Thursday, August 24, 2023

Fun Works Put Barbie on Menu


The trend is your friend and there seems to be not stopping the momentum of Barbie the movie and everything that comes with it including restaurant sales. According to Steven Johnson Grocerant Guru® soon there will be ‘streaming Barbie parties’ and front and cent will be grocerant niche Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared menu items that are PINK just for fun.

Just think about it now, there are concepts that embraced Barbie-themed menu promotions are reporting new customers and double-digit sales lifts. Enough said. Barbie hasn’t just been a hit at the box office, several restaurant concepts big and small have also gained momentum from tapping into the cultural phenomenon.   

So, Cold Stone Creamery, for instance, is offering an All That Glitters is Pink flavor, with pink cotton candy ice cream, graham cracker crust, dance party sprinkles and whipped topping, while Pinkberry launched a Barbie Land Berry Pink Swirl, featuring dragon fruit and strawberry flavors and topped with “dream sprinkles.” The Barbie Frappuccino – a secret menu item at Starbucks – proliferated on social media shortly before the movie’s release.

As reported in local news, independents have also jumped into the moment. The SisterYard, a cold brew concept in New York City, introduced Barbie Lemonade to the menu, while Palm House Hospitality in San Francisco launched several Barbie-themed cocktails at its venues. Jacksonville, Florida’s Spoonful Bakery featured a week-long menu of Barbie-themed cookies, while Luminary Kitchen & Provisions in Springfield, Mass., offered Barbie Funfetti French Toast.

In Los Angeles, Café Landwer introduced an entire Barbie-inspired menu, including four drink options, a pink house-made hummus and pretty in pink waffle topped with pink whipped cream. Across town, Niku Nashi debuted a vegan sushi Barbie roll. Have menus ever been this pink? We doubt it.

SpotOn’s chief marketing officer, Kevin Bryla, stated, restaurants on its platform added over 200 Barbie-themed items to their menus. Most of those items are beverages or cocktails, while many are also breakfast, brunch and dessert offerings.

Bryla continued,  “Interestingly enough, nearly every category or concept of our restaurant clients has gotten in on the Barbie trend - quick service, full service, fast casual, cafes, bakeries, and bars,”

This could be just the beginning according to Johnson, it seems as though the effort has been worth it. Yami Correa, founder and co-owner of The SisterYard, said the Barbie Lemonade quickly became one of its top three best sellers since launch, for example. She called the response “overwhelming.”

“The way people have drastically and positively reacted toward the movie from the beginning has been jaw-dropping. People are excited to see Barbie at their favorite coffee shop and enjoy taking part in the community,” Correa said.

The SisterYard had not previously released a pop culture-related promotion. Correa said the draw behind this movie, however, changed their perspective.

“My sister and I were on the train and noticed that 90% of all posts were Barbie-related, so why not? I don’t think anything has been as big and easily relatable to jump on it,” she said.

The drink was pre-made in the mornings and the team only needed to know how to serve and garnish. Because of the response, and the simplicity, Correa said this experience could ignite future similar promotions for The SisterYard.

“This gave us a huge measure of how important it is to jump on these promotions to increase sales and visibility in the near future,” Correa said.

The SisterYard isn’t the only concept that is energized to do more such promotions. Benson Wang, chief at Palm House Hospitality, said his company will also continue to be opportunistic and look for movies that work well with its brands after experiencing a strong tailwind from its Barbie promotions. That tailwind included a 20-to-30% lift in sales and “a lot of first-time guests.”

The scale of the reception with Barbie was unlike any other movie we’ve seen. The amount of positive public reception and momentum leading up to this film was unique and I think this had to do a bit with the nostalgia of the film, high marketing dollars put to work, but also a lighthearted film that cut through gender stereotypes and just gave people permission to have fun and be entertained,” Wang said. “Barbie filled a void.”

For Niku Nashi, the timing and the location were both right to leverage Barbie mania. The vegan sushi concept is located in the heart of Hollywood and the movie was released just as Executive Chef/Co-Founder Niko Zaragoza was looking to do something fun on the menu, something that people would talk about.“This checked all the boxes,” Niku Nashi’s Brad Saltzman said.

Its Barbie Roll features pink soy paper, fried oyster mushroom, pickled cabbage, plant-based caviar, plant-based spicy tuna, burdock root, and avocado. The creation, which is available until mid-September, required two days of training, but that time has paid off thus far.

“The Barbie Roll is our second highest selling dish on the lunch and dinner menu, and the highest selling dish on our delivery platforms,” Saltzman said. “We have received a lot of tags on Instagram. It makes guests smile when it’s served to their table.”

Because of this response, Chef Zaragoza said there will “absolutely more menu tie-ins like this,” and thinks Wonka, scheduled for release in mid-December, could be a good fit. That said, no plans have been solidified yet. Such a plan will require the right product and process to ensure Niku Nashi maintains its best vegan sushi in Los Angeles title, he adds.

“At the end of the day, you can have the best promotion,” Saltzman said. “But if the food isn’t incredible, it’s a moot point.”

Though it’s easy to get caught up in a short-term windfall, Niku Nashi’s patient approach should be the standard. According to Bryla, restaurants wanting to strike while a cultural moment is hot should make sure such a promotion won’t sacrifice profit.

“Restaurants already run on extremely tight profit margins,” he said. “Run the numbers and make sure the promotion makes good business sense. Leverage ingredients you already have or can easily access at a good price. Ensure it works seamlessly into your existing kitchen or bar program. And if it’s not working, don’t be afraid to end the promotion.”

It’s also important to track guest sentiment, on social media and elsewhere, to understand if a promotion is resonating with customers.

Like all decisions in a restaurant, start with a really deep understanding of your customers, and what resonates with them. There are some bars and restaurants where Barbie makes absolute sense. And others with more of an Oppenheimer crowd. Know what works for your guests and experience,” Bryla said.

Also, once you have an idea, it’s important to promote the heck out of it – email lists, social media, two-for-one promotions when a movie ticket stub is presented, and so forth. Such efforts are often worth it.

“Restaurants are constantly competing for mindshare, especially the independents that lack the advertising budgets of larger groups. Doing something that taps into the zeitgeist gives people a reason to talk about your restaurant,” Bryla said. “That can help drive interest and traffic with new customers and give your loyal guests a reason to keep coming back.” Barbie is not going away any time soon. Get Pink it pays!

Are you looking for a new partnership to drive sales? Are you ready for some fresh ideations? Do your food marketing tactics look more like yesterday than tomorrow?  Visit for more information or contact: Remember success does leave clues and we just may have the clue you need to propel your continued success.

No comments:

Post a Comment