I spent this past weekend in Ashburn, Virginia at my sister’s house, and it was my first time visiting her new community. Long before I knew I would be heading there, however, my sister had told me about the new Barnes and Noble close-by. Why is that exciting, you ask? Well, the Ashburn Barnes and Noble is one of the pilot projects that includes a fast-casual dining experience in the store. That’s right: in addition to Starbucks coffee, you can also take a seat and work or read (or just eat & drink!) in their dining area. Barnes and Noble Kitchen offers a staffed bartender who serves wine and beer, and there is a small made-to-order food menu serviced by a full kitchen and staff.
The Barnes & Noble Kitchen restaurant takes up nearly a quarter of the 17,000-square-foot bookstore in the Ashburn community hub, and it’s the first of the bookseller’s new restaurant model to go fast-casual. (There are 5 other Barnes and Noble stores in the US that serve food, but Ashburn’s is the first to go the “fast-casual” route).
““The idea is that if you don’t have a lot of time, you can get your food and leave — or you can spend all the time you want,” said Dominic Daul, general manager of the restaurant. The dining room looks like a restaurant in one of D.C.’s hot restaurant neighborhoods, with mid-century modern chairs, wood-toned floors, and a cozy, rich leather banquette in the back corner. They’re also not kidding about having people hang out: the 74-seat Kitchen is equipped with free Wi-Fi and power plugs everywhere, something that’s sure to make it popular among those working remotely.” – BizJournals.com. Read more about the fast-casual restaurant here.
I decided to work from Barnes and Noble Kitchen one afternoon to absorb the entire experience. I ordered a glass of white wine and a burger, and the service was really quick and the bartender was knowledgeable. The portion size was large and the food was quite good. I sat at the window and people-watched with my computer on and my glass of wine in-hand, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
The staff working at the Barnes and Noble were exceptionally friendly as well, and very well informed. We chatted about various books coming out and new releases, and one of the staff members actually informed me that I could walk around the store with my wine! As if this place could get any better!
I’m hoping Chapters Indigo in Canada takes a note from this Barnes and Noble project. Chapters Indigo is killing-it in the lifestyle-bookstore space, and I think adding a trendy bar in some of their flagship stores would make it even more of a desirable meeting spot, causing people to stay in-store even longer and have a truly unique experience. Heck, I’m already at Indigo a ton anyway. Add a restaurant and a bar? I’ll stay for a week.
Thanks to the Barnes and Noble Ashburn team for making my experience a great one! I’ll be back!