NEW YORK — Whole Foods Market Inc., after announcing major changes to its operations and board makeup and $300 million in cost cutting, faces more pressure from an activist investor that owns a significant portion of its shares, has made a number of company announcements including a possible nomination of a new board member as well as a foray into the restaurant business.
New York City-based hedge fund Jana Partners LLC has nominated Celeste Clark, a former senior vice president of global public policy and chief sustainability officer at Kellogg Co., to serve on the board of directors at the Austin, Texas-based grocery chain, Reuters said.
Clark is the fifth board nominee suggested by Jana Partners; it had already proposed four candidates in April, when it disclosed a nearly 9% stake in Whole Foods along with its board nominees. The other nominees are former Gap Inc. chief executive officer Glenn Murphy, former Harris Teeter Supermarkets CEO Thomas Dickson, former Barclays analyst Meredith Adler and food writer Mark Bittman.
Whole Foods also announced the opening of The Roast, the retailer’s first Southeastern venture into the full-service restaurant business. Located in Midtown Atlanta, this Brazilian chain is new for the company — “the first of its kind,” according to Lauren Bernath, Whole Foods’ regional public relations specialist in Atlanta.
The Roast is serving Brazilian churrasco fare, and a rotating list of local chefs will collaborate on dishes. Kevin Gillespie of “Gunshow,” “Revival” and “Top Chef” fame is leading things off with a “flavors of the Andes” bowl, which is composed of Peruvian red chicken, roasted Peruvian purple potatoes, golden beets, aji amarillo pepper sauce, roasted peanuts and fresh mint. Cooks prepare dishes in an assembly-line format, and meats are fire-roasted in plain view.
In addition, the company will open a Whole Foods Market 365 value-concept store in Santa Monica, Calif., this summer, its second such location in the Los Angeles area. The store is scheduled to open in August.
The 26,668-square-foot store will feature a Groundwork coffee bar and Asian Box street food venue via the grocer’s Friends of 365 program.
“We’re excited to bring the 365 experience to Santa Monica,” said Jeff Turnas, president of Whole Foods Market 365. “This new location gives us an opportunity to bring the Santa Monica community the best of Whole Foods Market 365 with a streamlined shopping experience focused on quality and value, plus two amazing Friends partnerships.”
Lastly, the supermarket retailer said it will open its highly anticipated Harlem store in New York City in July. The 39,000-square-foot store will be Whole Foods’ 12th location serving New York City.