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It’s not only food that can be ordered on demand


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No one can say I don’t take my work seriously, so as the somewhat newly appointed member to Franchise Times’ Food on Demand media project (people my age call it a newsletter-for-which-you-don’t-need-stamps, but I work with young enthusiastic journalists), I started wondering what else was in demand at these restaurants besides food.

Turns out restaurant sites are a wealth of shopping opportunities. For instance, on the KFC site, you can get a squishy drumstick stress reliever for $2.22 and a $275 Seiko men’s classic goldtone watch with the Colonel’s mug on it. Of course, you can also get a red mug with the Colonel’s mug on it, or a collapsible can koozie ($1). I especially liked the fingerless gloves, which left the fingertips free for licking.

Starbucks mug

Unfortunately, Amazon Prime and its free shipping on any dollar amount order has ruined us for regular retailers. When I ordered Jimmy John’s logo’d ping pong balls for $3 (a bargain for five balls), it was difficult to stomach the $12.80 shipping charge. But on a positive note, they did arrive freakishly fast and intact. Founder Jimmy John Liautaud’s sense of humor was evident on the kid’s T-shirt, which proclaimed, “Cool story, mom. Now get me some Jimmy John’s.”

KFC’s sister brand, Pizza Hut isn’t a shopping mecca, but Taco Bell’s website was hawking some serious swag. A foam taco crown was the most expensive headpiece at $20. I’m guessing it’s a one-trick pony in the apparel arena.

While Taco Bell’s food is cheap, fans can spend some big bills on the e-commerce site: $25 for a beach towel with flames for the hot, hot sauce and $10 for a hot iPhone 6 case.

The iPhone 5 only rated a mild case.

All were nice, but since we’re on an expense account, I ordered the $25 gold rings that spell out Taco and Bell with wire. The two rings, which also come in silver and copper, have a security clasp, which  spells out Taco Bell quality. If I decide not to expense it, some lucky relative will find this under the tree come December.

Most of the coffee brands were selling beans and accessories on their sites, but Dunkin’ Donuts did have a personalized mug kit for $12.95. It comes with stencils and magic markers so you can design your own cup and then bake the finished artwork in your oven at 300 degrees for 40 minutes. I commissioned our graphic artist, Joe Veen, to have his way with the blank enamel cup, above.

Taco Bell rings

No surprise here, Starbucks was a supermarket compared to the other brands. I was especially smitten with the local collection of travel mugs, but all the cool ones, like New Jersey (I know, it surprised me, too) and Portland, were sold out. Minnesota, which would have been the obvious choice for someone like me who lives in Minnesota, was a complete disappointment: plaid with a round slice of a big tree on it. I didn’t even bother to see if it was sold out. I did, however, splurge on the Siren Portrait Steel travel mug on sale for $14.46, in case I travel someplace cool, like New Jersey.

Subway had game: Or more precisely, it had Franchiseit First Edition, a board game similar to Monopoly that was marketed to franchise brands, such as Subway, 7-Eleven and Sterling Optical, that paid to be the next Marvin Gardens or Broadway. They also had a stunt kite, which was pretty cool.

In case you think that food franchises are the only ones that hawk merchandise, check out the fitness brands. The Bar Method has 16 different colors of grip socks, a metal ballet bar with storage bag for $200 and a T-shirt with the slogan “Tuck it” (not your shirt, your gluteus maximus).

The silver lining in all of this research is that for once  I didn’t feel guilty about shopping online at work.

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