Kmart Cafeteria – Did You Ever Visit?
Kmart Cafeteria

The Kmart Cafe: A Forgotten Icon

Do you remember the tantalizing aroma of freshly made burgers, the sizzle of golden fries, and the inviting warmth of a cup of coffee at the Kmart cafeteria? If you are a product of the late 20th century, chances are, you’ve spent more than a few afternoons at one of these gems. The Kmart cafeteria was a social cornerstone and a remarkable retail experiment, but like many great things, it’s now a relic of the past.

Be sure to add your comments in the “Leave a Reply” section at the bottom of this page

The Birth of the Kmart Cafeteria

The Kmart cafeteria was created in the late 1960s, an era of bold innovation and experimental business ventures. Born out of Kresge’s transition to the Kmart brand, the cafeteria was an innovative idea aimed at enhancing the shopping experience by providing customers with a place to eat and rest during their shopping sprees. It was a novel concept at a time when the idea of combining retail and dining was still in its infancy.

Kmart Cafeteria prices on menu

The cafeterias were typically located near the center of the store, offering an open, relaxed environment where customers could take a breather from the hustle of shopping. The idea was simple: if shoppers could eat without leaving the store, they would stay longer and, hopefully, spend more.

kmart blue light special gif

More Than Just a Meal

The Kmart cafeteria offered more than just food – it provided an experience! It was a place where families could come together for a quick, affordable meal. Kids would sip on Icee slush drinks while their parents chatted over coffee, and seniors would gather for a friendly game of checkers while enjoying a hot lunch.

Kmart Cafeteria

The menu was simple and catered to the American palate. Sandwiches, hamburgers, pizza, fries, and soft drinks were the mainstays, with daily specials adding variety. These specials usually offered heartier options such as macaroni & cheese, liver and onion, baked chicken, and fried fish. Prices were affordable, making it an attractive dining option for many.

tie dye t-shirts

The Kmart cafeteria’s fame grew rapidly, and by the mid-70s, it was a thriving part of the Kmart brand. It was not uncommon to see packed cafeterias in Kmarts across the country, filled with shoppers taking a break or locals stopping by for a quick bite.

Patriotic Clothing

A Victim of Changing Times

Unfortunately, like many things, the glory days of the Kmart cafeteria couldn’t last forever. As the retail landscape evolved, so did consumers’ habits and expectations. Fast-food chains and food courts became the norm, offering more variety and faster service.

funny men's apron grill

By the late 1980s, Kmart was facing increasing competition from stores like Walmart and Target, and the company had to make tough decisions to stay afloat. One of these was the gradual phasing out of the Kmart cafeterias. The company began to experiment with fast-food options, introducing brands like Little Caesars and Wendy’s into their stores.

Video: Kmart Store Closes For Good – Emotional Speech by Employee

By the mid-90s, most of the Kmart cafeterias were closed, replaced by smaller snack bars or franchised fast-food outlets. Some stores attempted to keep the tradition alive by maintaining a scaled-down version of the cafe, but these were few and far between.

Kmart Cafeteria
Visit Our Gift Shop

How’s That for a Taste of Nostalgia?

While the Kmart cafeteria may be a symbol of a bygone era, it remains etched in our collective memory. It serves as a lesson for modern retailers about the power of customer experience and the necessity of adapting to evolving market trends.

Kmart Cafeteria

Despite its closure, the cafeteria’s legacy lives on. It’s more than a mere memory of meals and meet-ups; it’s a cherished chapter of American retail history, a testament to a time when shopping was not just a chore but a community experience. Although the Kmart cafeteria has disappeared, much like the stores, it will never vanish from our hearts!

Be sure to add your comments in the “Leave a Reply” section at the bottom of this page

Kmart Trivia

Did you know that Kmart was originally called S.S. Kresge Corporation? Or that the first Kmart store opened in 1962 in Garden City, Michigan?

Here are some more interesting facts about this retail giant:

  1. Kmart was the third largest discount store chain in the United States, behind Walmart and Target.
  1. As of 2018, there were a total of 941 Kmart stores in operation across the globe.
  1. Kmart was one of the first retailers to offer layaway plans and home delivery services.
  1. The Kmart chain was once owned by Sears, but was sold off in 2019.
  1. Kmart is one of the oldest retail chains in the United States?
  1. Today, Kmart is a subsidiary of Sears Holdings Corporation and has 3 stores in the United States.
  1. Kmart was the first retailer to introduce the self-serve checkout system
  1. Kmart had its own line of products, known as “Kmart brand” or “KB” products
Ford Shirt

Kmart has a long and storied history, dating back to the late 19th century. The company has weathered many ups and downs, but has always managed to stay afloat, until now. Today, Kmart has only 3 store locations across the United States

Kmart Cafeteria menu

Kmart Menu Specials 1988

To read our in-depth article about what happened to Kmart, please click here

Patriotic tie dye shirts
Follow American Memory Lane on Instagram

8 responses to “Kmart Cafeteria – Did You Ever Visit?”

  1. Marti Foreman Avatar
    Marti Foreman

    My former husband started work at S.S.Kresge in Columbus, OH in 1964, He learned the retail business from the bottom up. A time when there was a true training program, in addition to learning the operation of the stockroom, he learned the kitchen basics of making their apple dumplings, glazing ham, frying burgers, etc.

    Kresge / Kmart provided us with a nice lifestyle and due to the company position of routinely transferring their managers (usually every 18 months) we lived in regions we would have never dreamed of. We met many wonderful people and appreciated the regional offerings.

    So sad that a truly good company founded by a selfless man came to such an end.

  2. Bernie Pokorski Avatar
    Bernie Pokorski

    I don’t believe that I ever did. I do remember the S. S. Kresge store on 24th street in ‘downtown’ South Omaha, NE (a “dime store” as I knew it then)… and I can still recall the smell the inside of that store with its wooden floors. I believe that the KMART store on 50th & L in South Omaha (NE) had one as my buddy George used to go there to get coffee in the early 1970’s. I the early 1970’s I remember the Kmart store on The El Camino Real in Santa Clara, CA having a small area at the front of the store that sold cold sandwiches, ice cream cones, and the like, I now live near Grass Valley, CA, and our KMART store closed about two years ago… the building has now been renovated into a TARGET store. The KMART store in Auburn, CA closed about three years ago, and part of its building is now a “Harbor Freight Tools” store… and I have been told that another part of that KMART building has just been opened as a “Briar Patch Food Co-op” health foods store store. Oh, the memories!!!!

  3. Sean Matthew Daughtery Avatar

    I have fond memories of my Grandfather visiting the very first Kmart in Garden City, Michigan, located on Ford Road, where he would often enjoy his coffee. These recollections take me back to a bygone era, reflecting on cherished moments from a long time ago.

  4. Jerri Henderson Avatar
    Jerri Henderson

    My 2nd job was at a K-Mart in Tulsa OK when I was 1977. I started out as a cashier, then helped with the icee and cotton candy machines sometimes. I tried to help in the cafeteria but ended up getting a steam burn. I ended up working in the cosmetics dept next to the automotive dept and met my first husband. That time was the best.

  5. […] of two beef patties, American cheese, lettuce, and tomato on a hamburger bun. The chef topped the signature sandwich with a special sauce that was similar to the sauce used on The McDonald’s Big […]

  6. […] Kmart brand appealed to a wide range of customers, from families looking for affordable clothes and home goods to bargain hunters looking for deals […]

  7. Jane Avatar

    My first job was working at a Kmart. We had 3 Kmart stores within a few miles of each other. It was a great company to work for. We got paid in cash on Thursdays. Very smart plan for Kmart since a lot of the employees would use their cash to buy things at the store. We got paid holidays, our birthday off paid, paid vacations and over time pay. I loved doing the blue light specials. I worked as a cashier, garden center, deli, camera and jewelry and layaway. Bought a lot of things with their layaway program. Worked with a lot of good people too Some of my best memories is working at Kmart.

  8. […] in Detroit the following year, with Kresge eventually trading McCrory his share in the Memphis store for full ownership of the Detroit store and forming Kresge & Wilson Company with his […]

Leave a Reply

Powered by

%d bloggers like this: