Food and beverage businesses deliver more than just a product or a service. They have become veritable destinations themselves, with customers seeking out the unique experiences they offer. Yet food and beverage experiences do not and cannot rely on taste alone. The food experience depends on various sensory attributes in the form of smell, ambiance, the cultural and social connection they foster, and many more influences. In fact, food and beverage businesses can add tremendous value to the historical and social characteristics of their regions. It all comes down to the hospitality business design.
We have seen tremendous changes in food and beverage businesses over the years. Experts believe it is the changing consumer demands that have forced changes in the food and beverage businesses themselves. In the past, restaurants, food markets, wineries, and other business types arose organically whenever there was a need or desire. Fast forward to today, when tourists (and locals alike) seek unique tastes and experiences before they decide where to visit and spend money. Increasingly more importance is given to the experience itself, as consumers seek to identify with the local culinary culture, theme, and atmosphere of the destination.
Knowing this, business owners have been proactively designing products and offers that create seemingly authentic experiences. And perhaps unexpectedly, the results of their efforts are, in fact, increasingly inauthentic. We can see many businesses that elevate food tourism by setting up aesthetically appealing designs and themes with global standardization in every aspect of their offering – menus, pricing, service, food quality, and hospitality. Larger chains do this very well. Still, we have to dig deeper to understand what is happening.
At the World Food Travel Association, we preserve the culinary cultures around the world by lending our support to businesses that play a significant role in food and beverage Tourism. To help support a sustainable future in the food and beverage sectors, this year the theme of our FoodTrex Global Summit on April 15-16 is sustainability in food and beverage tourism.
Businesses of all sizes set standards as to the services they offer. Trying to focus on an authentic offering seems like a valid approach. Yet each customer defines authenticity differently and according to our past experiences, popular culture, trends, influences from friends and family, social media, television shows, and more. Another way to understand this concept is that all food lovers are not the same, yet marketers often look at food-loving travelers as one homogenous group that should receive the same marketing messages, regardless of what country, culture or language the traveler is experiencing.
Especially, media has had a major effect on food consumers’ behaviour around the world. In an excerpt from his latest book (Global Brooklyn: Designing Food Experience in the World Cities), Fabio Parasecoli stated, “Inevitably, Brooklyn’s reputation is built on the global pervasiveness of US media, from TV to cinema, that made the location a recognizable point of reference for popular culture worldwide.” This is the case with various cities where gastronomy television shows and movies have been creating a collective image and context for foodscapes. These images often influence the perception of customers by (re)shaping their sociocultural status.
Restaurants and cafes are expected to understand and embrace these complexities and dynamics of the culture and to introduce design experiences that reflect the community. We also witness many urban foodscapes around us that influence and recreate their businesses to represent the authenticity that merges past and contemporary design through trends and technologies. Satisfying current customers by keeping these in mind is essential while designing experiences at restaurants, food markets, and retail stores.
To help our industry understand this concept in mode depth, and to inspire business owners to get more in touch with their own local area and its endemic culture, Fabio Parasecoli will join our FoodTreX Global Summit to talk about his latest book, Global Brooklyn: Designing Food Experience in the World Cities, co-edited by Mateusz Halawa. Fabio is a Professor of Food Studies at New York University and is an expert in the intersection of food, cultural politics, media, and design. Join us for this engaging session to get ideas on how to upgrade your business (and your understanding of consumer values) by designing an experience that both meets consumer (traveler) expectations and creates a sustainable future.
Written by Nivethitha Bharathi. Edited by Erik Wolf.