Stockholm — When IKEA decided to sell food, it chose to do it in much the same way it sells furniture: a few standardized staples, sold in large quantities. The result: 150 million meatballs.
That is the number IKEA estimates will be dished out in store cafeterias this year. Though the Swedish company is better known for its inexpensive, assembly-required furniture, its IKEA Food division is a behemoth, rivaling Panera Bread and Arby's, with nearly $2 billion in annual revenue. The company estimates about 700 million people this year will eat in one of the cafeterias that are located in 300 IKEA stores world-wide.
The food push started nearly 30 years ago, when then-store manager Sören Hullberg drew the assignment to create a food department. IKEA's frugal founder, Ingvar Kamprad, was worried that too many shoppers were browsing the company's shelves on empty stomachs. IKEAs are huge, and visitors can get fatigued after walking the floor for hours at a time.If you don't like the meatballs, IKEA also serves salmon, roast beef, and smoked reindeer steak.