As restaurants expand their grocery store offerings, White Castle is doubling down on branded beer.
On Thursday (March 30), the quick-service restaurant (QSR) chain announced the launch of its second beer in partnership with Evil Genius Beer Company, dubbed “Main Character Energy,” following a previous collaboration back in October. The cans will be available starting Monday (April 3) at stores across at least nine U.S. states.
“We are excited to celebrate another round of collaborating with our friends from Evil Genius — this bold, new and craveable brew will inspire the raising of glasses wherever it’s enjoyed,” said Lynn Blashford, White Castle chief marketing officer.
The beer builds on White Castle’s existing retail presence with its frozen food line. The launch comes as restaurant brands increasingly try to establish a place for themselves in retail stores, with consumers getting more of their food needs met at the grocery store. Research from PYMNTS’ study “Consumer Inflation Sentiment: Inflation Slowly Ebbs, but Consumer Outlook Remains Gloomy,” which drew from a survey of more than 2,100 consumers, found that 78% have been eating at home more often to save money amid inflation.
Consequently, restaurant brands are debuting new consumer-packaged goods (CPG) product lines and opening in-supermarket locations. Last month, for instance, casual dining chain Red Lobster, which has more than 700 locations across six countries, debuted its first line of frozen seafood products, including biscuits, cod and shrimp, under the name “Red Lobster at Home,” available at Walmart and BJ’s Wholesale Club locations.
Also last month, it was announced that IHOP is getting into grocery with the launch of packaged coffee. Food and beverage giant Kraft Heinz shared in prepared remarks accompanying its earnings release that it is launching a line of retail products in partnership with the breakfast chain.
Some brands are taking a similar approach to White Castle, seeing how creative they can get with their CPG offerings while maintaining some connection to their core brand. Fast-casual chain Fatburger, for instance, announced Tuesday (March 28) the launch of a THC-infused ketchup in partnership with cannabis edibles company Kiva confections.
In an interview with PYMNTS, Geoff Alexander, CEO of fast-casual chain Wow Bao, contended that restaurants have had to adjust to retailers’ changing role in the food commerce space, with supermarkets becoming the go-to spot not only for raw groceries but also all food-at-home categories.
“The supermarket has really become where consumers get all their meals at home,” Alexander explained. “It’s not just dining out now in restaurants — grocery stores are finding different ways to keep people inside the store to find their next meal. Whether it’s prepared food counters or partnering with restaurants, they’re making additional opportunities for people to do one-stop shopping.”
Sure enough, consumers are increasingly getting even their prepared food needs met at the grocery store. Findings from PYMNTS’ study “Digital Economy Payments: Consumers Buy Into Food Bargains,” which drew from a July survey of nearly 2,700 U.S. consumers about their food shopping habits, revealed that 37% of consumers had bought prepared food on their most recent grocery trip, up 7 points from the 30% of consumers who had done so back in November 2021.
Notably, however, restaurants are actually performing better than grocers overall, in terms of both sales growth and total sales. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, grocery store sales were up 6% year over year in February to $72.54 billion (per the seasonally adjusted advanced monthly sales figures), while bar and restaurant sales were up 15% year over year to $92.74 billion.