Publishers are Winning Hearts … and Stomachs … with Dining Experiences

You’ll never look at a mall food court the same way after reading this. According to Kayleigh Barber in Folio:, several media brands are launching dining experiences as a way to provide a new, deeper touch point for their audiences.

“For non-epicurean publications, opening a long-term, food-based brand extension might seem a bit unusual. Even for epicureans, a 38,000 square-foot food hall represents a daunting investment,” Barber writes.

“But when presented with the opportunity to create new lines of business by expanding their brands into real-world dining experiences, Garden & Gun, Time Out Group and Vice Media went all-in creating a restaurant, a cultural market and a food hall, respectively,” she continues.

Vice Media’s Munchies brand is going big in the consumer shopping experience, as their Munchies Food Hall is being created within the American Dream Mall in New Jersey’s Meadowlands complex.

“When we launched Munchies and we were putting the business plan together—this was back in 2013—we sort of outlined the grand vision for the brand,” said Martin to Barber. “We were looking at all of the things we could do and food halls were on there as something that we wanted to do.”

Garden & Gun is also branching out into culinary experiences with the opening of their Garden & Gun Club in Atlanta.

“That opportunity came when the president of the Atlanta Braves organization came to Darwin with a proposition that the magazine opens a restaurant adjacent to SunTrust Park, the new stadium outside Atlanta that opened in 2014,” Barber writes.

Apparently G&G’s CEO Rebecca Wesson Darwin said no a couple of times but was ultimately convinced with the promise of other famous chefs opening spaces inside the same venue.  Now, Darwin sees this kind of real-world food experience “felt like a space that we knew a lot about that we could do something meaningful in.”

Meanwhile, in Europe, Time Out Media is opening Time Out Markets in key cities, the newest in Lisbon.

“While Time Out is also not solely focused on food, Julio Bruno, CEO of Time Out Group Plc, explains that the crux of the brand is to help people experience cities better, which it now does in 315 cities across 58 countries,” Barber writes. “And he says the brand does this by taking a hyperlocal approach and highlighting events and experiences in the city and showcasing and critiquing the best food that the city has to offer.”

While it might seem like a huge leap to break into an entirely new vertical –especially in the food industry, notoriously hard to get right – there is a base of logic in all three of these. Each experience will undoubtedly serve to drive fans of the brands into an even deeper relationship and help new fans discover them too.

“In Montreal, they came to us looking for an eat-in center, because they wanted to have the Time Out brand there. This also happened in Prague,” said Time Out’s CEO Julio Bruno. “The Strength of the brand and the quality that the brand promises—that is why they wanted us there. It’s further validation to what Time Out is because those two cities came looking for us.”

As Barber explains, that’s the bottom line for these brands. “At the end of the day, these brand extensions are working to drive audience engagement, whether that is through developing deeper relationships with existing readers or drawing new ones to their media platforms.”

We love seeing publishing brands reaching out into new channels like this, and thinking far beyond the digital wasteland when it comes to building reach and engagement. After all, we do live in the real world, and there is a large movement toward digital minimalism, meaning our digital outreach efforts may become even less successful in the future. Savvy brands like these have recognized there is a way to engage with people in real time in new ways. These innovations bode well for the publishing industry … and for hungry consumers everywhere.