With the clothing line, PF Chang’s hopes to become more ubiquitous

PF Chang’s socks and bomber jackets were top sellers. / Photo courtesy of PF Chang’s

PF Chang’s is above all a restaurant. But over the years, the Asian casual dining chain has had a penchant for venturing outside of the dining room.

This is one of the few chains without pizza with an auto-delivery program, for example. It has also launched a line of grocery items, with Conagra, which includes sauces and frozen entrees.

Last month, he went even further into retail with a collection of PF Chang’s brand clothing, accessories and kitchen utensils.

It’s one of many restaurant chains to start selling clothing in addition to food, as restaurants look to engage with loyal customers beyond breakfast, lunch and dinner. Chipotle sells clothes dyed with avocado pits from its kitchens. Dunkin sells all manner of garments plastered with her recognizable orange and magenta color scheme, including a bridal veil and the so-called “famous” Dunkin’ onesie.

Why, one might ask, would anyone buy any of this stuff?

“Strong brands have become more important to people,” said Damola Adamolekun, CEO of PF Chang. “You have superfans, and they really like your brand…and if they see you anywhere, they want to interact.”

That might explain the crush on people scrambling to get their hands on a bottle of Arby’s vodka in November. French fries flavored liqueur quickly sold out.

Chang’s online store, which opened Dec. 9, sells hoodies, t-shirts, hats, mugs, kitchen knives and more. The designs are sleek and the PF Chang branding is subtle. The best-selling items are the socks: one pair is printed with sushi, another with fortune cookies.

“It’s more fun than if I just put the PF Chang logo on the side of the socks,” Adamolekun said.

Other fast-moving products include a pen, an $85 wok and a military green bomber jacket with a fortune cookie on the sleeve, one of the CEO’s personal favorites.

Overall, sales exceeded company expectations, with virtually no marketing support. That said, it’s considered more of a marketing initiative than a serious source of income.

“It’s not going to be a meaningful EBITDA driver,” Adamolekun said. “The impact is largely on branding and marketing.”

But it’s part of an effort by the 200-unit brand to become more “ubiquitous” to consumers, part of their kitchens and cabinets as well as their dinner plans. It has considered packaging its popular ice cream and is exploring other CPG possibilities, including drinks, Adamolekun said. It will also begin selling apparel in restaurants, starting with a flagship location in Las Vegas.

It’s a reminder that in an age of virtually endless dining options, aggregated by delivery apps and available at the push of a button, customers still tend to lean towards specific brands.

“There’s a lot of focus on omnichannel, but at the end of the day, the brand still carries the most weight,” Adamolekun said.

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