I was recently at Euston Station in London, waiting for my train to take me to REVO in Liverpool. As usual, I’d given myself a bit of ‘wiggle’ room to allow for any travel disruptions so had a good hour of free time to have a look around. At the main entrance, unit hoardings announced the imminent opening of Paul Hollywood’s first ‘High Street’ venture with the brilliantly named ‘Knead’ concept, offering coffee and, of course, a host of bakery goods. Buoyed by the celebrity status afforded by The Great British Bake Off, even with the recent switch from primetime TV to a Channel 5 slot, Select Service Partner clinched a deal with Paul to develop ‘Knead’, ahead of a national roll out in major transport hubs.
Hollywood is indeed now a household name and, with his face on the unit hoardings, gives users a reassuring ‘quality stamp’ of what to expect. Venturing further into the Station, located on the food balcony, more celebrity offerings in the form of Gino D’Acampo’s My Restaurant, combining All Day Dining with food retail from the deli and a good splattering of Gino’s Cook Books.
Of course, Restaurant brands carrying the celebrity brand name are not unusual and indeed have been around since food, fun and theatre really came alive on our TV screens. Jamie Oliver’s meteoric rise to fame came courtesy of his casual, cheeky and quirky TV appearances, before the equally meteoric growth of Jamie’s Italian. The global appeal and reach of his cookery shows and countless recipe books meant that ‘exporting’ the brand to the 20+ countries it now operates in, was a much easier ‘sell’ than that of a ‘traditional’ Restaurant chain.
Before Oliver had even hit the TV screens, Antonio Carluccio opened the first ‘Carluccio’s’ in 1999, setting the scene for the combination Restaurant/ Deli concept which soon scaled up across the UK. Again, backed by TV appearances and bestselling books, the positive brand associations with Antonio’s ‘homely’ persona made Carluccio’s top of every Shopping Centre and High Street’s wish list. The list goes on with Brasserie Blanc, Marco Pierre White’s Steakhouse, Bar & Grill, Rick Stein, Ottolenghi, Wolfgang Puck, etc, etc. The link between all these brands is that the small screen was the boost that put them front and centre of people’s living rooms, selling the lifestyle and dreams of new cuisines, new methods and new ingredients. Subsequent recipe books flew of the shelves as viewers wanted to recreate the on screen delights at home and led to events such as ‘The Bake Off’ effect with unprecedented spikes in the sales of Paul Hollywood cookie cutters, cake stands and spatulas.
There is an undeniable link between on screen persona and people’s acceptance and subsequent ‘buy in’ of celebrity branded Restaurant chains, not just in the UK, but around the Globe. Of course, there will come a point where these celebrities gradually disappear from our screens, cease to author recipe books and become less relevant on the High Street, but they will be replaced by the next batch of ‘new kids on the block’, keen and eager to roll out their concepts on the back of media platforms.