Why your food needs a story

Guests love to hear the story behind their food. So, tell ‘m!

“Here’s your portion of fries. The ketchup you see here is made by tomatoes and the fries are hand cut. We push them through a machine, but you have to manually control the lever, of course, haha. Okay, enjoy!” Wait… What? That’s not how storytelling should be done. However… if you do it right, storytelling is a perfect way to enhance your guests’ dining experience, gain customer loyalty and create a consistent brand. Here’s how to approach it best!

What to tell

If you order wine at an expensive restaurant, you expect to hear something about the grape, the maker, the region, etcetera. But that doesn’t mean wine has the monopoly of being accompanied by a story. A good (food!) story can be told about basically anything, as long as you find the right and fitting angle. Basically, there are five angles of which you can approach a dish: 

  1. You can tell something about the origin of the dish (both historic origin or location),
  2. You can talk about ingredients and how they are grown or sourced,
  3. You can tell something about the process of creating the dish or certain ingredients,
  4. You can explain or talk about the idea behind it, 
  5. And lastly, there’s the overarching story, about your brand or the way you approach your foodservice business. For instance, this can be a story that answers the ‘why’ of your brand, restaurant or menu concept.

A great story revolves around emotion

What all these angles have in common? They revolve around emotion. A good story needs to be short, honest, empathetic, enticing and personal. People have a short attention span, especially when they’re hungry, so don’t bore them: boil your story down to the essence. Keep it real, and be empathetic. Don’t just convey a story, convey emotion. An example? “The vegetables come from a nearby farm we work with”, versus: “We work together with Jim, a local farmer who brings us these fresh veggies every morning.” With the latter, the vegetables on the plate are instantly connected to their origins, to the farmer, and the process, while the first is just factual. Short, yes, but just a little too bare and not very enticing. A good story elevates the dish, makes it more attractive. In this case it’s knowing that these veggies came fresh from the land this morning. Lastly, a story should be personal to come across as authentic. The first sentence is passive, a given. The second one is more personal, as it’s about interaction. Guests can imagine the farmer bringing his produce, and the person telling the story taking it from him.

Let’s talk numbers

But, how does this help your business? Well, for instance, 77% of global consumers find environmentally friendly features either essential or nice to have. And 56% want brands to actively address global social issues. Also, 69% of consumers think it’s either nice to have or an essential for you, as a restaurant, to support a social cause.* So, let them know if you do so! With the rising cost of living, communicating about your products also has another effect: it makes people more willing to pay for what they’re getting, as they’re more understanding of the reasoning behind it!

Honesty is of utmost importance

But, however well your reasoning; keep in mind your message needs to resonate with the type of brand you are. When it comes to brand communication, 82% of European consumers are looking for ‘a consistent user experience, across channels’.** Not only what you say but also how you say it must match with the atmosphere of your restaurant and the dishes you serve, in order to work with you and not against you. The queen isn’t the foremost person to talk about skateboarding, but a laid-back looking skater who talks about how eloquent his latest maneuvers were, has the same estranging effect. Not being consistent as a brand is a big turnoff, as people like to have an idea of what they can expect, based upon other or former impressions.

How to tell your story

If you know what you’d like to tell and how you want to convey your story, the last question is where. Similar to how you tell it, this isn’t a one-fits-all solution. Maybe your front-of-house staff needs to tell it, maybe you should put it on your website or print it on your take-away packaging. Or maybe it’s such an overarching message, it should be on a wall near the entrance. Do you support a local cause? Put a thank you and a QR on your receipt! And if it’s about the source of your ingredients, it can be a good option to create some space in your menu, to add a nice story that ties it all together. Whatever you do, make sure to communicate in a way that’s easy to take in. That way you can get your story across and both you and your guests profit from their upgraded dining experience! 

As proof of the pudding: here’s the long story short!

A good selling story is SHEEP: Short, Honest, Empathetic, Enticing and Personal. You can approach it from multiple angles, like origin, ingredients, process, idea, and execution. And, you can convey that story by showing, writing, or telling, in order to give your guests a more authentic and unique experience. But: keep it real!

Are you ready to create your story?

Source: GlobalData Webinar 'Top Trends in Foodservice 2023'