From Red Robin’s Seasoned Steak Fries to Dunkin’ Brands’ recent announcement of its Baskin-Robbins ice cream and ice cream bars, it often seems like a natural progression for successful restaurant chains to move into retail offerings of its popular items. But the process is more complicated than customers simply dining at a restaurant and then going to a supermarket to pick up a sauce they liked or a frozen version of an appetizer they had. It is a process that involves research into both the market and the potential products, and development of products that allow brand standards to be maintained from the restaurants to grocery shelves.
When Red Robin decided to venture beyond the restaurant space and begin offering retail products, the company first conducted extensive research that helped them understand the landscape of the retail market and the opportunity and risks that came with offering products in retail stores, Red Robin’s Vice President of Engagement Marketing Dana Benfield said.
“Product selection came down to a combination of category opportunity and assessing which products had high brand equity that Red Robin could confidently carry into the retail space,” she said.
The product that Red Robin decided to offer in retail stores was its Seasoned Steak Fries, which the company began offering at the end of last year. Benfield said that developing the fries for retail stores involved the restaurant’s research and development team, who worked closely with manufacturers to take Red Robin’s proprietary recipes and adjust them to create a quality retail product while maintaining consistent standards that extended from its restaurants.
To ensure that Red Robin’s standards were upheld all the way through the production process, the company conducted inspections of manufacturers’ facilities and looked into their track records, all the while working to establish “solid relationships grounded in mutual respect and trust,” Benfield said.
“Where with our restaurants we own our brand standards and the adherence to them, retail products require a greater reliance on our partners,” she said.
The restaurant ended up seeking out the company that manufactures its in-restaurant steak fries to manufacture its Seasoned Steak Fries due to the existing mutual respect established between the companies, Benfield said.
“Both companies have skin in the game and a successful venture is dependent on open, transparent communication,” she said.
Dunkin’ Brands had a similar experience when developing its Dunkin’ Donuts packaged coffee and coffee creamers and its Baskin-Robbins ice cream and ice cream bars, which will launch this spring. When developing and launching the products, the company’s main focus was giving consumers the same experience they have when they consume coffee and ice cream at Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins locations, Dunkin’ Brands’ Vice President of Business Development John Fassak said.
“The strategy behind offering our products at national retailers is really about access and convenience and enabling consumers who love Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins to enjoy the brands in the ‘at home’ occasion,” he said.
Fassak said that the company worked hard when developing and launching the products to make sure they chose the right partners who could uphold the brand standards that Dunkin’ has established among its restaurants through franchisee and employee engagement. Finding the right partners who deliver the right experience is essential for restaurants trying to maintain brand standards that extend into retail operations, he said.
“We also work very closely with our partners to ensure that whether the product is our Dunkin’ Donuts packaged coffee, Dunkin’ Donuts Coffee Creamers or Baskin-Robbins ice cream, that consumers get the same high-quality products they’ve come to know and love at our restaurants,” Fassak said.