was fun! 

A standout was the extensive range of Asian snacks and treats, fun to explore and try.  

Having a core range of popular conventional products extends its customer base and more than just a one-off destination shop.  


#3 RH Chicago 

Ok so I must include this one, as this was a real highlight for me. RH (previously Restoration Hardware) is one of my favourite retailers. This store is not new, it opened in 2015, but it is EPIC, and I have wanted to visit since its inception. 

Large three level brick restored building at twilight
RH Chicago

There is no doubt the store was ahead of its time in terms of experiential design, and I can assure you it has stood the test of time, looking completely on point and totally relevant in 2024. 

Blurring the lines between residential and retail. Now blurring the lines between home and hospitality 

Why it’s innovative?  

This first-of-its-kind retail concept was designed to blur the lines between shopping, home and hospitality, seamlessly integrating a celebrated culinary offering which includes the 3 Arts Club Café, the 3 Arts Club Wine Vault & Tasting Room, and the 3 Arts Club Pantry & Espresso Bar, with a furniture gallery and interior design consultation space. 

What makes this concept unique is 2-fold;  

  • The immaculate restoration of the historical 3 Arts Club, rescuing the dilapidated building from ruin…the ultimate brand experience statement for RH - wasn’t called “Restoration” hardware for nothing!  

  • Maximising ROI per square metre, by bolstering what is traditionally a low traffic flow in a destination Furniture store, by blurring the lines between retail and hospitality. 


The retail detail  

RH Chicago spans 70,000 total square feet across six floors. This innovative retail concept features curated installations of home furnishings in a gallery setting, showcasing RH Interiors, RH Modern and RH Outdoor.  


  • Customers are invited to explore the ranges, with a drink in hand (which is genius might I add).  

  • Each floor is set up to absolute perfection, you wander through the room settings as if you are walking through someone’s (albeit very luxury) home with defined living spaces and bedrooms featuring a myriad décor whimsies from the brand’s Design Atelier line to its children’s collections. 

  • Whilst you can wander at your leisure, there are extensive interior design consultant hubs on two of the six floors to assist you with everything you need to create your dream interior. 

  • When hunger strikes, (and it well could, given the time it will take review all six floors) return to floor one—it’s here you’ll find the aforementioned restaurant, where guests settle in for brunch or dinner in a fairytale setting, surrounded by running fountains, heritage olive trees, and opulent chandeliers, where they can simply enjoy the surroundings or discuss their furniture purchase. 

Today there are now more than 15 RH restaurants across the US, giving substance to the strategy behind Chicago’s 3 Arts Club Café concept. 

What we love about it? 

Just EVERYTHING. I’m moving in. 


#4 Starbucks Reserve Roastery 
Exterior of a large 4 store Starbucks building with trees out the front
Starbucks Reserve Roastery - Chicago

As with RH, Starbucks Roastery is not a new experience, opening in 2019 – but it is one that should not be missed. We visited on St Patricks Day, when the city was heaving – and the Roastery was in the heart of it all, all five levels were full to overflowing. There is no denying the Starbucks Roastery is an iconic must see experience. 

The coffee roasting experience 


Why it’s innovative?  

The world’s largest Starbucks is a multi-sensory destination of epic proportions, the Chicago Roastery is five stories of coffee theatre. Both workshop and stage, it is a three-dimensional window into the coffee journey.  

The ultimate immersive brand experience. 

The Retail Detail 

The 35,000-square-foot Chicago Reserve Roastery offers interactive tours, on-site roasting, and exclusive drinks inspired by the Windy City's culture and history. 

The store, which opened in 2019, takes up five floors of a North Michigan Avenue building. Spread out across them you'll find three main coffee bars — a Starbucks Reserve Coffee Bar, Experiential Coffee Bar, and Barrel-Aged Coffee Bar — an Arriviamo Cocktail Bar, and an outpost of Princi, the brand's Italian bakery partner. 


The coffee roasted on-site is served exclusively to guests at the Chicago Reserve Roastery and each floor offers a different experience. 



Your exploration of our largest Starbucks® starts here. At the coffee bar baristas serve classic espresso beverages such as cappuccinos, lattes, and cortados. You can purchase exclusive gifts and Starbucks rarest coffees. Pause a moment to witness the coffee roasting in front of you. 



This space is dedicated to an authentic Italian bakery created by Rocco Princi, who embodies Italian tradition. The experience results from a collaboration between Starbucks passion for coffee and Princi’s passion for bread.  



Immerse yourself in the art, science and theatre of coffee. An experiential coffee bar is dedicated to specialty creations such as pistachio lattes, siphon-brewed coffee flights, and affogatos made with nitrogen-infused gelato. And there's more than just coffee.  



My personal favourite...enter a world of inspired cocktails and coffee creations, the Arriviamo Bar serves exclusive cocktails by acclaimed local mixologists, every drink is an alchemy of precision and innovation. Rest assured the bar also serves Chicago-made beer and wine. 



You can also enjoy your drinks on the roof top deck and weather permitting views of Michigan Avenue and the roastery below, but at -2 degrees, we weren’t there for long. 

The store marks the sixth Reserve Roastery in the world, joining locations in Seattle, New York City, Milan, Shanghai, and Tokyo.  

Why we love it? 

What can I say, I don’t even like coffee, and I was fully inspired and engaged in the captivating brand experience created at this landmark site.   

It’s all about the storytelling people.  


Next article I will bring to life the other retail highlights I uncovered. There is more truely epic adventures.



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