Brand extensions of restaurant food can be a lucrative sector to get into, but only if it matches the reputation of your business
"You cannot bottle the experience, but you can ensure that when the customer uses the products at home they are of the same high quality that they expect." Phil Lynas, Managing Director of Nando's Grocery Company Ltd, discusses the restaurant chain's selling of its sauces and marinades in supermarkets up and down the country.
Having done so since 1997, it is now the UK's leading marinade brand, with a share of just over a quarter of the market and a forecast turnover this year of £5.85m.
Who wouldn't want to see their products on the shelves? With the country's largest retailer, Tesco, recently announcing pre-tax profits of £2.55bn, a tiny stake in that or somewhere similarly successful is obviously big business. However, for a company as successful as Nando's, boasting more than 150 establishments in the UK alone, surely selling its products within its restaurants – how the range was first sold – is enough?
"Although we sell the retail sauces in our restaurants, the majority of sales come through the grocery trade," Lynas says. "The distribution is far wider and we can reach out to so many more consumers. Restaurant displays mainly act as vehicles to promote our range to satisfied restaurant-goers keen to recreate their eating experience at home."
In fact, 70 per cent of people who buy Nando's sauces rarely eat at its restaurants.
It's a similar situation with Pizza Express.
Another familiar sight in supermarkets, whether through its pizzas or salad dressings, its sales in the grocery channel have grown by 40 per cent over the past year.
"We strive to get as close as we can in terms of taste, with the products developed by our restaurant team," says Grocery Manager Simon Barnett. "The grocery channel offers us a fantastic opportunity to extend and enhance the brand with customers, while our restaurant brand offers a unique proposition in the grocery area."
However, it is not only the large restaurant chains that are cashing in. The Bombay Brasserie in London SW7 recently jumped on the bandwagon, now selling ready meals in about 500 Sainsbury's stores nationwide.
Manufactured by Noon Products, the move was seen as an ideal opportunity for Sainsbury's customers living outside London to recreate The Bombay Brasserie experience at home. Meanwhile, sister restaurant Quilon has introduced a range of meals at 115 Waitrose supermarkets and a selection of its chutneys are available exclusively at Harrods.
"The supermarkets initially came to us as they saw us as able to bring the right product to their customers," explains Adi Modi, Senior Vice-President and Director of the Taj hotel group, which owns The Bombay Brasserie.
"Quality and authenticity are the main things, and then every little bit helps in extending the brand and spreading the name."
Although on a far smaller scale, restaurants like London's The Wolseley are also getting involved, albeit in a suitably subtle, low-key way. Offering a range of specially blended tea and coffee, house wines, exclusive Tuscan extra virgin olive oil plus linen and silverware used in the restaurant, the decision to begin selling Wolseley-related products via its website was driven by requests from potential, rather than existing, customers.
"As the products can only currently be purchased online, it is not really designed for clients who come into the restaurant to leave with a little taste," reveals a spokesman. "This is for customers who may not live in London.
Production and marketing of restaurantrelated products is a personal process and must reflect the personality of the brand."
So, while you might dream of seeing your restaurant's name in every supermarket and becoming part of a multibillion-pound sector, it is an area to approach with caution and careful consideration. Just as there is plenty to gain, there is surely even more at stake.
"For restaurant owners thinking of taking this route, I would stress that the image of a brand can only be enhanced if the product mirrors the restaurant's quality, appearance and taste," says Nando's Lynas.
"The retail range simply must live up to the expectations the consumer has of the restaurant experience."
- Opt for your best-selling products – there are reasons for their popularity.
- Consider dishes that can be easily recreated and produced, often in vast quantities.
- Know your intended customer and how best to reach them.
- Bear in mind the cooking process, eg restaurant pizza ovens reach 400 degrees, but the home equivalent heats up to only half of that.
- Give permission to put your name to a brand without your approval.
- Allow taste to be anything other than the primary consideration. This is why many products fail.
- Underestimate the work involved – everything from packaging to nutrition facts.
- Rely solely on your name. It may initially encourage sales, but will soon drop off if the product doesn't reach customer expectations.