The concept of co-branding, meaning having two restaurants share the same space, is nothing new. Sometimes it works. Other times it does not. So what’s the difference between successful and unsuccessful co-branding initiatives?
Let me start by simply saying it’s all in the efficiency of the integrated concepts. When foodservice designers and other restaurant professionals embark on a co-branding effort, optimizing efficiency should be among their top priorities.
What do I mean? Well the working definition of efficiency is output/sales over input/costs. So as a design team embarks on developing a dual brand concept, it needs to weigh the project’s cost against the sales levels that will make this worth doing.
The first question to answer is what will drive sales? What day-part will the concept cover: breakfast, lunch, brunch, dinner, linner-between lunch and dinner, grazing, late-nite, etc.? What service modes will the co-branded operation provide? This could include eat-in, drive-thru, catering, pick-up, delivery, etc. If both concepts attack the same daypart and/or the same service mode, you should start thinking about breaking off their engagement. In contrast, if the concepts attack different dayparts and service modes, then consider moving forward with the proposed marriage. Of course some exceptions do exist, but consider this general approach as part of the design decision-making process.
The second question centers on cost, both capital and operational. Will the process generate design efficiencies that could minimize the cost? This could include construction, equipment, facility size, etc. Or will this exercise simply merge two concepts together, almost placing them side by side? The latter would suggest trouble, while the prior can generate more favorable results.
Try this exercise. Take the cost and size of each concept’s back of house and middle of house, add them together and compare this result to the cost of the integrated concept. The closer the total gets to the higher of the two individual concepts, the better integration you have done. Similarly, the closer the BOH/MOH of the integrated concept ends up in size to the larger of the two concepts by itself, the better integration you have done.
In contrast, if the size and cost of the co-branded concept’s design is closer to the sum of adding the two individual designs together, a redesign may be necessary because this process has not generated much in the way of cost and size efficiency. If you can fit the integrated BOH/MOH into the larger of the two concepts, then you are starting in the right spot.
Apply the same exercise to the front the house. In the case of the FOH, consider having flexible seating to fit the varying party sizes of the dayparts that you will serve. Typically breakfast parties are smaller than lunch and lunch parties are smaller than dinner.
So let’s do a check with a recent integrated design that was in the press. Keep in mind I make these observations from a guest’s perspective, which I augmented with general available industry information and applying some of my industrial engineering expertise and foodservice experience.
I would submit to you that the recent cobranding initiative between Buffalos Café and Fat Burger is a good integration effort, since it merges a primarily lunch (eat-in) business (Fat Burger), with a primarily dinner (full serve and take-out) business (Buffalos Café). So when you consider the dayparts and service modes this concept catches, you can say that it has the potential to become a sales-generating engine across many different groupings.
Additionally when you consider the layout, and the inherent potential capital cost, the design team was able to basically add the wing concept within the same footprint, or at least close to it, to the base Fat Burger prototype. Having the BOH/MOH in the same space would also suggest that the labor is also integrated and the employees can slide between the two offerings, resulting in lower labor costs. It is like Fat Burger is beginning to sell wings but using a known brand as a sales builder – a much more desirable scenario than just adding a new product line.
Now you may say that the aforementioned points are not always true, which I would completely agree with, but, for argument’s sake, I would suggest that you should take these thoughts and ideas that come from an industrial engineer that believes in foodservice by design not by default into consideration as you are embarking on a dual branding initiative. Perhaps they will provide some help as you are going through the process of concept integration and end up with a more efficient design that drives more sales and lower costs.