This week Dierbergs announced that it's joining forces with Big Bowl Fresh Chinese and Thai. St. Louis' first Big Bowl Express will open inside the West Oak Dierbergs in Creve Coeur this week.
The Asian chain has full-service restaurants located in the Chicago, Minneapolis, and Washington, D.C., metro areas. They also operate Big Bowl Express, a quick-service version of the original with locations in nine Minneapolis-area grocery stores, and this is the concept they're bringing to Dierbergs.
Says Todd Vasel, assistant director of marketing and advertising for Dierbergs: "Dierbergs was looking for an in-store restaurant partner that we could develop a brand connection with. Big Bowl Chinese had a proven track record of operating multiple locations in grocery-store settings. The similarities in our philosophies about food quality, customer service and brand building made it a very natural partnership opportunity."
It's a basic Asian menu, with classics like kung pao chicken, Mongolian beef and Thai curry, but, Vasel says, "There's an emphasis on very high-quality ingredients. The philosophy is on small-batch, made-from-scratch cooking using naturally raised chicken and beef, and locally sourced vegetables when available."
Last year Big Bowl president Dan McGowan won Chicago Magazine's Green Award for eco-friendly innovators for using naturally raised meat and local produce. That will continue with the Dierbergs locations. "Big Bowl will adjust its menu based on what's available seasonally," Vasel says. "There are already discussions about Big Bowl sourcing from Dierbergs farmers who are already a part of our summerlong homegrown-produce program. This is one of the most expansive grocery-store 'homegrown' efforts in the country, and our relationships with a number of these farmers span decades."
In addition to single-serve entrées and combos, the location will offer family meals: three entrées, rice and appetizers for three to four people, for $25. On Fridays the family meals will go for $20. Catering services will also be available.
The local grocery chain doesn't plan to forgo any of its current services to make room for the new enterprise. "These will be added customer services incorporated into remodeled spaces within existing store footprints. The West Oak Big Bowl Chinese Express is occupying a remodeled space that was formerly leased by Yen Ching," Vasel says.
"Presently we are planning for an August Big Bowl Chinese Express opening in our Brentwood store, followed by an October opening in our Market Place store [on Clarkson Road north of Baxter Road] in Chesterfield. Tentative plans also include Big Bowl Chinese Express for our new Des Peres store opening in 2012."