Busch's Fresh Food Market in Canton.
Buy Photo

Canton Township — J.B.’s Smokehouse serves the usual BBQ staples: ribs, pulled pork and beef brisket, smoked on the premises, along with tasty Southern-inspired sides, everything from rice ’n’ beans to ham hock and bacon collard greens.

What isn’t expected is J.B.’s Smokehouse, a full-service restaurant and bar with seating for 70, anchors an enclosed corner of a grocery store: the newest Busch’s Fresh Food Market.

With the restaurant, named after the grocery chain’s founder, Joe Busch, the Ann Arbor-based company has upped its game in the competitive Metro Detroit grocery market.

Not only does the Canton Township location boast the company’s first restaurant, but the 54,000-square-foot store also features a Starbucks (another first for Busch’s), a gelato stand, fresh juice bar, a cheese cave (complete with wheels of cheese, cut to order), a dry aging meat cabinet and an expanded selection of prepared foods, including Indian and Middle Eastern fare, a nod to the neighborhoods surrounding the store at Canton Center and Cherry Hill.

Additionally, the store stocks an expanded selection of wine — 1,300 bottles — and 90 feet of refrigerated cases of domestic, imported and Michigan and other craft beer.

“We wanted to build a store that takes us into the future, and not just another Busch’s,” said Marla Booth, a spokeswoman for the chain. “We wanted to take a different approach and open a restaurant. We’re super pleased. There’s been great feedback.”

Busch’s efforts come as the grocery industry in Michigan and across the country adapts to not only changing consumer habits but also an onslaught of competition from all facets of the retail sector.

Before opening the Busch’s store, a former Farmer Jack location, owner John Busch and CEO Mike Brooks traveled the country to explore the latest industry trends and to see how other grocers were adapting to ever-changing consumer habits.

The new store showcases many of their findings, including a greater selection of convenient and prepared foods and ethnic groceries, as well as online ordering with curbside pickup. The restaurant, however, is a bold step for a regional chain.

“I would say they’re at the forefront” said Laura Strange, a spokeswoman for the National Grocers Association.

“A lot of what is driving these changes in the industry is convenience. We have found that consumers are time-starved, so whenever they can go in a grocery store to shop and also pick up something prepared for dinner that night, that’s a huge convenience.”

Industry ‘cannibalization’

While grocery stores have long featured coffee bars, wine and beer bars, or cafe-style service, full-service restaurants are a fairly new phenomenon.

The Italian marketplace Eataly, with stores in Chicago, New York…