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Taking a brand into a new territory

3 min read


SmartPulse — our weekly reader poll in Restaurant SmartBrief — tracks feedback from restaurant owners and managers about current trends and issues.

Last week’s poll question: What do you think makes your restaurant’s brand stand out?

44.03% — The concept and the food
35.85% — All of the above
10.69% — The employees and service
4.4% — The location and design
2.52% — The prices and promotions
1.26% — The logo
1.26% — The mission or promise

Speaking of branding, there can be opportunities in brand extension for restaurants. I took a look at two brands that are moving into new categories, and share my own thoughts on whether they will be successful.

McDonald’s in Hong Kong has expanded into weddings. In-house wedding packages at McDonald’s in Hong Kong include the ceremony and party, starting at $1,282, according to Reuters.

  • Is it appropriate? As a newlywed, I personally can’t imagine getting married at a fast-food restaurant, even if it were the brand to which I were most loyal. Weddings and Big Macs are oxymoronic to me, but I’m sure others will disagree. These days, it seems that anything can go — with the bride’s approval — for weddings. Who am I to say whether the most important day of a couple’s life should be spent at a traditional venue with a meat or fish menu, or at a fast-food restaurant with the value menu?
  • How will the brand hold up? I wouldn’t go so far to say that these weddings in Hong Kong enhance the McDonald’s brand, though they might offer another channel for profit. Also, how does the brand in Hong Kong differ from the U.S. brand? The McDonald’s brand conjures descriptions such as speedy, inexpensive and ubiquitous — all of which conflict with how I think of my own wedding.  I think they will be a short-lived fad, but can anything damage the McDonald’s brand? I’m not sure anything can.

A new restaurant — from Rolling Stone magazine — will open in L.A. in a few months, according to sources. Despite the magazine industry’s downfall amid the recession, Rolling Stone stayed strong and is familiar with brand extensions (books and a video game). Other forays into fashion and electronics are said to be in the works.

  • Is it appropriate? Overall, I think opening a Rolling Stone-branded restaurant is an appropriate extension into a new product category. First, it has been done before. Media companies, such as ESPN, have opened successful restaurants before. Live DJs and music could help this restaurant stand out. Memorabilia, prominent in other entertainment restaurants, will not be as prominent. Also, L.A. — the same state in which the magazine was founded — seems like the right location to debut a restaurant that mixes music, entertainment and food. In this category, however, a failure in the long run might be Playboy Magazine’s Playboy Clubs.
  • How will the brand hold up? From a branding perspective, I think the Rolling Stone restaurant will enhance the parent brand and has the potential to become a national chain. Based on its circulation of about 1.4 million readers, there will be the loyalty among customers in music cities across the country, particularly in New York and Nashville, to welcome the chain. The brand equity should remain strong as long as the company doesn’t stray too far from the edgy, youthful and political themes for which the magazine is known.

When is the right time to extend your restaurant’s brand into new categories?