Lululemon Enters the Restaurant Industry with Fuel

Lululemon is no longer just an athletic apparel company: the retailer is opening a new restaurant in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago.

Called Fuel, the food and beverage concept boasts a full kitchen and offers smoothies, salads, and protein boxes as well as burgers and beer for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The restaurant is part of a larger 20,000 square foot Lululemon store with two fitness studios.

According to Maureen Erickson, the vice president of experiential retail for Lululemon, this was a natural transition. “Our guests want everything under one roof,” says Erickson. “Building community through connection has always been at the heart of Lululemon. Both online and offline, and Lincoln Park is the physical manifestation of the heart and soul of Lululemon.”

Fuel evokes a fast casual feel with grab-and-go options as well as bar seating and dining tables. An additional space called the “connection room” is designated for Lululemon patrons looking to have a snack or drink after finishing a class.

“Food fuels you, but good food fuels you emotionally, too,” adds Erickson.

Lululemon is not alone in this endeavor: other retailers have been making similar ventures. Crate and Barrel also just opened a full service restaurant this month. Called Table at Crate, the restaurant is designed to showcase Crate and Barrel furniture, plates, and silverware for customers.

Table at Crate is “Crate and Barrel come to life,” says Bill Kim, the chef for Table at Crate. “This is an interactive experience.”

The executive chef of Fuel, Paul Larson, suggests that Lululemon has a different approach. “We want to make sure we always stay on trend with what they need.” The overall Fuel experience does not overtly reference the retailer’s products. The menu is, however, designed with Lululemon’s typical customers in mind.

The menu caters to a number of diets. According to Erickson, Lululemon has a number of vegetarian and vegan patrons as well as burger-loving customers. She stresses that Fuel is “also for people like me who like to work out so I can eat a good cheeseburger.” The goal is flexibility.

FAT Brands Embraces Ghost Kitchens

FAT Brands is adding ghost kitchens to its repertoire. The global franchising company has acquired a number of major restaurant brands, including Fatburger, Buffalo’s Express, and Yalla Mediterranean. And, in a unique spin on the ghost kitchen concept, some of those brands might be seeing their menu items available for delivery via other brick-and-mortar restaurants owned by the conglomerate.

Ghost kitchens represent a low risk delivery option for budding entrepreneurs and restaurants. For those looking to start a business in high-rent places like New York City, ghost kitchens save hundreds of thousands of dollars in square footage alone.

Updating and expanding a menu is also an easier and more lucrative process. Peter Schatzberg, the founder of virtual kitchen Green Summit, notes that for a traditional restaurant, it can cost over $800,000 to try a new menu. For Green Summit, if a menu fails to gain traction, the company only loses about $25,000.

According to Andy Wiederhorn, the president and CEO of FAT Brands, the company simply wants to do what is best for customers. “We want to take the opportunity to offer our brands everywhere we can,” says Wiederhorn. “We don’t necessarily have to have a brick-and-mortar location.”

Just last month, FAT Brands acquired fast casual chain Elevation Burger for $10 million. Elevation Burger currently maintains over 50 locations worldwide. Later this year, FAT Brands intends to offer a modified Elevation Burger menu out of select sister brand restaurants for delivery purposes only. According to Wiederhorn, the move would ideally provide a supplementary revenue source for franchise partners.

“It doesn't grow unit count, it grows total sales per franchisee,” adds Wiederhorn. “Our entire focus is on the success of our franchisees.”

FAT Brands has already implemented a similar co-branding strategy for its Fatburger and Buffalo’s Express brands. Over 100 of Fatburger and Buffalo’s Express restaurants are placed in the same location, uniting the two brands under one roof and driving up the average unit volume by 20 to 30 percent.

FAT Brands is also looking to experiment with adding a few plant-based and vegan Fatburger items to the Elevation Burger menu. Elevation Burger already prioritizes organic and sustainable meat, so FAT Brands is hoping current customers will be interested in trying plant-based options. And according to Wiederhorn, Tyson’s plant-based nuggets—courtesy of its Raised & Rooted brand—may also be on the menu.

Building a Menu That Differentiates Between Takeout, Catering, and Delivery

On this episode of The Takeout, Delivery, and Catering Show, podcast hosts Valerie Killifer and Erle Dardick chat with Tad Low to discuss the importance of menu differentiation within off-premise.

Tad Low is the Director of Off-Premise for Moe's Southwest Grill, an Atlanta based fast-casual restaurant chain with over 725 domestic and international locations. Low is leading a team that is working to bring delivery to the forefront of the guest experience.

When it comes to maximizing opportunity with off-premise, Low credits Erle at helping him understand the importance of recognizing the different revenue channels that exist within off-premise.

“We really have four main channels of revenue here. We have our in-store business, we have our catering business, we have our online business and we have now our third-party business. And understanding that each part of the business while representing a different percentage of our overall sales they each have a different impact to our bottom line,” says Tad Low. “And understanding that in order to maximize each of those channels we probably need to have a menu that is geared towards each of those segments.”

Learn how each menu for Moe’s Southwest Grill’s different revenue channels differ from each other along with more tips for off-premise success by listening to the podcast episode above!

Vanessa Rodriguez

Vanessa Rodriguez

Writer & Producer


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Why the Food Scene in “Forgotten Cities” Is As Important As Those in New York, Chicago, and L.A.

On this episode of Chef AF, our host Chef Jim Berman sits down with Chef Derek Stevens— a Steel City “burning star,” as he calls him, for shining bright in the local food scene. Stevens is the co-owner and executive chef of Pittsburgh’s Union Standard. Both gentlemen are Pittsburgh-natives and they focus their conversation around those cites that seem “forgotten” in the food world.

The two agree that as chefs they are always on the hunt for honest food. Chef Stevens is candid about his favorite Pittsburgh food spots, highlighting establishments like LeoGretta located in the Carnegie neighborhood and ran by Chef Greg Alauzen; as well as, DiAnoia’s Eatery in the Strip District and ran by Chef Dave DiAnoia.

“When I talk about those chefs… when I eat their food, I think ‘Damn, I wish I could cook like this guy’ you know?,” says Chef Stevens. “It’s really heartwarming in a way, you know? They really got it figured out. And sometimes they’re thinking the same thing [about other chefs].”

Listen to the podcast above to hear the full conversation, Chef Steven’s thoughts on the resurgence of downtown areas in cities like Detroit and Milwaukee, and how to cultivate interest for a local food scene in a “forgotten city.”


Show Notes:

  • 1:55 - Chef Derek Stevens’ Background

  • 4:07 - Favorite Pittsburgh food spots

  • 7:37 - Comfort Food vs. Fine-Dining

  • 12:47 - Cultivating Interest for local food scene

  • 17:19 - Incubators and the food scene

  • 23:13 - Labor Shortage

Hosted by:

Jim Berman

JIM BERMAN

Expert Columnist / Show Host


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How The World's First OatMeals Cafe Has Reimagined The Use of The Traditional Grain

“I really believe that if you start your day with oatmeal you normally make better decisions throughout the rest of your day… So, this brand has a lot of legs in today’s world,” says Stephens.


On this episode of Emerging Brands, Samantha Stephens, chef and founder of OatMeals shares with Foodable the origins of her single-ingredient fast casual concept and how she built it from the ground up.

OatMeals is the world’s first oatmeal cafe located in Greenwich Village, a neighborhood in New York known for its brownstones buildings. Stephens believes her brand in very on-trend right now especially with the rise of the health movement and all the benefits and versatility that oats have to offer.

What sets this concept apart is the fact that not only it is a business concept that revolves around oats, but also the fact that it aims to evaluate the way traditional breakfast meals involving oats have been regarded for decades.

“So, it’s a build-your-own toppings bar. We’re sort of putting a non-traditional twist on old-fashioned oatmeals...,” says Stephens. “The more and more I ate oatmeal the more I realized it’s very similar to risotto or rice… You could really think about it as like a savory side dish. It’s so versatile! It sort of adapts well to any kind of topping you put on it…”

Stephens went on to explain how she experimented with the grain by adding parmesan cheese, cheddar cheese, truffle oil, goat cheese, eggs, and bacon. She offers savory oatmeals as well as the traditional breakfast and sweet oatmeal offerings.

Listen to the podcast above to learn about how Samantha Stephens gained the confidence to build this business, the challenges she faces when figuring out a reasonable price point for her menu items, and how her concept aims to stay relevant in the food world in terms of trends.

To learn more about the Shark Tank-backed concept—OatMeals— check out the The Barron Report Live video interview below!