QSR Meets CPG: Convenience and Brand Loyalty in Restaurants and Retail

In business school, one of your first lessons in marketing is that even the best marketers in the world won’t succeed in trying to find a market for a product. This is a common marketing misconception and backwards approach to innovative product development – a company should always start with identifying an existing group of people with an unsatisfied need, and solve it from there.

One great example of this concept in action is the way in which foodservice and CPG companies are collaborating, providing new products that evoke brand recognition and loyalty among consumers. You don’t have to be in a drive-thru line to appreciate the value of a familiar and trusted quick service restaurant chain, and, as many QSRs have expanded their brand identity into retail, they have filled a void for shoppers.Panera Chicken Noodle Soup QSR Retail Branding

“QSRs have a big brand base, and brands today have to find a way to create strategic partnerships that drive value over time,” remarks Steven Johnson, the “Grocerant Guru” at Tacoma, Washington-based Foodservice Solutions consulting group. “Restaurant brands need to consider themselves food retailers and food sellers, because branding opportunities today are multi-channel and not single channel, with expansion and different avenues of distribution.”

Filling a void – in this case, an opportunity to leverage a QSR brand in another channel to the benefit of both the retailer and foodservice operator – is ultimately driven by the end user, notes Johnson. “Consumers have moved,” he says, underscoring the fact that consumers aren’t siloed in their thinking when it comes to food choices available across so many channels right now.Keurig Cinnabon QSR Retail Branding

While QSR-branded products at retail aren’t exactly new – restaurant-branded pizzas have been around for decades – today’s offerings span dayparts and product types. Consumers who enjoy a good Cinnabon pastry, for instance, can pick up bakery treats available under the Cinnabon brand at their local grocery store. They can also pair that with Cinnabon-branded coffee pods co-branded with Keurig.

White Castle Cheeseburgers QSR Retail Branding

Meanwhile, those who crave White Castle sliders at all points of the day – including the wee hours of the morning — can heat and serve some in the comfort of their own home by picking up boxes of sliders sold in the supermarket frozen aisle.

Fast-casual brands are represented at retail, too. Panera, which also has a strong catering business, has segued into retail with a line of refrigerated soups. Conagra’s Marie Callender’s brand also crosses foodservice and retail, with a host of frozen products that include frozen meals and desserts.Taco Bell Chips QSR Retail Branding

There are newer examples, too, of the QSR-CPG mashup. In March 2018, Taco Bell Corp. announced a new line of tortilla chips for grocery and c-stores around the country, inspired by the chain’s sauce packet flavors. The Fire and Mild flavors are sold in one-ounce, 3.5-ounce, 11-ounce and 30-ounce bags, and the Classic chips will be available in one-ounce, 3.5-ounce, 13-ounce and 30-ounce bags.

“This launch of our first line of sauce packet-inspired chips gives our fans a new way to access a taste of Taco Bell,” says Marisa Thalberg, chief brand officer for Taco Bell. “Our sauce packets are one of the brand’s most unique aspects and were the natural choice for both the flavors and packaging of our tortilla chips.”

Reflecting other areas of possibilities, Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants, Inc. teamed up with Bashas stores in Arizona earlier this year to provide branded Dickey’s Barbecue Pit sausages. Bashas’ shoppers can choose from Dickey’s Original Polish Sausage, Jalepeno Cheddar Sausage and Hot Links.

Steven Johnson expects such rollouts to keep coming. “I think there is a greater growth potential for QSRs in branding in the CPG package sector than any other category,” he declares.