Later this month two operators, Carluccio’s and independent restaurant Eat 17, will see products they created hit the shelves in Sainsbury’s and Tesco respectively, joining the likes of Pizza Express, Nando’s and Wahaca in selling their restaurant-branded food in supermarkets.
As Sainsbury’s ready meal buyer Lisa DeMeyer, the person responsible for putting the 17-strong Carluccio’s At Home range onto shelves, says, supermarkets are constantly searching for new products for customers and restaurants with an established brand and dedicated following essentially make it easier for them to confidently list these products.
“As we’ve seen more shoppers looking for meals that are inspired by their experience eating out and travels, it’s great news that our customers will get the chance to experience Carluccio’s brand values – genuine, authentic Italian recipes – at home,” she said.
“We’re always looking to improve our offer in store, be that improving our popular curries or introducing a chilled Mexican range and we anticipate this to come as a welcome addition.”
However, it isn’t just large-scale operators with established brands who can gain success in this area and having a product in retail not only strengthens your brand as a whole, but can bring more customers through the door.
It is less than a year since Chris O’Connor, head chef at Eat 17 in Walthamstow, created a relish made with smoked bacon and onion to accompany his restaurant’s burger, yet later this month he will see it listed in 231 Tesco stores across the country.
The product, Eat 17 Bacon Jam, was first publicised in an article by BigHospitality’s sister title The Grocer, last year after a trial run of 100 jars in the restaurant’s neighbouring Spar Village Stores, also owned by O’Connor, sold out in one weekend.
Subsequent listings in farm shops, delis and London department store Selfridges, plus coverage in national newspapers and on TV led to Tesco buyer James MacNay knocking on Eat 17’s door earlier this year.
O’Connor said he and business partner James Brundle, now responsible for managing Bacon Jam, had not expected the product to go in the direction it did, but said it was an area more chefs and restaurateurs could develop in the future to help grow their businesses.
“It’s a growing market and should continue to grow. Chefs are creative and are already experimenting in their kitchens, so it’s easy for them to create products. In fact, I think it’s a bit easier for chefs in small restaurants to come up with the ideas and release a product onto the market than in a larger restaurant group where the structure is different.
“I’m certain it will have an impact on our restaurant. We know that advertising is a no-no in the restaurant game, it doesn’t look right, but lots of people have read articles about the restaurant because of the product and have come in to see us because of it. It will be interesting to see the impact of it going into Tesco.”
It helped that Eat 17 had contacts within retail already through the shop it owns to help develop the brand (it worked with packing company Patchwork to produce and pack Bacon Jam), but O’Connor said it was the contact he’d had with his diners and their feedback that had given him most confidence to go forward.
“Because we meet our customers every day we get to engage directly with them and took their feedback, so we had that confidence going forward knowing that if we made it on a small scale, we might be able to do it on a bigger one.”
Eat 17 is now looking at expanding its range with Chilli Bacon Jam and Chorizo Jam in development.
Tips for taking a restaurant-branded product into retail:
- Use your existing customers for market research. O'Connor hadn't set out to produce a relish for retail, simply one to enhance his restaurant's burgers, but when customers started asking how he made it and for samples to take home he realised he could potentially be onto a winner.
- Find producers and distributors you trust to get it right. Eat 17 worked with Patchwork who they had worked with already and who trusted to take their brand forward.
- Take your time. Get your product exactly how you want it before you push it to big retailers or supermarkets. Carluccio's spent two years working with fresh food provider Bakkavör, to get the products right to represent their brand before it was ready to go into Sainbury's.
Restaurants into retail - who's doing what?
- Pizza Express: Pizzas, breads, salad dressings and passata produced to the recipe first developed by Pizza Express founder Peter Boizot are produced under licence by All About Food and are listed in a number of supermarkets, including Tesco, Sainsbury's and Waitrose.
- Nandos: The fast-casual chicken restaurant’s Peri Peri sauces, rubs and crisps, made under licence by All About Food, are sold in selected supermarkets.
- Wahaca: With the help of All About Food, the six-strong restaurant chain founded by Thomasina Miers launched three Wahaca-branded sauces in Sainsbury's earlier this year.
- Itsu: The Asian restaurant chain trialled a range of Itsu-branded snacks such as chocolate-covered rice cakes and wasabi peas in branches before its owner Metcalfe's Food Company targeted retailers. They are now listed in Waitrose.