White Castle flexes its late-night business with new merch line

White Castle is showing off the strength of its late-night business through a new merch line collaboration with Fat Joe, a rapper who has been nominated for several Grammy, iHeartRadio, BET and MTV Video Music awards. The merchandise includes shirts, shorts, and hats with “Night Castle” branding and pulls inspiration from street fashion and graffiti art.

The launch coincides with hip-hop’s 50th anniversary, with 100% of net sales proceeds benefitting Renaissance Youth Center, a Bronx-based nonprofit that helps young people through music classes, afterschool programming, tutoring, STEM, coding, and more.

“White Castle was a staple of my childhood, so it’s a full-circle moment to team up with them on this Night Castle clothing collection,” Fat Joe said in a statement. “I remember growing up in the Bronx and grinding to make a name for myself, so I’m glad that we’re in position to pay it forward and use a portion of proceeds from this collaboration to support the next generation of young leaders from my hometown.”

White Castle and Fat Joe previously collaborated in 2022 for the month of “Joenuary,” where they collectively introduced the Spicy Joe Slider and Sloppy Fries and to celebrate Joenuary as a month dedicated to all things Joe. The Bronx native is a 2021 inductee into the Cravers Hall of Fame.

In a release, White Castle notes it has long been known as a “late-night hot spot,” adding that a “vast majority” of its 350-plus restaurants are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“It’s a reputation the 102-year-old, family-owned business embraces by keeping many of its Castles open into the wee hours of the morning and by promoting itself as ‘Night Castle,’” the company said.

Such an embrace comes as more chains compete over the late-night consumer set and as the daypart’s business continues to recover from Covid. Earlier this week, for instance, Pizza Hut announced it is extending its hours into the late-night daypart at thousands of restaurants, with units staying open until midnight or 2 a.m.

During Q2 earnings calls, several chains reported extending or leaning into the daypart, including Denny’s, IHOP, Jack in the Box, Wendy’s, and Pizza Hut’s sister chain, Taco Bell. David Gibbs, CEO of Taco Bell parent company Yum Brands, said “strong growth” in the late-night business helped drive Taco Bell’s strong second quarter results.

Data recently shared with Nation’s Restaurant News from Placer.ai perhaps better illustrates the daypart’s recovery and growth. From August 2019 to August 2023, Taco Bell’s visits from 8 p.m. to midnight grew from 21.8% to 25.5%. The number represents the time-of-day distribution at each chain, and from 2019 to 2023, Taco Bell’s late-night visits surpassed the 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. daypart. Meanwhile, McDonald’s 8 p.m. to midnight business also grew during that timeframe, from 16.1% to 18.8%.

Contact Alicia Kelso at [email protected]

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