Department stores have struggled to set themselves apart from each other for decades. Food has started to play a bigger role in those efforts. In addition to exclusive brands and signature fashion lines, retailers have been focusing on offering customers a unique shopping experience. Recently more top retailers are adding one-of-a-kind restaurants and bars to that experience. Some chains have added dining aimed at catering to foodies, menus designed for health-conscious consumers, and bars that serve cocktails to customers while they take a break.

Saks, which has high-end restaurants at some of its luxury department stores, opened 51Fifteen Restaurant & Lounge, a new bar and cafe inside the men’s department of its Houston, Texas store. Macy’s opened Stella 34 Trattoria as part of the remodel of its Herald Square flagship in New York City. It’s not new for Macy’s stores to have on-site restaurants either, but the new 10,000 sq. ft. Italian eatery will stay open later than the store, and offers views of the Empire State Building. In-store restaurants have traditionally served as a convenience for shoppers and employees in need of a place to grab lunch during their shifts. New concepts like 51Fifteen Restaurant & Lounge and Stella 34 Trattoria aim to become destinations in and of themselves, bringing in customers who might otherwise never enter the store.

Nordstrom Inc., which currently operates about 200 restaurants and espresso bars in its department stores, has operated in-store cafes for at least half a century. The concepts include high-end cuisine, small plates and a fresh juice bar. Nordstrom Cafes are meant to keep shoppers in the store once they are there. Offering in-store cafes and restaurants at large department stores is not a new concept, but it is a concept that some top companies are reinventing.

Chain Store Guide has databases of information on retailers and restaurant chains. For more detailed information on the top companies mentioned including their remodeling plans, see