Delivering good food and service is simply the cost of doing business in today’s world. However, with greater consumer enlightenment, restaurants will need to articulate now more than ever what their brand stands for and deliver on that promise. Social consciousness, community involvement and giving back are the new success metrics.
In 2017, a restaurant’s success will not only be measured by what they do, but also by what they stand for – specifically, in making their community or the world a better place. This can be achieved through social or environmental activism and/or charity. It could mean anything from a donation or hosting a charity event, to sponsorship and supporting a cause. The “enlightened” consumer is more inclined to visit an establishment that gives back or pays it forward. Access to information on the Internet has to help educate the consumer at an accelerated rate. Tell your story and convey your brand values and philosophy across all online touch points. Give prospective patrons looking you up all of the information they require – and more – to make the decision to support your business.
Social Consciousness Success Through Menu Development
Consumer demand for transparency has become increasingly sophisticated over the years. Consumers want to know where their food is coming from and what is in their food supply. Gone are the days of customer reticence. Conventional health claims like “low-fat” and “sugar-free” have taken a back seat to “natural,” “additive-free” and “minimally processed”. Foods’ origins have become a central area of curiosity and scrutiny for diners armed with more awareness, information and options than ever before.
Restaurants must answer the call for real foods consumers can feel confident about enjoying. As Canadian government pushes for increased labeling transparency, the foodservice landscape must prepare itself for an entirely new wave of consumer enlightenment. Earlier this month, Ontario’s Healthy Menu Choices Act came into force, making it mandatory for Ontario foodservice owners and operators with 20 or more locations to display calorie information for all standard food and beverage offerings on menus and display boards. With changes such as this, macro understanding becomes micro. Beyond what consumers need and want – in terms of health claims, ingredients, and flavours – their new knowledge of your offerings’ impact on their health becomes another factor influencing their purchasing behavior.
Enrich consumers’ understanding of your offerings’ nutritional profiles by communicating your thoughtful approach to ingredient selection and sourcing. Foods that are sustainable, ethically produced and sourced will be of central importance this year. Once the foods are in house? Food waste reduction strategies accelerate your efforts and add another point of differentiation from competitors. Root-to-leaf and nose-to-tail cooking not only challenges chefs to become hyper creative and reduces substantial food waste costs, it communicates to patrons that social and environmental consciousness is the brand philosophy.
Promote your social awareness and environmentally friendly approach to menu development by leveraging all points of contact with the consumer, both inside the establishment as well as outside the four walls. The easiest ways are on menu/tent card tables, by training staff to communicate this message at the time of ordering, and externally, through local advertising and social media.
Social Consciousness Success Through Community Involvement
Connecting with local farmers and vendors is a great strategy for reinforcing your brand’s mindfulness of the environment, and a fantastic way to become meaningfully engaged within your community. Community involvement should be a critical pillar of your brand in 2017. It is a powerful way to stimulate loyalty among returning and new patrons, and can often generate media coverage for your restaurant.
Giving back often goes hand in hand with community involvement. Whether you give back through food or support of a cause that resonates with you, contributing to your community – and to those who live within it – will amplify your success. No matter where your restaurant is located, it won’t be difficult to find a worthy cause. Whether it be donating meals to a local shelter, fundraising for impoverished families and children within your area, or volunteering to sort and package food donations at a nearby food bank, these are a few of the many ways your restaurant’s team can band together to make a difference. Shining examples of restaurants that excel in meaningfully giving back include McDonalds (Ronald McDonald House), Dairy Queen (DQ Miracle Treat Day) and A&W Canada (Burgers to Beat MS Day).
Your generosity will be seen and talked about among your patrons, and you will enjoy opportunities to engage with new potential customers. Most importantly, you will be helping others in a tangible way. This is relationship building in its purest form. The outcome is increased community visibility, but ultimately, it’s making a real impact in the area you rely upon for vitality.
So, what is the main takeaway for this year? Social consciousness needs to be integrated into every operator’s 2017 strategy because everybody wins.
How will you define and articulate what your brand stands for this year? Regardless of your strategy or approach, weaving in elements of social consciousness is the winning formula for success.
This guest post was authored by Susanne Reimer, Wholesome Harvest Baking / Canada Bread Director of Marketing, Fresh & Frozen Canada. Connect with Susanne on LinkedIn.