Fashion brands seize luxury awareness through restaurants

Prada, Burberry and Tod’s are the latest fashion brands to enter the Food & Beverage business in 2014, joining Armani, Roberto Cavalli, Ralph Lauren, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Salvatore Ferragamo, DSQUARED2, Marc Jacobs – who already operated successful restaurant, bars & lounges.

A pioneer of the luxury fashion branded food&beverage business, Armani launched its first Emporio Armani Cafe in Milan in 2003, followed suit by a dozen other international locations, most of them as part of the Emporio Armani store concept. Armani today also operates an ARMANI / PRIVE night-club concept at its two hotels (Dubai and Milan).

Armani was followed by Roberto Cavalli, who launched its Cavalli Caffe business 3 years later. Today, Roberto Cavalli operates through a joint venture with Dubai based Pragma Group, the most complex offering by major international luxury fashion brand: Just Cavalli Caffe (Milan), Roberto Cavalli Caffe (Milan, Florence, New Delhi, St Tropez, Beirut), Roberto Cavalli Restaurant (Miami, Ibiza), Roberto Cavalli Club (Dubai, Ibiza).

In 2006, Dolce & Gabbana launched its Dolce & Gabbana GOLD Restaurant in Milan, followed shortly by a Dolce & Gabbana Martini Bar, also in Milan. Gucci launched a Gucci Caffe concept in Seoul in 2013, followed by a Gucci American Bar at its new men’s only flagship store in Milan in the Brera district. Gucci also operates a cafe at Gucci Museo, the Gucci Museum in Florence, Italy.

Ralph Lauren expanded in 2014 its existing restaurant business (Paris & New York) with a POLO Cafe opened at the first POLO label dedicated flagship store in New York. Also in 2014, Ralph Lauren opened a sophisticated Ralph Lauren Bar concept at its men’s only flagship store in Hong Kong.

Prada acquired earlier this year an iconic Milanese patisserie, while Burberry added its first ever in-store cafe at its new Rodeo Drive flagship store in Beverly Hills. Tod’s opened a sophisticated bar concept at its Milan flagship store which is exclusively dedicated to men.

The opportunity for luxury fashion brands is not so much about diversification but mostly about recreating the quintessential luxury lifestyle customers are seeking when purchasing a branded fashion product.

New York based restaurant consultancy group Baum + Whiteman has conducted its annual research, highlighting several trends including how location-based technology and facial-recognition software may be used to change the way we’re served. For instance, GPS technology can help waiters pinpoint exact customer location and deliver drinks. Likewise, facial-recognition technology on devices like Google Glass could bring a new level of customized service: “Nice to see you again Mr Jones. Your usual Hendricks martini?”

After Chicago’s Alinea and Next restaurants implemented a ticketing reservation system requiring diners to prepay for their meal in advance a few years ago, it was recently announced that another top US chef, Thomas Keller, will be implementing the same advance ticketing system at his restaurants Per Se in New York and The French Laundry. The price of tickets also includes service, which segues into another trend predicted to take hold in 2015: the end of tipping.

Oliver Petcu in Istanbul

Ralph Lauren Bat at Ralph Lauren Men’s flagship store, Hong Kong