21 September 2020

Can casual dining brands survive on supermarket shelves?

An increasing number of high street restaurants are looking to take their products into supermarkets, but with so much competition on shelf how do you stand out?

As the hospitality sector contines to take a hit thanks to Covid-19, chains from Pret to Côte Brassiere are exploring new ways to get their products into customers’ hands via supermarket retail.

Just last week Italian restaurant Zizzi launched a takeaway range in partnership with Sainsbury’s. It is one of many high street restaurants looking to expand into supermarkets, with Pret speeding up the launch of its retail offering, Starbucks and Leon already on shelves, and Côte Brassiere selling chilled versions of its dishes to eat at home.

Making the switch to supermarket retail makes sense in the current climate, explains Marketing Week columnist and director of Passionbrand, Helen Edwards: “Eating out has done particularly badly out of the coronavirus crisis as people are still not eating out to the degree they were, so they have to look for other ways to keep their brand salient.”

While coronavirus has sped up the trend, the casual dining sector was already in serious decline. Last year Byron, Strada, Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Jamie Oliver’s restaurant empire all collapsed as a result of the casual dining crunch, with more than 1,400 UK restaurants closing from June 2018 to September 2019.

While it therefore seems a no-brainer for a restaurant chain to branch out into retail, brands first need to ask what they can bring to consumers, suggests Richard Taylor, managing parter of branding consultant Brandon.

“What’s the role of the restaurant brand in someone’s life? At home what gaps are they missing? If you are going into the sector you have to ask what’s your play on the sector? How are you different and relevant?” he says.

Finding that difference and relevance is something many brands, such as Zizzi, may struggle with. To make an impact there are some key questions to ask.

“Look at it through the user occasion. Are people going to use this? What’s the occasion and what do they need from it?,” says Taylor. “If that’s all being fulfilled by someone else already you’ve got to find either a different user, occasion or need.”

How to stand out

One key area to establish is your hero product. For example, if you are Pizza Express that’s doughballs, or Nando’s it’s Peri Peri sauce.

“What is your product and portfolio famous for in the restaurant that will transfer to the home dining experience and what gap is it fulfilling?” asks Taylor. “What is the brand famous for in peoples minds?”

Design is important, but it’s vital that you first get the product right.

To read the rest of the article, visit Marketing Week