Five Guys Merch

Restaurant brands appear to have hit upon a relatively under-exploited method of boosting brand awareness and galvanising consumers, as branded fashion lines pop up across the market.

Burger chain Five Guys announced this week that it would make its iconic checkerboard motif available beyond its workforce, creating its second clothing collection which champions the recognisable red-and-white tiles from its restaurants.

It follows news last week from another US-founded burger brand Shake Shack, which reported it had linked up with streetwear brand Wavey Garms on a collection, which sees the global brand team up with a British grassroots producer.

Meanwhile Wingstop, also American-founded but with a British franchise operator and young management team, collaborated with sportswear brand JD Sports, showing an alignment between the values of their young, aspirational customer base.

The collaborations follow a trailblazing and distinctively British tie-up with Greggs and Primark, proving value money doesn’t have to look cheap.

In 2021, the partnership became a viral sensation which had fans of the bakery chain queueing around the block to get into Primark and bag an item from its pastry themed collection.

The joint 11-piece clothing range sold out in stores and quickly made its way onto second-hand platforms like Ebay– going for more than three times the original price. 

Greggs hoodie

The partnerships show not only the possibilities branded collections can create, with walking, talking advertising campaigns, but also how restaurant brands to tap into youth culture and style with limited edition lines and hyped-up exclusive drops.

Paul Hamilton, brand and customer Director at Five Guys, said that after the successful launch of its first merch drop, the brand wanted to allow its fans to “continue incorporating their love for the brand into their everyday outfits.”

Whether fans of Five Guys embrace the clothing range remains to be seen, but brands with an existing level of strong, social media advocacy from customers are already halfway there.

“You’re getting your food and drink brand into someone’s wardrobe, drawers, washing machine, washing line. People parade around the streets with your logo as if it’s tattooed all over them – it’s every marketer’s dream,” restaurant marketer Mark McCulloch tells MCA.

Shake Shack garms

Providing a potentially low-cost way for brands to reach new and relevant audiences, such collaborations seem a no-brainer for food businesses.

McCulloch stresses it could be one of the “smartest moves” in a marketer’s toolkit, in part because it doesn’t have to break the bank.

In an industry where marketing channels are sometimes cost prohibitive, cross brand collaborations between food and fashion allow companies to use each other to increase brand visibility.

Two brands “at the peak of their game” are galvanised by likeminded audiences and collaborations serve to accentuate both brands’ positioning in their adjacency to each other.

But there is also the opportunity for brands to use these partnerships to reach audiences that are otherwise out of range.

For smaller companies there is the potential benefit of viral notoriety, but for more established brands, it can be an exercise in building street cred.

“I think it’s about keeping your brand relevant, anything you can do to make sure that your brand is getting to that more active audience without alienating the current customer,” McCulloch says.

In return, established household names get the chance to appeal to a new generation, and secure their relevancy. “I think it’s just a win-win all around” says McCulloch.

That’s not to say a fashion collaboration is going to become a core driver of a restaurant’s businesses direct sales.

Creating credibility through association and widening audience appeal should be top of the agenda when it comes to choosing collaboration opportunities.

“I think it’s one of the most exciting untapped levers to pull and [in the UK] there are very few case studies to look at”.

“If your budgets are tight and you are street fighting for visibility and awareness, it just feels like absolutely the right thing to do,” he added.