by Kevin Coupe

I love a story that makes me hungry.

Which is what happened when I read the Chicago Tribune piece about how Kroger-owned Mariano’s is teaming up with a barbecue chain with the delicious name of Pork & Mindy’s, and will open mini restaurants inside 28 Mariano’s supermarkets.

According to the story, “Co-founded by Jeff Mauro, host of The Food Network’s ‘Sandwich King’ and co-host of ‘The Kitchen,’ the pig-focused eatery currently has six locations in Chicago, Denver and Minneapolis.

“Mauro said he is eager to bring his smoked meats to new audiences, while Mariano’s will find new customers in the celebrity chef’s fan base.”

The story says that “Pork & Mindy’s will operate in a 200-square-foot branded space near the front of each store, where it will staff a counter serving a half dozen of its signature ‘sangwiches’ and other menu items such as ‘tottys,’ which are tater tots piled with meats and garnishes. It will also feature a case of grab-and-go hot foods exclusive to Mariano’s, including bacon-wrapped spare ribs, smoked honey mustard meatloaf and Peruvian-style rotisserie chicken.”

The Tribune points out that Mariano’s “already features stalls serving up gelato and wood-fired pizza and operates sit-down sushi bars, a ‘groceraunt’ model that encourages customers to stay and eat as well as shop.”

Good for Mariano’s. Especially in this age when competition comes from so many places, the most Eye-Opening way for bricks-and-mortar stores to resonate with shoppers is to have food that tastes and smells great.

And few things smell as wonderful as barbecue.