Why "Retail-Host" Restaurants Are The Hottest Thing In The Food Business

It's one of the fastest-growing segments of the U.S. food industry, generating some $40 billion in sales last year. Yet for some inexplicable reason, it's been given one of the clunkiest names of any kind of eating establishment. We're talking about the "retail-host" restaurant.

This odd industry term, as described by Food Safety News, basically applies to "all those in-store restaurants that are popping up in grocery stores, convenience stores, drug stores." Heck, even "gasoline service stations" are getting in on the action. (Incidentally, if you are looking for a fill-up and a mighty fine Uruguayan sandwich to boot, we know a great place inside a gas station in Washington, D.C.)

According to the National Restaurant Association, these businesses within businesses are doing, well, great business, growing at a rate of 6 percent annually — on par with the ubiquitous quick-service, fast-casual type of restaurant that food industry watchers are so gung-ho about.

There are significant upsides to operating a restaurant within a retail establishment, according to Food Safety News. Opening inside a major grocery store, for instance, might mean fewer licensing and health-inspection hassles.

The downside? Issues like pest control can be harder to handle, especially when some immense big-box store surrounds the place.