“Retail-host restaurants” are among the fastest growing segments for restaurant food, according to a recent conducted by the National Restaurant Association (NRA), Washington, D.C.

Data shows that retail-host restaurants are growing at a rate of near 6% a year, a level matched only by non-alcoholic beverage, snack bars and quick-service/fast-casual restaurants.

The NRA definition of a retail-host restaurant now includes health and personal care store restaurants, general merchandise store restaurants, variety store restaurants, food store and grocery store restaurants, including a portion of deli and salad bars, gasoline service station restaurants and miscellaneous retailers.

However, the trend produces some food safety concerns.

Licenses and inspections. If included under an existing license, such as one for a major grocery store, the new in-store restaurant might be inspected less often than a competing stand-alone restaurant down the street.

Biosecurity concerns. Retail-host restaurants located inside big box stores may not take into account the lengthy periods of time when doors are open, both to allow the comings and goings of customers through the front doors, and to re-supply the huge building through the back doors.

Staffing. Some have expressed  operational concerns about in-store restaurants that are not sufficiently staffed, especially during off-peak dining hours. Sparsely staffed locations could create food safety problems, especially if buffets are left unattended.