Ikea and its meatballs might roll into standalone cafes

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If you've ever spent three hours in Ikea, chances are you weren't there just for the dirt-cheap furniture and the opportunity to go home later and sob as you try to put that damn bed together.

Even more surprisingly: Of all the folks who drop in for a bite at IKEA, it seems almost a third are there just for the food, not as a pit stop along the way to new furniture. Ikea knows customers love its low-priced in-store food offerings, and have long embraced them as a way to facilitate more furniture sales, but as Fast Companyreports, Ikea's food division is apparently so successful that the retailer is considering opening standalone cafes and restaurants. "Because it's hard to do business with hungry customers. When you feed them, they stay longer, they can talk about" that sofa or bed and make a decision to buy then and there.

Executives, however, never saw the restaurants as more than that. There's a kids' play section, with an adjoining dining area for parents.

These efforts have increased food sales by around 8% annually since the initiative kicked off. That year, 30 percent of cusomters came to Ikea just to eat. "The mere fact that we don't need so many square feet to do a café or a restaurant makes it interesting by itself", says La Cour.

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The company's food division serves around 650 million diners a year, which amounts to around $US1.8 billion ($2.3 billion) in sales over 2016.

"I firmly believe there is potential", the food director told Fast Company.

Not convinced that people will pop into an Ikea restaurant when they're not stress-eating while trying to decide on a credenza? "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'".

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