King’s Hawaiian, a company known for its grocery store lunch and dinner rolls, wants consumers to know it has a place at the breakfast table, too.
The Hawaiian sweet bread brand has opened the Breakfast Bungalow, a temporary restaurant in New York that offers an all-day breakfast menu and multiple Instagrammable spaces that, naturally, evoke the Aloha State.
According to Annabel Pelham, associate brand manager for King’s Hawaiian, the idea for the interactive restaurant kicks off a 2020 marketing strategy under Chad Donvito, who was appointed the brand’s CMO in March 2019. Pelham said the brand, which turns 70 this year, wants to target three “usage occasions” for its products this year: breakfast, summer and kids’ lunches.
“We’ve seen our rolls used in more recipes and less as a side in consumers’ meals, and we feel like the bread lends itself really well to breakfast as well,” Pelham said. “We decided to kick off the year with this breakfast campaign to introduce the brand for that mealtime.”
For the ticketed pop-up, which opened Feb. 22 and runs through March 1 in midtown Manhattan, Pelham said the brand conceptualized the idea of bringing a Hawaiian escape to New Yorkers in the middle of winter.
King’s Hawaiian worked with agency of record Haymaker and experiential agencies Entertainment 3Sixty and Revolution Marketing to produce the experience. According to Pelham, the project took around nine months from concept to execution (she also noted the brand’s campaign planning cycle usually begins a year in advance).
The pop-up’s Instagrammable spaces include an ocean-themed ball pit, a wall of leis, a hammock photo booth and a reflective photo area that features a mountain top swing in the clouds.
“We really wanted to create a fun juxtaposition by creating a replica of Hawaii, if you will, in the middle of Manhattan,” Pelham said. “We wanted to create a unique experience where people could escape the cold and the hustle and bustle that New York offers.”
The main draw of the restaurant, however, is probably the food. The brand tapped catering company Creative Edge Parties and worked with chef Jaime Young to create three exclusive dishes: coconut s’mores french toast, a spam, egg and shoestring potatoes sandwich and a Hawaiian chicken-fried steak katsu sandwich. Along with signature dishes, the pop-up has a creation station that invites guests to build their own sandwiches with a bread of their choice and more than 50 toppings and sauces.
The Los Angeles-based brand also purposely chose to hold the experience in the greater New York area where, according to Pelham, distribution has historically struggled compared to the West Coast. Pelham also noted the brand has seen success with experiential in the past, albeit with smaller-scale sponsorship activations at events like the Good Morning America Summer Concert Series as well as the Food Network and Cooking Channel’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival.
“Now that we’ve got the distribution in play, we’re trying to pick up awareness in the northeast,” she said. “When we do things from an experiential standpoint, we focus on cities like New York, Boston and Philadelphia because it allows us to engage with those consumers more directly and personally.”
Pelham didn’t share foot traffic numbers so far, but noted the brand reserved 300 tickets per day and has seen an average of 50 patrons per hour. The pop-up sells $25 tickets for adults and $10 tickets for children, with reserved times each day. While the brand recommends consumers reserve in advance, it also accepts walk-ins.
Pelham said the brand will evaluate the success of the pop-up and campaign through earned media, consumer feedback and in-store sales in the Greater New York area and nationally through Easter. After April, the brand will switch marketing gears to focus on summer.
King’s Hawaiian’s new marketing strategy follows its rebranding in 2018, when the company adopted a pineapple logo and expanded product offerings to stay current. Recently, the brand has partnered with fast food brands such as Arby’s to have its rolls on the menu.
Breakfast Bungalow isn’t the first temporary restaurant from a food brand to open in New York. Cheetos teamed with chef Anne Burrell to open a restaurant serving upscale dishes made with the snack, and Kellogg’s has opened multiple breakfast pop-ups and a restaurant in Union Square that ran from 2017 to 2019.