P.F. Chang’s is, first and foremost, a restaurant. But over the years, the Asian casual-dining chain has had a penchant for venturing outside the dining room.
It is one of the few nonpizza chains with a self-delivery program, for instance. It also launched a line of grocery items, with Conagra, that includes sauces and frozen meals.
Last month, it moved even further into retail with a collection of P.F. Chang’s-branded clothing, accessories and kitchenware.
It’s one of many restaurant chains to start selling clothes in addition to food as restaurants look to engage with loyal customers beyond just breakfast, lunch and dinner. Chipotle sells apparel dyed with avocado pits from its kitchens. Dunkin sells all kinds of clothing plastered with its recognizable orange and magenta color scheme—including a wedding veil and the self-proclaimed “famous” Dunkin’ onesie.
Why, one might wonder, would anyone buy any of this stuff?
“Strong brands have become more important to people,” said P.F. Chang’s CEO Damola Adamolekun. “You have superfans, and they really love your brand … and if they see you anywhere, they want to interact.”
That could explain the crush of people scrambling to get their hands on a bottle of Arby’s vodka in November. The french-fry-flavored liquor quickly sold out.
Chang’s online shop, opened Dec. 9, sells hoodies, T-shirts, hats, mugs, kitchen knives and more. The designs are stylish and the P.F. Chang’s branding is subtle. The best-selling items have been socks—one pair is printed with sushi, another with fortune cookies.
“That’s more fun than if I just put P.F. Chang’s logo on the side of the socks,” Adamolekun said.
Other fast movers have been a pen, an $85 wok and an army green bomber jacket with a fortune cookie on the sleeve—one of the CEO’s personal favorites.
Overall, sales have exceeded the company’s expectations, and with virtually no marketing support. That said, it’s viewed as more of a marketing initiative than a serious revenue stream.
“This isn’t going to be a meaningful bottom line EBITDA driver,” Adamolekun said. “The impact is largely branding and marketing.”
But it is part of an effort by the 200-unit brand to become more “ubiquitous” to consumers, a part of their kitchens and wardrobes as well as their dinner plans. It has considered packaging its popular ice cream and is looking into other CPG possibilities, including beverages, Adamolekun said. It will also start selling clothes inside restaurants, starting with a flagship location in Las Vegas.
It’s a reminder that in an age of virtually endless dining options, aggregated by delivery apps and available at the push of a button, customers still tend to gravitate to specific brands.
“There’s a lot of focus on omnichannel, but at the end of the day, the brand still carries the most weight,” Adamolekun said.
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