Pepsi is moving into the restaurant business with a 5,000-square-foot space that will be named Kola House. The hybrid restaurant-bar-event-experiential marketing space aims to become a social hub as well as a customer-facing testing ground for new products when it opens in New York this spring.
“This isn’t a pop-up,” Seth Kaufman, PepsiCo’s chief marketing officer for beverages in North America, told The New York Times. “This is something much bigger than that.”
Or smaller, if you will. In fact, everything at Kola House will be centered on the kola nut, a bitter fruit that contains caffeine and gives cola beverages their name. “Essentially,” as the Times puts it, “Pepsi is trying to market its product without marketing its product.”
Kola House. Est. 2016 pic.twitter.com/gLYIrQTu3K
— Kola House (@kola_house) January 28, 2016
Kola House is scheduled to open by the summer, bringing “experimental and elemental themes honoring the kola nut” through resident cocktail curator Alex Ott, the Germany-born scientist turned “flavor guru” who also concocted cocktails for the Kola Bar at Pepsi’s Milan Design Week activation last year.
The new NYC space “will serve as a transformative event space for pop culture moments in music, art, style, film, sports and more.” There will even be a special music series, Live at the Kola House with Live Nation, which “will serve as tentpole moments throughout its year-long programming.”
Contributing to the design: Lenny Kravitz, who’s forging a side career with furniture and interior design in recent years.
Pepsi plans to introduce the Kola House concept this week in San Francisco pre-Super Bowl 50 with a “modular” site where it plans to serve kola sliders and other kola-based delicacies.
Kaufman stated that the Kola House “represents a new space for us to support our consumer-first approach to drive authenticity and innovation around our beverage offerings and ideals.”
New York City was a natural location for the concept as a key market for unique retail brand experiences. Consider the Chobani eatery on Prince Street, a lab for unique savory pairings that elevates the brand to Soho shoppers, or how Samsung is opening a flagship retail experience — also in NYC’s Meatpacking District.
More details on Kola House in Pepsi’s press release, below:
PURCHASE, N.Y., Jan. 29, 2016 — Today, Pepsi announces its plans to launch Kola House, the first experimental kola bar, restaurant, lounge and event space to open in the U.S. market. This first-of-its-kind hospitality venture is set to open its doors in spring 2016, with its flagship location in New York City’s Meatpacking District.
To launch the Flagship location, Pepsi partnered with Lisle Richards and Eric Marx of well-known hospitality group The Metric (behind the Gilded Lily, The Wayfarer and more).
“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,” shared Seth Kaufman, Chief Marketing Officer, PepsiCo North America Beverages. “The Kola House represents a new space for us to support our consumer-first approach to drive authenticity and innovation around our beverage offerings and ideals.”
Kola House’s experimental and elemental themes honoring the kola nut will be brought to life through resident cocktail curator Alex Ott. Ott’s unrivaled background in flavor chemistry and his superior knowledge of food and beverage pairings and global palates make him the ideal mastermind behind the development of Kola House’s cocktails and elixirs. A full artisanal menu from a rising resident executive chef will also offer specialty plates inspired by the kola nut.
The flagship location will also serve as a transformative event space for pop culture moments in music, art, style, film, sports and more. Pepsi is leveraging its broad partnership with Live Nation to help build out a special music series, Live at the Kola House, which will serve as tent pole moments throughout its year-long programming. Each of the intimate, stripped down performances will bring fans up-close to the artists both visually and acoustically for the once-in-a-lifetime shows.
“Through curating and producing the live music series for Pepsi, guests at Kola House will enjoy distinctive engagements by not-to-be-missed artists,” said Darin Wolf, Live Nation’s Executive Vice President, Media & Sponsorship.
To achieve the aesthetic, PepsiCo Design, led by Mauro Porcini, leveraged the creativity of an internal team and partnered with interior design firm, Kravitz Design Inc. “Kravitz Design worked closely with the Pepsi team to create a space that brings the Kola House vision to life as a multifaceted culinary and culturally exciting experience.” said Lenny Kravitz, President of Kravitz Design Inc.
Kola House will also include a modular series at key events in pop culture that will replicate the experience of the flagship location, with local themes and ties woven into the food, beverage and designs. The first of the modular locations will open as an exclusive VIP space in San Francisco during Super Bowl 50, at Pier 70 – a collaboration between Pepsi and DIRECTV announced last month.