Innovative Retailer – Cannibal NYC

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The Name: Cannibal NYC

The Place: New York City

The Story: This is the tale of how you can buy a unit with one purpose in mind only to find it hijacked by the customer who has quite different ideas about what they want you to do with it. Cannibal is a B&B with a difference because it stands for Beer & Butcher. And it is the brainchild of one Christian Pappanicholas. Well I say brainchild but really it was more of an afterthought. But we must start with carcases.

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Christian Pappanicholas, owner, Cannibal NYC

Not liking this. Sounds like Sweeney Todd: Animal carcases. Pappanicholas has a restaurant called Resto but we are not interested in that today.

Clear as mud as usual: And for Resto he needed to break down (or joint) a large number of pigs, goats, and lambs and there just wasn’t the room. So he took the unit next door to use as a butchery store. And then he thought that just maybe he might sell meat as a butcher too.

Not many of those in the centre of NYC I’ll be bound: Right. And lo-and-behold it turns out that the male of the species connects handling raw meat with – beer.

Get away: A million barbeques don’t lie my friend. But that is where Cannibal may have ended its retail journey. As a quirky bar where you choose your steak and enjoy a craft ale. But no.

I’m beside myself. What happened next? The customers wanted to eat in there too. Never underestimate how little New Yorkers cook. They may have ovens in their apartments but they don’t use them. Eating out is the norm and now they wanted to eat in Cannibal.

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I take it the Pappster explained that there was a perfectly good restaurant next door if they cared to step outside when they finished their beer? No, dummy. He launched a dining concept in the butchery and gave them the seats to eat in. Duh.

Yes, of course. Exactly what I would have done:  And now 75% of turnover is eating and drinking and only 25% is (take-out) retail sales. He’s incorporated 20 seats around the beer bar, and five around the butcher’s counter.

OK, that’s for hardcore blood fans only: And another 25 seats in the back part of the unit. But if we break down his sales figures even further. It turns out that very unusually beer accounts for a hefty 80% of his drinks revenue. And that’s really odd because a large percentage of the customers are women.

Maybe they like watching men wield knives in a primal fashion: Well, 60% of the punters are female and they are drinking a lot of craft ales (450 different kinds are stocked in fact) so this place is just about turning every given retail rule on its head. In fact the women have migrated from Resto to Cannibal because it looked more fun and there were male customers in there shopping for their fix of beer and meat.

So when are the ladies turning up to get their ringside butchery seat?  Around 7-8pm it all kicks off at Cannibal on the dining front. Prior to that in the early afternoon and Saturday/Sunday it’s more take-out. But Cannibal trades all day from 11.30am till midnight.

Mr P must be happy with the way all this has turned out: He’s very enthusiastic about it. The concept evokes memories for him of a butcher’s shop in Paris’ Marais district where people would just pop in for a blood sausage and a glass of wine and then chat away while their meat was prepared. Beer and butcher are two of his favourite words and the fact that this has developed unexpectedly into his favourite kind of shop is serendipitous.

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Lucky he doesn’t have any other favourite words, eh? This concept is already pretty crowded: Umm. Have I mentioned the cycling thing.

No! What cycling thing? He’s a biking fan (Cannibal means something if you know about cycling – it was the nickname of Belgian cycling legend Eddy Merckx) and he seems to have also captured this market with the ‘have a good ride and then a good beer’ concept. There is something of a link-in, it’s not massive but it’s there.

It’s a very eclectic mix isn’t it, what with ladies who like beer and blood jostling alongside the lycra brigade. Could it work anywhere else?

Not in New York. Pappanicholas is pretty sure that Cannibal will not be cannibalised with a second branch (he has another unit in Gotham West Market but it is more of a standard beer bar). However there are plans to open in Los Angeles at the end of the summer. Apparently the butcher’s shop will be more important there than the eating in component because people in Los Angeles do actually use their ovens.

Is that it? London has been mentioned as a possible location for a site as well. But the basic concept will not change. He doesn’t for example want to get into the whole breakfast thing because that means big coffee machines and faffing about.

Well, in my considered opinion hybrids is where it’s at in retail: Hurrah, you have been listening all this time after all.

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