In terms of business monopolies, few have quite a stronghold on an entire medium quite like arguably the king of literary retail, Barnes and Noble. They’ve all but decimated the “local mom and pop bookstore” of yesteryear and changed the literary market as a whole. Even other now defunct competitors such as Borders couldn’t keep up with the juggernaut of Barnes and Nobles.


The Fortune 500 company has such a monopoly throughout it’s 781 retail stores that the company’s empire has expanded far beyond simple paperback books. Instead, they have cafes in almost every store, a vast selection for every literary sub genre from children’s books to “50 Shades of Grey” and other smut, a plentiful amount of multimedia selections and their answer to Amazon’s Kindle, the digital Nook. While the Nook ceased production along with the app store, the attempt to produce a new digital interface to read literature shows exactly how versatile and multi-talented company that Barnes and Noble is.


Recently though, the company has been branching out into a type of business that few people could’ve seen coming. As opposed to finding a new and innovative way for consumers to read or watch multimedia, Barnes and Noble has taken a totally different route. The king of literature has opened an upscale restaurant called Barnes and Noble Kitchen, full of delicious options that go beyond pre-wrapped sandwiches and espresso lattes. Instead, the vast menu has options for all dietary customs, with a plancha-cooked salmon atop a pilaf of quinoa for pescetarians, a hummus plate for vegans and a brisket burger for carnivores.


(Go Palladio)

What started as a simple announcement regarding their new business opportunities last year has turned into four separate full-service restaurants, complete with servers and an array of options for all three meals throughout the day. With currently only four locations scattered across the US in popular locations such as Folsom, California and Scarsdale, New York as well as Plano, Texas, Barnes and Nobles certainly plans on expanding if the restaurants are ultimately successful.


While I can’t speak for the Scarsdale and Folsom locations, the location in Plano is a hybrid of bookstore and restaurant, almost like a literary Cracker Barrel. At 10,000 feet, Barnes and Noble Kitchen has a bookstore, albeit with a smaller selection, attached to the upscale restaurant featuring weekend brunches and beer on tap from four different local breweries. In an additional piece of good news for those who enjoy drinking while reading, the full-service restaurant allows patrons to carry their drinks throughout the entirety of the store as opposed to simply in the restaurant.    


As an occasional customer of Barnes and Nobles, I think it’s both innovative and original that the company is moving into an entirely new type of business. However, Barnes and Noble Kitchen could be a way to gain an upper hand on their biggest competitor, Amazon. While Amazon hasn’t produced any brick and mortar restaurants just yet, they have purchased Whole Foods. Amazon hasn’t announced any concrete plans to build restaurants yet, but only time will tell in the battle between these two literary juggernauts.


Have you been to a Barnes and Nobles Kitchen yet? If so, Tweet me at @CaptainKasoff and let’s talk.