Balancing Traveler Expectations of Food with an Experience

By Erik Wolf Executive Director, World Food Travel Association | August 06, 2017

What do foodservice outlets in the Eataly stores, the Jamie Oliver restaurant franchise and the Clipper Lounge in Hong Kong's Mandarin Oriental hotel, all have in common? They all provide a unique and memorable experience, not just a meal, for patrons, many of whom are visitors (also known as "tourists" to those outside our industry). Providing a unique and memorable experience (and not just a meal) is the Golden Rule when it comes to food tourism success.

We can get a burger and fries, coffee or pizza in almost every city in the world. In fancier restaurants, we can get food towers, foams and emulsions in other fancy restaurants around the world. Why would we visit your specific establishment, especially when we are visiting your city as a tourist? In places like New York and London, there are tens of thousands of choices where to eat. Ask yourself a single key question, "How would a visitor find your business?" If your answer is Yelp, TripAdvisor, Eater or simply walking by, then you are already walking down the wrong path.

The most effective and least expensive kind of promotion is word of mouth, and how would a visitor be privy to local word of mouth? Through friends and colleagues living locally. Locals will hear about your business from any number of sources. What will make them want to recommend your establishment and talk it up? The answer is by experiencing it themselves, with a major emphasis on "experience". It's not by simply eating in your restaurant, cafe or pub, but by the full experience, from first impression upon approaching the building, friendliness at the reception, professionalism of the waiter, presentation of the food, attention to detail, room temperature, smells, cleanliness, bathroom hygiene, etc.

Quite a few foodservice outlets deliver well on all of these. Case in point are some of the Jamie Oliver restaurant properties that closed in the first quarter of 2017. Eateries fail for countless reasons, one of the most dangerous of which is fierce competition. Consider two hypothetical upscale eateries, maybe a block or two away from each other. How do you as a consumer decide between two great restaurants offering similar cuisine? Both are known for great food and great service. Both have easy parking. Both are rated high by health inspecting authorities. Both are popular with diners. Still, there is one you would always rather go to. How can you explain it?

The missing ingredient could be the lagniappe, a term from Louisiana, meaning a little something extra that goes above and beyond customary expectations. More than an amuse bouche, it could be overhearing a guest's comment about their special occasion and honoring it with a surprise, or offering a takeaway box of gourmet cookies for all guests as they leave (think New York's former Alain Ducasse restaurant in Midtown as one example).

When we talk about "food tourism" we could be talking about the phenomenon, where 93% of all travelers now participate in some kind of food or beverage experience (other than just going out to eat or drink). This is fresh data from the 2016 Food Travel Monitor published by the World Food Travel Association. By experience, we could mean a visit to a food or beverage retail store; a winery/brewery/distillery tasting; a food or beer tour; a food factory tour, etc. We could also be talking about a smaller number of bonafide foodies, or the even smaller number of gourmet travelers, who travel purely for interesting food and beverage experiences.

Choose a Social Network!

The social network you are looking for is not available.


Hotel Newswire Headlines Feed  

Tim Peter
Tony Heung
Dennis Rizzo
Dianna Vaughan
Chris Charbonnet
Bruce Seigel
Sara Djubek
Eileen McDargh
Lisa Cain
Coming up in May 2019...

Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.