By Mae Velasco, Custom Content Editor
PepsiCo has a new concept bubbling and this time it’s not soda. This renowned snack and soft drink supplier can now add restaurateur to its repertoire. In late September of this year, this big-name brand opened its first restaurant in Manhattan called Kola House — perhaps a fitting name, considering PepsiCo is known for its eponymous bottles of cola, but instead of stocking up on sugary, salty, and savory small bites and sips, Kola House is a new American concept that boasts locally sourced, farm-to-table fare and specialty cocktails.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this brand innovate in a new direction toward the dining segment, even if it was done specifically in the craft soda and fast casual space, but the news of this 5,000-square-foot, trendy restaurant in the Chelsea neighborhood originally hit the news back in January.
“This isn’t a pop-up,” PepsiCo’s chief marketing officer for beverages in North America, Seth Kaufman, told the New York Times. “This is something much bigger than that.”
Kola House aims to offer an elevated, premium experience and is centered around the kola nut, which is a caffeine-containing fruit that is used as a flavoring ingredient for carbonated beverages, giving cola its name.
The kitchen will be manned by Executive Chef Jon Feshan, who trained under famous French chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and who will use the kola nut — often described as an something between chocolate and coffee in terms of its taste — in protein dishes, such as chicken and pork entrées. The Kola House bar, which pours out craft cocktails, features the concoctions created by mixologist Alex Ott, who pulled inspiration for his creations from the kola nut, as well. The restaurant venue itself has enough room for live entertainment, essentially setting Kola House up to be the headquarters for the hipster scene.
PepsiCo is also preparing to introduce Kola House to the San Francisco in the days right before the Super Bowl, enticing fans with kola sliders and drinks such as a vodka-based cocktail with kola bitters.
“We wanted to create a modern hub for consumers to share social and immersive experiences that were anchored in the exploration of our cola's artisanal craft and flavor," Kaufman said in a statement.
Will this shift truly work? While PepsiCo is far from promoting its Doritos or Pepsi products in the doors of Kola House (and if it ever did, they would do so subtly and sophisticatedly), will consumers who are aware of this brand deviation be able to separate the two?