At first glance, it might be unclear who exactly a small, nondescript cereal bar in bustling Times Square is meant to appeal to. Offering sensibly sized, multi-topping cereal concoctions in to-go containers, Kellogg's NYC, the food company's new cafe-style eatery, could perhaps draw in the busy working New Yorker. Of course, as points out Anthony Rudolf -- CEO of Journee and restaurant partner for the project -- most New Yorkers avoid the Times Square area unless they're on their way to a Broadway show. Who, then, will be sufficiently enticed by the Kellogg's logo on the window and decide to drop in for a bowl?
Cereal "fanatics" of all ages, according to Mr. Rudolf. Whether they're tourists looking for a unique dining experience or locals seeking some quick service, consumers are united in their adoration of the simple breakfast staple, he said. Plus, as Kellogg's SVP of Morning Foods Marketing and Innovation Noel Geoffroy noted, cereal remains far and away the most popular breakfast food item in American households and some 30% of cereal is eaten outside traditional breakfast hours. Set to open its doors in early July, Kellogg's NYC will give these breakfast fanatics a place to try new twists on pantry staples.
After walking past Kellogg's brand inspired wall art (a piece of which boasts that Kellogg's had the largest electronic billboard in Times Square back in 1911), the customer can approach the counter and order either a prepared bowl of cereal for $7.50 or a customized "Raid the Pantry" bowl for $4.50, with add-ons from coffee grinds to lemon zest available for an additional $1.50 each. Ice cream sundaes complete with various cereal toppings are also available for $9.50, as well as both hot and cold beverages.
The prepared cereal bowl recipes are not for the faint of heart -- or for anyone avoiding a sugar rush. "The Corny Blues" comes with Corn Pops, blueberry jam, lemon zest and a pinch of salt, and a bowl called "The Circus" includes Raisin Bran, toasted peanuts and banana chips.
Mr. Rudolf said when choosing the brands to provide necessary accoutrements like milk, ice cream and orange juice (Five Acre Farms, Blue Marble and Natalie's, respectively) the focus is on quality and locality. As well, it helps to partner with brands that "totally geek out about what they do," and make Kellogg's want to give them as much exposure as possible, he added.
According to Ms. Geoffroy, the idea for Kellogg's NYC started two years ago in June 2014 when Kellogg's opened the Kellogg's Recharge Bar in New York.
"For that popup the emphasis that we were talking about was the protein and grain combination that cereal and milk gave you," she said. Kellogg's worked with chef Christina Tosi, the founder of Milk Bar, on some unique recipes. "That's where all of the excitement and energy was coming from … Everybody was just really energized by the food."
The pop-up, which was free for visitors, led Kellogg's to think about doing something on a more ongoing, permanent basis, Ms. Geoffroy said. Ms. Tosi connected the company with Mr. Rudolph. The new shop's staff of about 40 people works for Mr. Rudolph's company, Be Bowled LLC. For now, it has one-year lease, with some options available with the landlord following that, he said.
Other packaged food brands like Chobani and Magnum have established similar cafe-style eateries in SoHo. While Chobani in particular uses its spot as an opportunity to venture into more savory, full-meal dishes, Mr. Rudolf said the intention of Kellogg's NYC is not to re-brand cereal as a dinnertime favorite but to re-imagine the staple in all its combinations and possibilities.
The 1,600-foot Kellogg's NYC sits in a stretch of Broadway where major marketers try to reach tourists, steps from the entrance to M&Ms World and across the street from Hershey's Chocolate World.
"What would have been more authentic to me would have been something downtown," Mr. Rudolph said. However, he felt the Times Square space made sense for a collaboration with Kellogg's. "That's exactly where Kellogg's should be. If they were downtown it would a little less authentic in terms of their status in the country."
Mr. Rudolf's and Ms. Geoffroy's assuredness regarding consumers' love for cereal does not appear to play out in recent sales trends. Kellogg's sales in the latest four-week period declined 3.4%, while sales for rival General Mills fell 3.9%, according to industry analyst research notes citing Nielsen data.
For Kellogg's, a restaurant in a busy tourist spot could perhaps serve as a reminder to patrons and passersby to eat more cereal.
Despite its location in the heart of the neon-soaked Times Square, the space has some aesthetics that make it feel like a home kitchen. Buzzers prompt diners to pick up their orders from cabinets. Plus, the ingredients are ones people might already have at home, giving them the option to replicate what they ordered at the restaurant.
The at-home ambiance prompts the question of why people would leave the comfort of their homes for something as simple as cereal. "Every great restaurant or cafe gives you some element of that because you need to feel comfortable when you enter the space," Mr. Rudolf explained, citing small touches meant to evoke a familiar environment, including grocery store-style bags for to-go orders and plans to offer small toys like those from machines at a supermarket exit.