Urban Outfitters To Acquire Vetri Family Group – Integrating Dining Into Apparel Shopping Or Expanding Into The Restaurant Business?

Urban Outfitters have announced acquisition of the Vetri Family restaurant group. The clothing chain owners are about to own one of the finest Italian cuisine restaurants.

Urban Outfitters, the owners of popular brands like Anthropologie, Free People, and others, have confirmed they will buy Vetri Family restaurant group. Though the idea of an apparel chain buying a restaurant chain might seem a little odd, Urban Outfitters has already debuted in the food business with Ilan Hall’s the Gorbals. The company already has the restaurant and bar with “globally influenced menu” running at its sprawling Williamsburg complex.

Though the Gorbals may be a singular entity, this is a huge decision and investment for Urban Outfitters to buy the restaurant outright. Though the financial details have been disclosed, the deal could be finalized before the year ends. The Philadelphia-based retailer said it will acquire The Vetri Family restaurant group, founded by Marc Vetri, an Italian-trained, James Beard award-winning chef. The restaurant chain too, is based in Philadelphia. The apparel company indicated it is acquiring the restaurant chain with an aim to help the business expand, reported USA Today.

Marc is one of the finest restaurateurs and his restaurants — including standouts like Osteria, Alla Spina and Pizzeria Vetri — are hugely popular. Interestingly, Urban Outfitters will acquire all the restaurants, except the flagship Vetri, which has been specifically excluded from the deal. The restaurant was named by Food & Wine as one of the best pizza places in the U.S. Moreover, Marc and his partners indicated that nothing will change at the restaurants, except that they’ll now have more resources at their disposal, reported MSN. No branding or logo changes are currently planned, and no employee moves are expected.

Why is Urban Outfitters buying an entire restaurant chain? The apparel chain operates 240 eponymous stores. Urban Outfitters Inc. or URBN, owns hip clothing retailer Urban Outfitters, female-focused lifestyle store Anthropologie, home and garden center Terrain, and apparel enterprise Free People, which operates both retail and wholesale arms, reported Philly.

While the Vetri Family won’t be altered to fit into the Urban Outfitters brand, Vetri and his partners have been shouldered with the responsibility of running all of Urban Outfitters’ food and drink properties. Moreover, the restaurant upper management will also be responsible for coming up with new concepts that fit well, into Urban Outfitters’ many stores. In exchange, the Vetri Family will gain access to growth capital. Additionally, professional services, those are critical for expansion, like real estate specialists, architects, designers, and builders, who are in close association with Urban Outfitters, will assist the restaurant chain.

The idea of chefs working with national retail brands is certainly new, but Urban Outfitters is acutely aware of the challenges faced by physical stores. With eCommerce outlets robbing sales with thinner margins and next to nil physical presence, chains like Urban Outfitters has to think of ways to keep people pouring into their stores and spending longer amount of time, ensuring higher probability of sales. Additionally, the trend of spending on food is climbing steadily. People are more likely to spend on a nice meal, rather than clothes or accessories. Hence it makes partnering or acquisition of restaurants a rather sound investment flourish.

Despite the seemingly sound logic, Urban Outfitters hasn’t confirmed if it will integrate the restaurants with its stores. But the company already operates food and drink type establishments at three locations of what it calls Urban Outfitters’ Spaces, in Brooklyn, Austin, and Los Angeles. They have managed skillful use of space that cleverly combines retail, dining, artists collaborations, music and events in one place.

Retailers appear to be steadily investing in concepts that blend shopping and dining. Socialization, which hopefully will encourage regular occasional shoppers to be regular patrons, appears to be the experiment.

[Photo by Scott Eells / Getty Images]