Opening a restaurant might seem like a bad idea these days, given consumers' shift away from dining out in the midst of an uncertain economy. But some supermarkets apparently see a foray into the restaurant business as an ideal learning lab to improve their own prepared-foods offerings. Safeway this year opened a so-called “fast-casual” restaurant in Redwood City, Calif., under the Citrine New World Bistro banner, which observers said could provide it with an opportunity to hone its ...

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