by Diana Kelter, Mintel
Fashion statements and trends are always evolving, and the next phase of fashion inspiration might just come from your favourite restaurant. The statement “you are what you eat,” is becoming even more relevant with restaurants, specifically fast food chains, providing consumers the option to truly wear a passion for a brand on their sleeve.
The Mintel Trend ‘Extend My Brand’ highlights how brands are expanding into new categories in order to intrigue consumer interest. In a social media culture, expanding into new territories is quickly becoming the norm in order to stay top of mind with younger consumers: six in 10 iGens and Millennials agree they enjoy discovering trends on social media. Younger consumers are known for being fickle when it comes to brand loyalty, with just 77 percent of iGens participating in any retail loyalty program compared to 89 percent of all consumers. This is leading fast food chains, and other restaurant concepts, to focus on a sense of expression.
BEYOND THE MENU AND ONTO STORE SHELVES
In October 2017, Taco Bell announced a collaboration with the fashion retailer Forever 21 called Forever 21 X Taco Bell. “We believe this collection with Forever 21 is going to be everything they would expect from us in extending the Taco Bell lifestyle to fashion: original, affordable, creative a little quirky and definitely fun,” Marisa Thalberg, Taco Bell’s chief marketing officer said at the time. This isn’t Taco Bell’s first extension into apparel. The chain’s flagship Las Vegas restaurant features a shop that includes t-shirts, sunglasses, hats, beach towels and more. However, the current collaboration with Forever 21 extends the reach and associates the brand with a retailer where consumers already shop versus picking up a shirt while eating lunch.
Taco Bell is not alone. McDonald’s and KFC have also launched their own apparel lines. On July 26, 2017, in honour of McDonald’s announcing a global delivery partnership with UberEATS, the chain announced a McDelivery Collection. The line of apparel focused on comfort based clothing designed for wearing at home, including a Big Mac onesie and a french-fry-focused sweat suit. The retail items were not available for purchase and instead limited supplies of the items were available for free to consumers who ordered delivery on July 26. KFC also took a comfort based approach to fashion with an apparel collection that took on a classic retro style, with many items not being overly branded. For example, a yellow sweatshirt states ‘Fried Chicken USA’ and a t-shirt says ‘Chicken, Potatoes, Biscuits & Cookie.’ Despite the low prices of KFC’s menu items, the retail items are not as affordable. The fried chicken sweatshirt costs $76 and t-shirt prices range from $18-$34, with many items having sold out on the website.
Fast food restaurants are not the only foodservice outlets expressing a fashion sense. Jeni’s Ice Cream launched a branded sweatshirt in partnership with the clothing company HOMAGE, released September 29, 2017, and it quickly sold out online and in stores.
WHAT WE THINK
The athleisure movement, which focuses on workout clothing that is fashion forward enough to be worn throughout the day, is a leading driver allowing restaurants to create a space for themselves in the apparel sector. The athleisure trend reflects the overall casualization of society as a whole, a trend which can also be seen in the Mintel Trend ‘Life: An Informal Affair.’ Sweatshirts and yoga pants are no longer items reserved for lounging at home and have become fashion statements in themselves. A core selling point of the apparel being launched by restaurants today is that they are not just selling branded shirts and sweatshirts, but focusing on a broader sense of expression and key catch phrases, such as Taco Bell’s “Live Mas.”
While restaurant apparel is far from being the next big fashion trend, the official partnership between Forever 21 and Taco Bell demonstrates that every category is going to have look outside of the box and collaborate with different industry partners in order to stay relevant, especially with social feeds having the power to launch a new trend at rapid speed.
Diana Kelter is a Foodservice Analyst at Mintel, authoring reports focusing on changing consumer attitudes, industry news, and flavour/ingredient trends within foodservice. Kelter also specializes in leveraging menu data from Mintel Menu Insights database.