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September 25, 2007

French Laundry Soon To Be Frozen Food Brand Name: C'est Bon

The French Laundry in Yountville, California (Napa Valley to the rest of us) is arguably the best restaurant in the United States, and what a catchy name.

ChefThomasKellerChef Thomas Keller has become a brand name unto himself... the only restaurateur who has a three star Michelin rating for two restaurants.

RatatouilleHe even lent his name (and expertise) to the new Disney film "Ratatouille." Now, according to Bloomberg, "He wants to open an inn, butcher shop and burger joint. His frozen-food line should soon hit retail shelves."

Is this the beginning of the end? When chefs spread their name too thin, it usually means they are cashing in and on the way out. Or, as Michael Bauer, executive food and wine editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, puts it, "Once you get into frozen food and pizzas, your fine dining brand gets a little fuzzed out."

Well, the French Laundry name is currently being used by other restaurants not affiliated with Keller. And already it seems that his name draws people to his affiliated eateries, such as Ad Hoc.

My feeling is that Keller's brand name and that of and the French Laundry name will continue to go forth and multiply so long as that flagship restaurant in Yountville keeps getting rave reviews. One massively popular restaurant and cookbook can make a brand name out of a chef.

I frankly expect this kind of success to become the template for other food brand names. Seems to me that the name Nobu has driven incredible extension using the brand name. Why not the name of America's greatest chef?

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Posted by William Lozito at September 25, 2007 8:44 AM
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