The über successful Netflix produced series Chef’s Table has exposed food enthusiasts to the cultural ecosystems, philosophies, and conducts that occur behind the scenes in the world’s most renowned restaurants. Of course not every food environment has to include those components to the level world class restaurants do; some food sensations are often the most simple and casual after all. However, food has been and will continue to be regarded as a pleasure item and/or experience as opposed to a survival one. With consumer’s orienting their appreciation for food around the cuisine creativity and overall dining experience, we recommend you start to contemplate incorporating some of these creative aspects into your restaurant— you never know what it might do for your business and the identity of your restaurant!
There are many ways to arrive at a consensus for the most important question you should be asking yourself if you have the desire to cultivate a unique culture for your restaurant: What journey of emotions do we want our customers to go through as they eat our food?
For sensitive food appreciators, eating is an emotional journey. My first time eating at a new restaurant usually evokes certain emotions from the space and the cuisine which provokes my desire to return. How luxurious do you want your space to feel? Do you want the atmosphere to feel as though customers have the opportunity to establish community or do you want the focus to primarily be on the food? If your restaurant serves alcohol in the evenings, is the space you provide your community an intimate one? Is it where people can feel safe socializing and making new friends?
Regardless of the features you wish to emphasize at your restaurant, it is important to get input from a diverse team of perspectives (aka your staff) to formulate as specifically as possible the “feelings” you want your typical customer to feel, as artists do before they paint an empty canvas. As a millennial and fiend for sensory pleasure (especially when it comes to food and music), I can accurately say on behalf of my generation: culture rocks our world.
Culture starts from branding, for sure, but also goes beyond that. When I am exploring a new food space, I also heavily observe the people who work there (are they people I “vibe with” as my generation says), the values the food business outwardly promotes (do they care about sustainability? If they do, I will for sure be a regularly supportive customer), and the overall communication I hear happening inside the space (what are the conversations people are having here? If the conversation and people appear stimulating I will have a greater incentive to return again).
These questions are not simple. They require a generous period of reflective time from your diverse team and the more diverse the better. Regardless of how small or large your restaurant may be, you should realize it is not just the food that motivates your customers to come back. Perhaps what your restaurant needs to take its cultural heritage to the next level is really think about these questions relating to the emotional experience of the space, staff, and food. At the end of the day, every restaurant, or arguably any firm that would consider itself a deliverer of any sensory experience is a curator for unique emotions and sensory stimulation. To stand out from the rest, you just have to make sure you’re providing people with something they have never had before or cannot attain so easily.