Multi-hyphenate Businesses: What They Are and How to Start One

Multi-hyphenate Businesses: What They Are and How to Start One
Being a multi-hyphenate business is a great way to keep up with changing industries and markets. But, what does that mean and how do you succeed?
by Maya Rollings Jan 19, 2024 — 5 min read
Multi-hyphenate Businesses: What They Are and How to Start One

Being a multi-hyphenate business is a great way to keep up with changing industries and markets. But, what does that mean and how do you succeed?

The fusion of food and other industries is a concept as old as time. Food is paired with sporting events, special events (there’s a reason the chicken or fish option at weddings is a big deal), and even fashion choices (that hat from that sandwich shop counts). Food and fashion are so intertwined that the House of Dior even published a cookbook in 1972.

But today, customers can blend their favourite restaurants with other aspects of their lives like never before. They can go to the coffee shop on the corner and get a cappuccino and their motorcycle fixed. They can go to their favourite cafe and take home a pre-made frozen meal kit, and add their twist. And that brewery they pass by every day just so happens to make a shirt they just have to have.

All of these newer ways of operating a restaurant have become commonplace, and they’re called multi-hyphenate businesses – businesses that diversify their revenue by adding non-core offerings, subscriptions or other services to their stop or restaurant. If diversifying revenue wasn’t a good enough reason, this business model also makes a tangible impact on customers’ purchasing decisions.

What’s the benefit of a multi-hyphenate business?

Make your marketing efforts work twice as hard

Marketing is one of the biggest benefits of operating a multi-hyphenate business. A shirt or hat with your brand or logo on it functions as a walking billboard for your restaurant. Even if someone isn’t interested in your menu but finds your retail items appealing enough, you can still benefit from a sale. The best part is that your items can reach places and people your existing marketing strategies may not. So, even if they come for the hat, you have a unique opportunity to make them stay for the food. 

Similarly, a business that operates as a coffee shop but also supplies a service, such as tattoos, can market itself in two ways and potentially reach two different audiences and hopefully convert customers to the other aspects of their business.

Bring in multiple streams of revenue from one place

The best part about operating a multi-hyphenate business is that more offerings create more opportunities for sales which creates more revenue. According to our 2023 Future of Restaurants report, 16.2% of restaurants’ revenue, on average, comes from products or services outside of their core offerings. This makes multi-hyphenates particularly profitable for new and more established businesses alike.

Lox In A Box started selling merch alongside their bagels and deli offerings to expand their reach and drive brand awareness. “Merch is a way for me to express myself creatively. We started with branded
T-shirts for our staff and then customers wanted to buy them. So we did a run of shirts, the Lox In A Box hat, and sox in a box because we thought that was fun! It sold pretty well,” says co-owner Candy Berger.

Encourage loyalty by fulfilling a list of customer needs

Customers dining at a restaurant is one thing. But being able to follow that experience up by buying that same meal frozen and pre-made is an act that inspires loyalty. It keeps customers engaged with your brand outside of your restaurant and allows them to create their own experience which can positively impact how they view your restaurant.

Furthermore, buying a hat, a cooking class or another service keeps that brand top of mind. Whenever they wear that item, use that cooking tip or look at that tattoo, it reminds them of your business and can encourage them to return on a day or at a time they hadn’t initially planned. 

In times of economic uncertainty or challenges, it can also help customers continue to support your business. Smaller moves like pre-packaged jams or sauces can help customers support your business even if they can’t afford a full dine-in spread but still want a sliver of that taste that only you can provide.

Examples of multi-hyphenate businesses

Fricken

Fricken is a full-service fried chicken restaurant in Canberra who started selling (and still sell) from a food truck. As their business grew co-owner Mo knew that they needed to add additional revenue streams. Luckily their Fricken sauces were incredibly popular with diners so they capitalised on the opportunity by releasing a range of bottled sauces that diners can purchase and enjoy at home.

“We’re eager to venture into this new territory to stay ahead in the competitive restaurant landscape. These initiatives go beyond traditional dining, creating unique and unforgettable experiences. We’re on the verge of launching take-home and gift packs for our incredibly popular homemade sauces and fries seasoning. The Fricken Sauce and Satay Sauce have seen an impressive sales surge, making them our top sellers and outselling our nearest two commercial items by over 400%. By offering these signature sauces and seasoning as retail products, we’re enabling our customers to recreate the irresistible Fricken experience at home, thus strengthening our brand presence,” says Mo.

How to launch a multi-hyphenate business

Engage with customers and analyse data

Talk to customers and understand what they’d like to see from your business. Square Feedback is a great way to get started and open up the lines of communication. Be sure to also explore the indirect communication you already have with customers: customer data. Analysing shopping trends can help you understand clear opportunities and how to maximise them. If a taco dish is the most popular item on your menu, create a pre-made frozen meal kit around the dish so that customers can enjoy that dish on a more leisurely basis.

Find ways to build on your brand

Think about what you want your brand to be known for and find a way to expand on this idea. For Fricken, they were focused on creating dishes that appealed to a wide audience – even creating GF fried chicken. Offering a way for diners to experience your dishes at home builds credibility and awareness of your brand in new ways than solely offering in-person dining.

If there’s a business you admire that already operates as multi-hyphenate, analyse the overall landscape and think of ways you can put your unique twist on what’s being done today and stand apart from competitors.

Invest in tools that can easily support diversified offerings

Having tools and hardware that can easily support a restaurant, retail shop and other service options is important to balancing multiple businesses. Square has an ecosystem of solutions that can make going between two or more offerings or between offerings and services quick and easy. Square Online, for instance, can make it easy to sync all sides of your business through seamless integration with any Square POS system. Other tools like inventory management can help keep you on track and balance what you have available to ensure you deliver a painless customer experience.

If you’re leaning more toward offering a service instead of an item, Square Appointments can help you manage booking, payments and more for free.

Be flexible

The crux of operating a multi-hyphenate shop is being open to trying new things. Don’t be afraid to explore new ways of building on customer interest. If one offering isn’t working in exactly the way that you planned, consider trying another. But as always, weigh the risk and the health of your business and proceed carefully. It may take some experimentation before you land on the additional offering that works best for your business.

Tips for success

Offer discounts to encourage customers to explore your additional offerings

Discounts can help customers ease into your new offerings for a fraction of the price. Bundling discounts with favourite or core offerings can help sweeten the deal and make a sale more likely.

Reward loyal customers

Rewarding loyal customers with a taste of your additional offerings (especially when the offerings are brand new) can help increase adoption. Loyalty programs that give customers a free shirt or a discounted service after so many visits can introduce customers to things they don’t even know they wanted or needed. The best case scenario is customers are so impressed with the quality or fit of the shirt and decide to buy another one. The same can be true for the service or other offerings.

Market new offerings effectively

Customers can’t buy what they don’t know exists. Use Square Marketing to let customers know about a new retail line or pre-made frozen meal kits. From emails to text messages, reach customers where they are when they need you the most. When customers pay with a payment link or QR code, follow up the transaction with the opportunity to take a pre-made dish home or bundle up with your shirt as they leave.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute professional advice. For specific advice applicable to your business, please contact a professional.

 

Maya Rollings
Maya Rollings is an editor at Square where she writes about all things customer experience, from building a solid customer base to leveraging tools and technology that meets them where they are in their journey.

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