As newly vaccinated consumers return to restaurants, food and beverage brands with both at-home and away-from-home offerings are redirecting their focus to the latter. PepsiCo, for one, noted upon the release of its Q1 earnings that the brand is looking toward the return of these away-from-home channels, viewing the increase in mobility as a “tailwind.” However, the channel suffers when consumers do not include a beverage in their restaurant order. Now, to encourage consumers to center their beverage in their quick-service restaurant (QSR) purchases, PepsiCo announced on Monday (May 3) the debut of Pep’s Place, a virtual Pepsi-centric QSR.
“[Consumers often] forget to order a beverage with their favorite meals,” Todd Kaplan, Pepsi’s vice president of marketing, said in a statement. “With the launch of Pep’s Place, we have designed a new ‘fast beverage’ restaurant delivery concept that features a menu and experience literally built around the idea of what foods go best with Pepsi, allowing consumers at home to fully optimize their meals. We are confident that by doing this, everyone will agree – and taste firsthand – how well Pepsi goes with their favorite foods.”
The announcement of the restaurant comes alongside the launch of the Better with Pepsi campaign, which in weeks to come will also feature “even more consumer-facing experiences, point of sale displays, activations and more.” The online-only restaurant designs the ordering experience around Pepsi’s beverages, such that meals are chosen to complement the drink rather than vice-versa. Consumers browse categories such as “Better with Diet Pepsi,” “Better with Pepsi Mango Zero Sugar” and so on, with five such menus to choose from.
Food items’ descriptions discuss how they pair with the beverage. For example, the description for “Wings & Pepsi Mango” reads, “The perfect blend of mild chilies in our wing sauce pairs beautifully with Pepsi Mango’s fruity and floral notes. The complex blend of cola and mango, when combined with Pepsi Mango’s exuberant bubbles, helps to cleanse the palate and keep your mouth fresh and ready for more rich, flavorful wings.”
Ordering through the restaurant’s website is powered by Olo, and its offerings are also available on Uber Eats, DoorDash and Grubhub. Pep’s Place has locations in 25 states, and according to Restaurant Business Online, these locations primarily operate out of Famous Dave’s Bar-B-Que locations. This makes sense, given the menu items available at Pepsi’s “fast beverage restaurant” — burgers, barbecue wings, spareribs, smoked pork sandwiches, chicken sandwiches and chicken Caesar salads, all of which Famous Dave’s offers at its own restaurants.
In addition to prompting consumers to consider adding beverages to their QSR onsite orders, this campaign could also give Pepsi a digital boost. Forty-eight percent of consumers report that when they turn to online ordering, they are less likely to include a beverage. Making beverage selection central to the online ordering process could be key to Pepsi’s restaurant sales going forward, given that research highlighted in PYMNTS’ most recent Delivering on Restaurant Rewards study finds that 92 percent of vaccinated consumers plan to maintain some or all of their digital food ordering behavior. Becoming ingrained in these consumers’ digital ordering routines can make a huge difference in the restaurant industry’s omnichannel future.