Since the pandemic began, many restaurant brands have found ways to package their brands in products that can be retailed. While these restaurants may have turned to packaged goods to make ends meet, a popular New York City restaurant was ahead of the curve when they were denied a source of income from dine-in customers during the lockdown.
Serendipity3, New York City’s Upper East Side landmark known for its frozen hot chocolate, began selling ice cream pints back in 2019. Since then, the brand has also added âFrrrozen Hot Chocolate Mixâ to its list, with more products coming soon. This month the restaurant was reopened and renovated. Sal Pesce, President and Chief Operating Officer at Serendipity marks, spoke to PYMNTS about using the brand’s symbolic status to make it into packaged goods.
âWhen the restaurant was bought, we wanted Serendipity to be an iconic national brand, and the first segment we got into was super premium ice cream,â Pesce said. âWe recreated many of the iconic Serendipity desserts in ice cream form … and it was a great experience. It was overwhelmingly accepted by the dealers. “
The restaurant and its assets were sold to a group of investors in 2018, and in August 2020 musical artist and actress Selena Gomez announced that she had become owner (and partnered with the brand on a new type of ice cream). Pesce announced that the brand will also be launching biscuits in the fall of 2021.
The power of the brand
While in people’s minds the restaurant is deeply connected to the city it is located in, most of its business comes from outside of the city.
“We found that 70 to 75 percent of the people who come to the restaurant are tourists, so it’s a huge tourist attraction, not just in the US but internationally,” said Pesce. Sensing where this international pull was coming from, he said, “We think the movie had something to do with it,” referring to the 2001 rom-com Serendipity, which featured the characters of John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale the restaurant desserts.
The fact that the restaurant’s appeal is primarily with people who live outside of the city may not be ideal when it comes to building a fan base of loyal, returning customers – but it’s great for a branded for pre-packaged To create merchandise (CPG) that does so will appeal to grocery buyers across the country.
As Pesce noted, “They talk to people all over the country and even when they haven’t been to the restaurant, they realize it.”
The NYC-CPG pipeline
Developing an entire CPG business is an expensive endeavor, and not all restaurants that try are successful. However, there seems to be something special about New York restaurants that are more likely to make them successful in this space. Pesce pointed out Rao’s homemade – the premium tomato sauce brand that emerged from the Italian restaurant Rao in New York – as a prime example of a successful transition from restaurant to CPG.
âThere’s the United States and then there’s New York City. There is the world and then there is New York City, âsaid Pesce. âThe iconic hotspots like Serendipity and Rao’s – it’s just a fantasyâ¦ so I think that when an opportunity presents itself, it goes down very well with consumers when you have the right fit, the right branding, and the right products. “
PYMNTS recently spoke to Eric Skae, the CPG veteran who is taking over the Italian-American restaurant in New York coal in the Jarred Sauce area to take advantage of the brand’s appeal to sell sauces directly to the consumer (D2C).
âCarbone is very successful, but as a restaurant there are only a select few [number] the consumer you can reach every night, âSkae said. “By offering our sauces both in-store and online, we can give more people the opportunity to enjoy our sauces no matter how they shop.”
Like Carbone Fine Foods, Serendipity Brands also sells its products directly to consumers (D2C) via its online shop as well as via Amazon and QVC as well as at a large number of stationary retailers. Pesce noted that iconic New York restaurants “have this mystique.” [them]. âThis exclusivity, which results from the fact that there is a line in front of the door, inspires consumers to enjoy the brand at home.
Get the bronze
Pesce said the company’s ice creams are “doing extremely, extremely well in a very difficult segment – we are really making a dent in that segment.”
The brand’s main competitor is Ben & Jerry’s as both brands offer fun flavors full of toppings and mix-ins, which is a difficult position given that Unilever owned Ben & Jerry’s has far more resources available. Pesce noted that in the past few decades, no newbie has successfully challenged the leadership of the established vendors to advance in the super premium pint segment.
“The only one who really got close was Talenti, and even sales have plummeted over the past four to five years,” he said. âOtherwise nobody was really closed [gain] Gaining a foothold against Ben and Jerry’s and HÃ¤agen-Dazs is the biggest challenge at the moment. “
Still, he predicts that given its brand awareness, Serendipity will be well positioned to succeed where others have failed. The company has already partnered with a variety of iconic properties including “Friends” and “Caddyshack,” and the pint of “A Christmas Story” is coming in November, which is getting the brand a lot of attention.
“In a year we will be talking about being probably the No. 3 in the country selling ice cream,” said Pesce. “That’s where we will sit, I think.”
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