Consumers take their eating behaviours on the road and destinations and businesses alike can woo new customers and more positive word-of-mouth by catering to otherwise unanticipated or unaddressed consumer behaviors.
Foodies choose where they are based on a number of factors like type of cuisine, location, service and more. Travellers years ago had to make certain sacrifices in their diets when they travelled to new and unfamiliar areas. In some cases, a foodie would have to make do with a bad coffee, for example, because they didn’t know where to find better coffee. Consumers with issues like gluten intolerance had an even harder time finding meals that suited their diet. Things have changed however, and now there is a growing trend among foodie consumers to seek their preferred foodie behaviors even while traveling. What does that mean exactly and why should it matter to you?
Mega-cities like Los Angeles, New York and London are a bit challenging for foodies and destination marketers alike because of the enormous number of choices. In such metropolises, well over 100 cuisine types are readily available, and usually at every price point. Therefore a “Buy Local” or “Eat Local” message, even in areas with high quality nearby agriculture, can get lost in a sea of choices. It’s easy to choose Indian for lunch and Thai for dinner. There is even a new cuisine available for your consideration: “plant-based”.
Plant-based cooking is a little different from vegetarian cuisine in that meat and dairy products are not included in the menu. Case in point. The team at Plant, Food & Wine, a Matthew Kenney Cuisine (MKC) project in Venice Beach, California, distinguishes plant-based cuisine from vegan cuisine, which according to them, can sometimes carry a political stigma. According to MKC staff, parts of the Los Angeles area are becoming a mecca for “plant-based” diners. Foodies travel from near and far to experience this kind of cuisine that they prefer, and it’s easier to find a wider variety of choices in the Los Angeles metro area than in similar large destinations.
Food allergies are another factor to plan for when wooing customers or visitors. It’s very hard to find gluten-free options in the Western diet, but in Asian countries however, it tends to be a lot easier because rice is so prevalent. Besides gluten intolerance or allergy, there is a wide variety of food allergies, such as dairy, nut, mustard, soy and more. Restaurants that offer choices to accommodate these concerns can stand to gain more customers. The secret to acceptance for concerned and unconcerned customers alike is to not necessarily promote “gluten-free dining” or a “gluten free menu” (if gluten is the allergy in question). These labels definitely carry a stigma that might alienate your regular customers. Just like how Matthew Kenney Cuisine above does not make a big deal about a meat- and dairy-free menu, chefs should take note in their menu planning. So create half of the menu items that are tasty dishes that also happen to be gluten-free. In other words, don’t put the gluten-free first, unless your target market is 100% gluten-free and that is the message you want to send (you just might entice other customers to try if you don’t position your food as “gluten-free”). The same message applies for other food allergies and special diets.
Travellers have evolved, and are maturing in their preferences. They are also taking their behaviours on the road with them. Whether it’s a new kind of cuisine called “plant-based” or it’s a long-standing food allergy, food, drink, travel and hospitality professionals need to be aware of these behaviours and how to market to the right kind of foodies.
Learn more how to leverage food and drink as drivers for economic development. World Food Travel Association Executive Director Erik Wolf will be delivering two sessions about food and drink tourism on November 3 at ExCel. Details at http://bit.ly/wftaatwtm.