It seems as if there could not possibly be enough supermarket shelf space for all the restaurant-branded (and often licensed) foods and beverages already on the market or in the works. Yet the list of restaurant chains launching or expanding brand-extension licensing programs continues to lengthen.
Naturally, given the crowded marketplace, the newer names appearing on the roster of eateries whose trademarks are available for licensing includes more and more regional chains:
- Johnny Rockets, which licensed Blackwood Industries for private-label grocery distribution under the Johnny Rockets at Home brand, is in 17 U.S. states, with the bulk of locations in California and Florida.
- Sarabeth’s Kitchen, which not long ago signed Surge Licensing as its agent, has five restaurants and a bakery in New York City.
- Whataburger, which has an exclusive line of fries sold through H-E-B-owned nameplates including H-E-B, Central Market, Joe V’s Smart Shop, and Mi Tienda, has locations in nine states, with by far the most in Texas.
- Fazoli’s, which has a range of refrigerated entrées with Retail Innovations, has 212 locations in 22 states, heavily concentrated in the region around Illinois and Indiana.
- Moe’s Southwest Grill, which has a DTR deal with BJ’s Wholesale Club, has more than 500 locations, mostly in the eastern U.S. (but expanding fast).
For national chains, expansion in the grocery aisles can help solidify customer loyalty, maintain brand awareness, and generate incremental revenue. And it does so without cannibalizing restaurant foot traffic, an early concern that has been alleviated as retail licensing deals have become more and more prevalent.
For the regional chains, licensing has these same benefits, particularly in the regions where they have restaurants. But it also can be a way to familiarize consumers with the brand and its menu in markets where no restaurants are located, thus planting the seeds for future expansion of their core businesses.