Are grocery store salad bars a dying breed?

For those of you who love a grocery store salad bar, those days may now be over.

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empty salad bar at whole foods
Photo: Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire (Getty Images)

I’m not sure how it’s looking by you, but where I live, most of the grocery store salad bars have gone away. Instead of buffet lines of salad ingredients, the refrigerated islands are now being used as a display for packaged items. That, or they’ve been removed altogether. There is one lone grocery store in my neighborhood that has reopened its salad bar (and I haven’t seen anyone using it). However, CNN reports that in many grocery stores, the salad bar simply isn’t coming back.

Per CNN, big chains like Hy-Vee and Wegman’s are, as of now, still salad bar-less. Stop & Shop is also keeping its salad bars closed, but plans to reopen chicken wing and hot bars later in the month. Whole Foods, however, says on its website that self-serve offerings at many of its locations have reopened—though the brand didn’t comment on whether or not this included salad bars, CNN reports.

The decline of salad bars makes sense: aside from major pandemic health concerns, there are lots of other factors involved. Since many people are working from home now, there are fewer customers making trips to the grocery store for a quick lunch. And, since so many people are ordering groceries online, there’s less foot traffic in stores. Without enough salad bar turnover, ingredients go bad, leading to considerable food waste and lost profits.

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Interestingly, Stew Leonard’s, a northeast grocery chain, found that pre-made salads are selling better than any self-service salad bar ever did. The CEO of Stew Leonard—whose name is actually Stew Leonard—says, “Customers like to just buy a chicken caesar, Greek, garden, Cobb salad and go. We do all the work for them and they seem to love it better than the bars.”

So right now, it’s looking like a toss-up. Are grocery store salad bars going away? Or will we see them again in a few months or so? Honestly, I don’t know if I’ll be returning to a buffet-style anything in the near future. It’s one of those things I hadn’t spent much time thinking about until the pandemic. Now the idea of self-service with all that exposed food gives me mixed feelings. I guess this is one of those things we’ll have to wait and see about—but until then, I’ll stick to the pre-made stuff.