Supermarkets scramble to repurpose salad bar spaces

Across America’s grocery stores, self-serve hot deli buffets and cold salad bars stand abandoned like uninhabited islands in the wake of Covid-19. Some of these stations are currently being used as repositories for prepackaged foods, reflecting a mere fraction of the prior selection—not to mention the profits—they once offered. But what to do when the new normal is still constantly in flux? Even some experts are stumped. “It’s a huge question, and no one really knows,” Gabrielle Rosi, a store design expert, tells Bloomberg. “You have these massive metal pieces just sitting there. It’s a big challenge.” Some stores have opted for retrofit kits that turn salad bars into chilled display cases, while other retailers are betting on a $35,000 robotic vending machine called Sally that can create fresh custom salads from 22 separate ingredients.

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