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Advertising Age has a piece about a numb er of New York City restaurants that decided to package and sell some of their signature items during the pandemic when their traditional business models collapsed, and now are continuing to - both direct-to-consumer and via supermarkets - as a way of driving new revenue streams and brand awareness.

Carbone, for example, "not only is a classic New York Italian restaurant but also the inspiration behind a jarred pasta sauce brand called Carbone Fine Food, which started about two years ago, according to Eric Skae, who is the brand’s CEO. 

"Currently, the sauces are the brand’s only product. While they started out only being sold DTC, the company has expanded its retail footprint - Carbone jars can now be found on grocery store shelves across the U.S. at places such as Whole Foods."

Or Momofuku:  "The restaurant group, which got its start with Momofuku Noodle Bar in Manhattan’s East Village neighborhood, started hiring for its DTC arm (which sells some of its ingredients, including its seasonings and air-dried noodles) in 2019. Although the brand started out as DTC, its products are now sold in national retail locations such as Whole Foods, Target and Publix, according to Momofuku CEO Marguerite Mariscal.

"A stat that 'really kicked off' the brand’s DTC efforts, Mariscal said, was that 90% of its social media followers didn’t live in cities where Momofuku operates restaurants. When Momofuku began the DTC business, it counted more than 2 million followers, stemming from its brand accounts and the social media following of celebrity chef founder David Chang."

KC's View:

During the pandemic I argued that while supermarkets were talking about becoming "groceraunts," restaurants ought to be focused on becoming "restaurmarkets," which would allow them not just to serve meals in traditional ways, but also have markets where they could sell both prepared meals and ingredients.

This hasn't happened to the degree I thought it would.  I still think that it would allow restaurateurs to spread their bets out a little bit.  But we're seeing with brands like Carbone's - which seems to be following the Rao's playbook - is a desire to find alternative and supplemental revenue streams.