The creation of brand focused restaurants such as Kellogg’s Pop Up (http://kelloggsnyc.com/) and Cadillac branded restaurant got me thinking, how far could the idea of co-branding go in the culinary industry?  As it currently stands, there are a few examples (some seen below) of larger restaurant chains who have successfully integrated other brands into their own menus, creating new buzz for both of the businesses involved.

Taco Bell and Frito-Lay:

These two came together to create one of Taco Bell’s best-selling menu items, The Doritos Locos Taco. This collaboration had fans guessing via social media for weeks about what the next flavor of Doritos Locos Tacos would be, which created huge media buzz before the item was even announced. Eventually the introduction of Doritos Locos Taco’s became the brands third most successful product platform, and even brought Chris Brandt, the old chief marketing officer of Taco Bell to say, “The partnership continues to prove the power of two mega brands working together to create firsts in restaurants and on the grocery aisle.”

TGI Fridays and Jack Daniel’s:

This duo partnered together to create a smoky glaze for the TGI Fridays menu that hit the jackpot. “This partnership has synergy for both brands,” explained Robert Byrne, manager of market insights at Techonomic. Jack Daniel’s was one of the first spirit labels to make a strong connection to a large restaurant chain, and beyond great brand recognition, this partnership also lead to a huge hit on the TGI Fridays menu. Deciding to work together was a success for TGI Fridays and Jack Daniel’s because it was a thought out partnership on both ends. TGI Fridays played to the fact that they are a festive restaurant, positioned around a bar, making a spirits brand tie-in the perfect co-branding partner for them. 

Outback Steakhouse and Stewart-Hass Racing:

This co-branding partnership is relatively different from the other examples provided, but it is just as successful. Rather than creating a new menu item, Outback decided to create a promotion involving Stewart-Hass and NASCAR’s Kevin Harvick. This promotion is called “Happy Bloomin’ Monday” and it lets fans receive a free Bloomin’ Onion on any Monday during NASCAR season where Harvick finishes in the top-10 of a Sprint Cup Series. Like TGI Fridays, Outback made a very smart decision based on their demographic they chose a partner that they knew would get customers excited and coming back Monday after Monday.

Looking at some of the larger chain restaurants that have been successful through co-branding partnerships led me to my next few questions- will we ever see brands begin to infiltrate the dinner tables at higher end restaurants across the country? Is that something we want?

At The Connect Group we know our way around a dinner table so we personally see the potential of brands infiltrating nicer restaurants.  We also know, however, the integrity of a meal experience is king, so any successful program must enhance the experience, not detract from it.  With that in mind, even at the finer dining establishments, there are ways for brands to naturally fit into the mix.  Here are a few basic examples:

Check presenters:

While presenting customers with a check, almost all restaurants use some kind of presentation method, this could include anything from a classic check presenter, to a clip board, to a more creative application, like a postcard. With that in mind, car service companies, like Uber, Lyft, Juno or others, could utilize check presentations by providing an opportunity or incentive for customers. For example, placing a coupon code on each check, so the diners not only think to use that service to take them home, but they are also getting a good deal. This idea could also be a great place for auto companies, real estate companies, and others in these genres.

Charging stations:

Depending on the brand activation, space, and brand message, charging stations could be offered to charge guests phones during their meal. This is not only a convenience for customers, but is also a great way to combat the ever prevalent problem of people being distracted by their phones during meals. It’s time to take back meal time, and counterintuitive to this post, this would be a good way to do that.

Walk-away gifts:

So, you ordered the steak and loved the spice rub they used? Well, if a brand sponsored a spice giveaway with each order you would be in luck. Giving away spices, or sauces with branded labels or gift tags would be a great surprise at the end of any meal, and an efficient way to for brands to market their product.      

Condiments/Snacks:

What better place to brand than actually on a customer’s table? While not all restaurants have condiments on their tables, most do, so this could be an organic and effective place for brands to integrate themselves into a meal.

Just to be clear, I am not advocating for brand infiltration one way or another, but as companies (and agencies like us) continue to push the envelope and look for ways to engage with audiences, restaurants could be the next frontier.  

- Lonny Sweet