As challenging as the pandemic made running a restaurant or other foodservice business, it also triggered a wave of creativity among operators as chefs were challenged to find new ways to bring restaurant-quality food to people at home. Now, though consumers are free to return to restaurants, many continue to seek ways of enjoying quality food without the hassle of cooking or leaving the house. A new business stream has emerged from this. On the surface, it sounds like catering, but it’s more about marrying the experience of restaurant dining with the comforts of staying at home – and it’s helping many operators remain profitable right now. In fact, it’s contributed to 2024 being the year of the dinner party, according to Eater. For example, a recent report notes the growing appeal of Moveable Feast, a company that hires chefs to prepare meals for up to 12 people that are then shipped to points around the country. The idea for the business was born out of the pandemic, when Moveable Feast cofounder John Stubbs was looking for ways to support chefs. While participating in the business does generate some in-person restaurant visits, it mainly gives the restaurants an additional means of getting their brand out to hungry consumers. Similar meal packages are popping up around the country in cities featuring high-end restaurants. increasingly, consumers looking to host a dinner party can pay to turn their home into something like a small satellite location of that restaurant, with the multi-course food and drink menu prepared and served by the restaurant’s chef. Regardless of the kind of food and drink you serve, can you envision new ways of bringing it to your guests and their friends on their own turf?
In the social media age, businesses have opportunities to build their brand personality in multiple directions. When restaurants and other foodservice businesses can do this, their brands can become much more than the food and drink they serve. Further, they can increase their market share and public exposure at a time when competition is tighter than ever. Consider how large brands have managed this successfully (and surprisingly) in recent months – there may be lessons there for far businesses of all sizes. For example, a Nation’s Restaurant News report mentioned efforts by brands including Taco Bell, Chick-fil-A and, notably, Starbucks, to launch consumer packaged goods. Starbucks, for one, collaborated with Stanley on a “winter pink” 40-ounce insulated tumbler to help promote the brand’s winter menu. The tumblers, priced at $49.95 and sold at Target in numbers limited to just a few dozen per store, motivated consumers to line up at Target stores in the early-morning hours of January 3rd. (Those who weren’t lucky enough to snag at tumbler from Target have since taken to eBay, where the cups are reselling for $350.) The mania over a tumbler may sound ludicrous, but consider it an inspiration for how you might expand the reach of your brand with the right partnerships and online promotion – particularly if you’re trying to strengthen your connection to the TikTok generation. Even if you’re running a small regional business, what complementary businesses might help you build your brand through new collaborations and promotions?