It Was Bound To Happen.

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The reality is the hospitality industry, food and beverage in general is a challenging space, BUT, what I have mentioned on the podcast and here on the blog more than a few times is how attractive (see; SEXY) this space is.

The appeal of this industry has been confirmed multiple times over whether it was someone’s friend quitting their day job to go all in on the food truck that sells tacos and potato salad, or the two high school buddies that always wanted to own their own bar finally taking the plunge. People have always wanted to play in this space, and sometimes it actually works out. However what we are witnessing now is more than just a lawyer quitting her job to open a bakery. We are now seeing massive companies that have ZERO food & beverage alignment, investing in this industry as they realize it’s power and potential when done right.

Having companies such as Lululemon step into the hospitality space signifies a few things for me:

  • Food, albeit risky, when done right can be a huge success.

  • The demand on companies like Lululemon and companies like it, to adapt their model as most shoppers are now shopping online and food is an “easy” pivot and offering.

  • Due to the success of online shopping brands have less of any opportunity to engage with that consumer any further, whereas food and drink allow for that.

  • With a well thought out concept and a lazer like execution, this industry can be a great business.

Lululemon isn’t the only company to jump in the food pool, as Crate & Barrel have adapted their model a bit and are now offering some unique dining experiences where they can not only provide their guests with an awesome meal, but they can also showcase their products to a captive audience. In the example of Crate & Barrel they’ve taken the traditional in-store demo (free) into a full dining experience (not free).

Just look at what big brands like NETFLIX have done for food, heck YOUTUBE, AMAZON, you name it, everyone is making moves to be in this space, not only from a user experience space but very much so from a space of value and longevity with a food aspect to these brands.

Some may scoff at all of this and call it a flash in the pan, and sure, it very well may be however I say lets wait and see the true impact of players like this getting into the food space. My initial reaction is that this a great thing for our industry as I see it creating more dialog and more space for education around food and food systems, not only locally, but globally. With a brand such as Lululemon I would be very surprised if they don’t align their food program with solid food ethics, health foods, and sustainable practices wherever possible as I feel that is what their brand so naturally is.

By having big businesses join us on the dance-floor we have a greater opportunity to impact our food systems in a positive way with this new established platform for messaging that never offered itself up to food and food education.

While I am not too inspired by the plates that Lululemon is offering at FUEL, I am inspired by the faith they have showed in hospitality. Being a space that can not only provide the Lulus of the world, an economical windfall but also positively impacting the community overall.

Chicago isn’t on my radar at the moment as a destination, although the food scene is and has always been so respectable, I will no doubt make a trip before too long and be sure to stop in for a pair of shorts and an acai bowl.

Now the only question that remains… which big business giant will want to play in this industry next?

Brad