In an investor conference, Barnes & Noble revealed plans to open four new concept stores within the current fiscal year.

The new bookstores will feature an expanded menu for food and will also be serving wine and beer, a move that the company hopes will be able to lure book lovers back to its stores.

The cafés will be twice the size of the usual food spots seen in previous Barnes & Noble bookstores, and will employ full waitstaff. The menus will feature breakfast, lunch and dinner options, as the company diversifies further into the food industry amid its push to sell non-book items such as gifts, toys and vinyl records.

The first store to carry the new concept will be opened in Eastchester, New York in October, and it will have amenities such as a bocce court and a fire pit. The locations of the three other new concept stores will be in Galleria Edina in Edina, Minnesota; the Palladio at Broadstone mall in Folsom, California; and One Loudoun in Loudoun County, Virginia.

The restaurant plan of Barnes & Noble is part of a bigger shift across brick-and-mortar retailers to offer experiences to its customers, and not just sell them products.

The strategy also comes as the company faces mounting competition from rivals in the book retail industry such as Amazon, with Barnes & Noble looking to revive the growth of its sales. Amazon has previously flagged plans to establish up to 400 more brick-and-mortar bookstores in the United States, just after Barnes & Noble posted a 17 percent drop in sales amid the struggles of its Nook e-reader and e-books business.

Will the new concept stores, which basically repackages bookstores as libraries with restaurants and bars, allow Barnes & Noble to better compete with Amazon? That remains to be seen, but the company is seemingly making a huge investment in the strategy. Jaime Carey, the COO of Barnes & Noble, has been appointed the head of the newly created restaurant division to oversee the new concept, and has added long-time Sears executive Michael Ladd to be the company's new VP for stores.

"We wanted to create a better bookstore," Carey said, adding that with its bookstores already having a café, the company decided to offer a better food experience to its customers.

"We think they're going to drive traffic to the store and keeping them in the store longer," Carey explained.

Carey did not reveal more details regarding the concept stores, but noted that if they were successful, more such bookstores would be put up, or existing locations with wide spaces will begin to incorporate the concept.

Photo: Shawn Rossi | Flickr

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