Leveraging the consumer pull of a restaurant brand to create a range of products in retail is not a new idea by any means. Indeed, since 1998 Pizza Express has had their incredibly successful FMCG range in retail. Then followed Nando’s, Itsu, Greggs, YO!, TGI Fridays, Ed’s Diner, Chiquitos and Harry Ramsden’s. There is also Carluccios’s, Zizzi, Wahaca, Wasabi, Wagamama and more! In fact, we recently worked on the launch of Cinnamon Kitchen into Tesco, a range of premium Indian fine dining ready meals developed by Vivek Singh of The Cinnamon Club group of restaurants (you can read more here).

But as the cost-of-living crisis hits and consumers tighten their belts, including cutting down on eating out, its little wonder operators are looking to retail lines in grocery mults as an ‘omnichannel’ solution to drive margin. The good news is, according to Lumina Intelligence, that these ranges don’t seem to cannibalise the out of home occasion, but instead offer another touchpoint to reach consumers and build the brand. With 28% buying in retail after visiting OOH, 40% visiting OOH after buying in retail and 24% buying having never been to the operator OOH.

So, when browsing the aisles of Tesco the other day, looking for some inspiration for a non-Gousto dinner night, I spotted a Franco Manca pizza and was tempted to give it a go. I have eaten out at Franco Manca previously, although not for a while as Monte Forte is our go to pizzeria, and I recalled their sourdough pizza fondly, so decided it would make the perfect easy treat dinner (and far cheaper than what has been coined as a ‘motorcycle meal’ in our house i.e., Deliveroo, Uber Eats, Just Eats etc).

Of course, having been in the industry for over twenty years, I know that these ranges are contracted to industrial food manufacturers and badged with the restaurant brand. But I also know that they will have gone through some rigorous tastings to ensure the range is good enough not to undermine the main brand. So, in for a penny in for a pound (or about five as I recall), I went for the Franco Manca Quattro Formaggi & Balsamic Glaze Pizza. And I have to say, although it wasn’t ‘fresh-from-the-wood-burning-pizza-oven’ level good, for an at home pizza it was up there. You can see from the photos that it was generously cheesy (as you would hope from a four cheese pizza) and made for a quick and easy tasty dinner.

As it turns out, according to The Grocer, the range was only launched back in November, so a relatively new entrant to the omnichannel world. It will be interesting to see if Franco Manca can in time rise to the levels of Pizza Express, who sell more retail pizzas than they do in their restaurants! From first impressions they certainly have a chance.

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