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Tastes like brand spirit

tgi fridays jack daniels ribs

When it comes to restaurant cobranding, the numbers are compelling: 76 percent of all consumers are more likely to visit a restaurant that partners with leading retail brands, and 36 percent are willing to pay more for branded items, according to Technomic.

Some brand partnerships have the decks stacked in their favor. When TGI Fridays tapped Jack Daniel’s to create a craveable, smoky glaze, they hit the jackpot. In a survey conducted among restaurant users, Technomic found that 16 percent of consumers answered an open-ended question of what sauces they craved with the answer, “TGI Fridays Jack Daniel’s glaze.” That number is up from 9 percent in 2011.

“This partnership has synergy for both brands,” Robert Byrne, manager of market insights at Technomic, explains. “TGI Fridays is positioned around the bar and around festive restaurant occasions, so a spirits tie-in makes a lot sense in terms of concept and theme. And, Jack Daniels is the most recognizable brand in whiskey.”

Beyond brand recognition, this partnership is a hit, flavor-wise. Whiskey has key notes of vanilla, caramel, smoke and earthiness, all of which rate high in craveability, according to Technomic, which finds that 50 percent of people like the flavor combination.

For Jack Daniel’s, working with TGI Fridays made it one of the first spirit labels to make a strong connection to restaurant food and food-and-beverage pairings. Food and spirits connections proliferate in the industry now, but they were a lot less common when TGI Fridays and Jack Daniel’s began working together in 1997.

Now, the adult beverage realm is full of possibilities for pairing flavors, foods and brands. In fact, for operators looking to dip into the cobranding pool, the bar might be the perfect place to start. 

The craft-beer movement, for example, has brought a flood of cobranding opportunities to restaurant tables. Craft beer brings a level of sophistication and complex flavors that work in fish and chips, wings, pretzel-and-cheese dip and other pub food.

Whiskey presents a hot opportunity for operators, too. “We’ve found that the top 250 chains have bourbon listed outside of the adult beverage menu,” says Byrne. “It’s jumped 20 percent and is being used beyond ribs and sandwiches to show up in sides and other places. Things like bacon-infused whiskey make sense.”

Likewise, branded wine sauces can something new to pasta or produce. “Spirits are already branded and bring premiumization,” Byrne says.

This post is sponsored by Bush’s Best®

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