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Multi-Hyphenate Businesses in the Food Industry

The fusion of food and other industries like retail, beauty, and fitness are becoming increasingly commonplace as consumers look to their favorite restaurants for more than a meal. A local brewery that hosts weekly yoga classes and sells fitness apparel, a cafe that offers tattoo services and funky swag, or a pizza shop that sells fine wine subscriptions are all examples of multi-hyphenate businesses that are diversifying their revenue in 2023.

As brick and mortar retailers struggle and malls knock on death’s door, retailers are turning to restaurants to lure in customer traffic and provide another revenue stream as well. Blurring the lines between retail, consumer services, and restaurants is clearly a sign of these very transitional times.

Benefits of a Multi-Hyphenate Business

  • Doubles Marketing Efforts

One of the biggest benefits of operating a multi-hyphenate business is that marketing dollars go twice as far. Not only does selling branded merchandise add to your revenue stream, but specialty advertising products function as walking billboards for your restaurant.

  • Grows Customer Base

Even folks that might not be attracted to your menu might find your apparel and other offerings so appealing that they’ll come back when they need to find a unique gift. Restaurant swag like high quality tees, distressed baseball caps, and craft beer or coffee mugs displaying your logo pair perfectly with gift certificates and are excellent tools for expanding your customer base. And branded merchandise can reach prospective customers that your existing marketing strategies may not: if they come for a hat, they just might stay for the food.

  • Multiple Revenue Streams From One Place

The best part about operating a multi-hyphenate business is that more offerings create more opportunities for sales, which in turn, creates more revenue. According to a recent report, 21% of revenue for restaurants came from products or services outside of their core offerings in 2022. And as many as 88% of restaurants are dipping their toes into businesses other than food service, indicating that multi-hyphenates are a sign of things to come. Similarly, a business that operates as a coffee shop but also supplies a service, such as a nail salon or barber shop, can market itself in two ways, potentially reach two different audiences, and convert customers to other streams of their business.

Encourages Loyalty

Offering branded ingredients like specialty pasta sauce, coffee beans, or spices that customers can enjoy at home inspires loyalty by keeping customers engaged with your brand outside of your restaurant.

Buying a bottle of salad dressing, attending a cooking class, or turning to your restaurant for freshly cut flowers keeps your brand at top of your guest’s minds and can encourage them to return sooner than initially planned.

In times of economic uncertainty or turmoil, a multi-hyphinite model can also help customers support your business when traditional dining experiences aren’t feasible for one reason or another.

Examples of Multi-Hyphenate Businesses

Life Alive + Down Under, Harvard Square, Boston, MA

In 2022, two local wellness-centric businesses in the Boston area partnered up to create a combined yoga studio and cafe. The joint venture between Life Alive and Down Under School of Yoga opened using a unique concept rooted in wellness. Playing off the fact that what you eat and how you move influences how you feel, customers can get it all in one place.

Offering a “plant-forward” menu, the union serves the local community as an urban oasis and benefits both sides of the business which feed off of each other naturally.

Circle Brewing Company, Austin, TX

Why drink and exercise separately when it’s far more efficient to do them together? Circle Brewing Company is just one of several places around the Austin area that have caught onto the detox/retox trend, offering workout classes with the opportunity to drink and socialize afterwards. Whether customers opt for a “bootcamp and beer” or a “run then a rum,” the trend seems to be catching on.

Thai Rock, Rockaways, NY

Hosting live music events has made Thai Rock, a popular Long Island eatery, a place for music lovers to come even when dining is not on the menu. But nothing goes with music like cocktails and appetizers, so an attendee who comes to see a band that might have never been to the spot can easily become a loyal customer. Add t-shirts and other branded retail merchandise to the mix, and this waterfront restaurant that rocks the Rockaways has positioned itself as a multi-hyphenate business. Mix in a few incentive coupons to the mix, (Come Back on Tuesday for 50% your second meal) and you just might have a new customer for life.

Bark Social, Bethesda & Baltimore, MD and Philadelphia, PA

A new “social club for dogs,” with two locations in Maryland and the newest spot in Philly’s Manayunk hipster section, Bark Social is a multi-hyphenate business that’s branding itself as a new breed of social activity. The dog-centric sports bar, which includes 75-inch flat-screens everywhere, 30 beers from a self-service tap system, cocktails, food, coffees, and free wifi, also contains a retail store with toys and treats for the pups and clothing for both dogs and humans. The retail shop, which helps boost revenue for the business, is getting a following of its own, as customers begin visiting for the swag alone. To keep traffic flowing, customers can access the store via a separate entrance without entering the social club.

Supersweet Tattoos and Coffee, Los Angeles, CA

Supersweet is a coffee shop in Los Angeles, CA with a built-in tattoo parlor. Customers can easily stop by for a cup of coffee, get a tattoo, and even buy a t-shirt or a tote bag. This model works because customers who visit the tattoo parlor might bring a friend. While one friend is getting their tattoo, the other one can order a meal while they wait. And viola… a new customer!

RH, Formerly Restoration Hardware

Luxury home decor and high-end fashion brands like Lululemmon, Crate and Barrel, and Restoration Hardware are combining their businesses with foods in a big way.

And though restaurants inside stores isn’t a novel idea, with companies like Ikea and Neiman Marcus doing it for decades, none have outfitted theirs as lavishly as RH, which has been transforming rooftops and courtyards in cities like West Palm Beach and NYC into neutral-hued urban havens.

Offering burgers that start at $35, experience is what’s really on the menu at this high end version of the stop-and-shop collaboration. Opening 15 restaurants across the United States and Canada in the past decade with more in the works, each restaurant earns an average of $10 million annually, proving there’s big money to be made when food unites with fashionable retail.

Tips for Launching a Multi-Hyphenate Business

  • Engage with customers and analyze data

Talk to customers and understand what they’d like to see from your business. Analyzing shopping trends can help you understand clear opportunities and how to maximize them. If a certain pizza is the most popular item on your menu, create a meal kit around the item that includes branded pizza sauce, fresh toppings, and freshly shredded parmesan cheese so customers can enjoy a pizza at home and be reminded of your brand every time they reach for an ingredient with you name on it.

  • Expand upon your brand’s vision

What do you want your brand to stand for? Are you interested in getting deeper into the veganism game or are you looking to embrace a functional wellness lifestyle? Think of ways to incorporate these ideas into your existing business. If the mission of your restaurant is to offer diners healthy options, drum up other ways you can give them that. A weekly yoga class on your patio, an urban garden in your parking lot, or a vegetarian cookbook containing your favorite recipes are a few examples that you can use to expand upon your vision.

  • Learn from others

If there’s a business you admire that’s already operating as a multihyphenate, analyze the overall landscape and think of ways you can put your own unique spin on what’s already been done and do it better!

  • Be flexible

To be successful at running a multi hyphenate business, you have to be open to trying new things and thinking outside the box. Don’t be afraid to explore new ways of building on customer interest. If one offering isn’t working, try another one. But before taking a plunge into any business, take some time researching and testing before going all in.

  • Test the waters

Consider free giveaways, contests, or other promotions that help to test the waters about which offerings your customers might be interested in purchasing on a permanent basis at your restaurant. If you’re thinking about developing a wine, hold a free wine tasting, for example, before going full speed ahead. Using your existing customer base to test the waters is an effective research tool because, afterall, they’re your target audience.

  • Reward loyals

Rewarding loyal customers with a taste of your new offerings at a discount can help introduce customers to a product or service they never even knew they wanted: a free baseball cap with the purchase of 10 meals, , a bottle of your newly branded pizza sauce with 5 pizza deliveries, or a coupon to attend a free dance class under the stars can not only introduce customers to your new offerings, but create loyal customers that come back for a meal.

Take away

Restaurants are continuing to grow beyond their primary offerings and branching out into other industries. For many restaurants, the move toward a multi-hyphenate business isn’t simply a survival tactic in uncertain times. It’s a way to differentiate your business from the competition and deepen relationships with customers.

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By Eileen Strauss


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