Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Pop, Fizz, Welcome Pepsi to the Restaurant Biz

We were shocked too when we read the headline of this story but it is a rather interesting marketing strategy. Pepsi is entering the restaurant business with a still-under-construction concept called Kola House in New York’s trendy meatpacking district. An initiative of the brand’s marketing department, the restaurant is intended to last longer than a pop-up (although pop-up versions are planned for big events like Super Bowl 50 and Lollapalooza). How does this market Pepsi you ask? They are going to serve tons of Pepsi products and brand everything--WRONG.

Pepsi plans to market their product without actually marketing their product. Wait, what? Well Kola House is going to be designed for the social media age. The goal is that visitors, particularly influential ones, will talk about Kola House on Facebook and Twitter and post pictures on Instagram, basically marketing on behalf of Pepsi. So clever!

Their vision reflects how brands are trying to connect with consumers in ways beyond TV commercials and online ads. The 5,000-square-foot space (on the same block as Milk Studios in Chelsea) in the ultrahip meatpacking district, will become this go-to restaurant-bar-event space that Pepsi hopes will be both a social hub and testing ground for new products. The restaurant will also include space for live entertainment. As you could guess, Americans are turning away from sugary sodas and drinks, and brands like Pepsi are trying to come up with new ways to bolster their image and attract consumers--Kola House being that start of this for them.

PepsiCo Kola House
Rendering of the Kola House that melds a cocktail bar and restaurant centered on the kola nut.

Pepsi is still working out the final details of Kola House. It has not yet named an executive chef, and the menu is undecided. They do however have Alex Ott, a well-known bartender, who will create the Pepsi-inspired cocktails. The company is aiming for a spring opening, but it does not have a firm date. There are no plans at the moment to open permanent Kola Houses in other cities.

Pepsi is expected to introduce this concept in San Francisco in the days leading up to Super Bowl 50. As you know, Pepsi will again sponsor the Super Bowl halftime show and run a television commercial during the game that will focus on music and well-known songs, like our favorite ladies--BeyoncĂ©, Shakira and Taylor Swift. But we're wondering if they will slip in a preview of Kola House for all of us watching from home. Be sure to tune in and see for yourselves!

Excitingly enough, before the game, Pepsi will set up what it is calling a modular Kola House--a variation of a "pop-up". There it plans to serve kola sliders, made with wagyu beef and caramelized onions, and beef tartare with caviar and kola truffle aioli. On the beverage menu is a drink called East Meets West, a pearlescent, vodka-based cocktail with kola bitters. We wish we could experience this (though we aren't thrilled the Patriots didn't make it to the Super Bowl)!

We are going to keep an eye out on the progress of Kola House and plan a visit to NYC in the spring to hopefully tryout this unique restaurant. We hope Pepsi can devour the details of this marketing strategy and turn Kola House into a successful restaurant across the globe!

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