“First we eat, then we do everything else.” – M.F.K. Fisher
Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher was an American food writer. She wasn’t a critic, but penned her thoughts on our relationships with food in a moving way. Yet, despite her outstanding skills, her peers often questioned why she chose that subject. They even dismissed her for it, per a New York Times article. But, for M.F.K., it was a clear decision. She’d deemed food, along with security and love, “our three basic needs.” She said they “are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others.” For her, writing about food is “writing about love and the hunger for it.”
M.F.K. would be an easy fit in today’s “foodie” society. Food lovers would revel in her writings. They would welcome her emotional connection with food and her way of bringing them along on her journey. It’s easy to imagine her influence and the demand she could create for herself at food industry events.
The State of the Food Industry
Opportunity abounds in the food industry, and all players are out for their share. In 2016, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that new food and beverage introductions hit a nine-year record high at 21,435 launches. And, the National Restaurant Association expects restaurants to bring in almost $800 billion in sales, making 2017 the eighth straight year of growth. Yet, challenges are present.
For new consumer goods, Nielsen has reported that 85% will flop, while CNBC said 60% of restaurants fail their first year. Odds are against newcomers, but existing brands aren’t exempt. Research from Deloitte has stated “many consumers have signaled a distrust of the established food industry.” That’s unfortunate considering trust is a huge factor for today’s consumers in making purchases.
So, how can new brands stand out against veterans? And, how can veterans regain consumer confidence? One solution is activation of – and a presence at – food industry events.
Like M.F.K.’s writing, food industry events can forge an emotional connection. And, according to a 2017 study, this relationship is important, with 79% of consumers ages 18-65 needing brands to “understand and care” to buy. Food industry events allow brands to have a human presence, show concern and be authentic. However, with most brands and businesses participating in these events, the challenge now becomes how to show brand value and stand out.
3 Ways to Stand Out at Food Industry Events
From local and chain restaurants to new and leading food brands, event and experiential marketing has benefits for all. The following tips can help you improve your presence at food industry events, whether you’re participating or hosting your own.
1. Give them a taste of what to expect
Product sampling is a proven way to win consumers, no matter if a restaurant, grocer or a food manufacturer. First, it lures consumers to participate in the event. In fact, per an Event Marketing Institute study, 81% of people will attend at the expectation of product samples. The second key benefit is in actual sales, with retailers reporting as much as 2,000 percent increase due to product sampling.
Its success is due to its ability to let consumers get hands on and try before they buy. And, a brand’s willingness to offer samples shows transparency, and ultimately allows them to trust you and the quality of your food.
2. Show your sense of community.
In the battle to provide consumers with transparency and a connection, local businesses are winning. A survey shows people report that only 37% of chain restaurants “do a great job in sustaining their local community.” Small businesses are exuding hometown pride and securing business. They’re closing the communication gap with customers and showing they care. This creates both challenges and opportunities for chain restaurants and national grocers.
To combat this perception, larger players need to get out into the community and interact with potential customers. And, they can achieve this in many ways. First, street teams can target and offer face-to-face interaction with nearby residents. Professional event staff can strike up conversation, hand out samples and extend invitations to dine or shop.
Another way is to host an event at your location. There, you can win attendees over with games, prizes and interactive technology – all great ideas for any food industry event. Finally, be present at local festivals and street fairs. McDonald’s has found great success in reaching its target consumers time and again through this avenue.
3. Put your best face forward.
There’s a reason Chick-Fil-A is consistently ranked among the best fast food restaurants. And, in one survey, it’s not about the chicken. It’s the friendliness of the staff, and the chain scored 15 points higher than the next ranking competitor in this aspect.
This demonstrates the importance of the experience when dining. And, who you choose to man your event and experiential marketing activities is just as important as those who serve your patrons. Yet, because your employees can smile and say “thank you” doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll have the skills to effectively sell your brand to potential consumers in a split second.
Whether working to win a consumer on the street or securing shelf space at a food industry event, your people must be equipped to succeed. They must be personable to sell your brand attributes and flexible to adapt to varying personalities and challenges. Special activations may require specific skills, from cooking to dancing to speaking Spanish. You’ll also want staff capable of getting contact info and valuable data, among other responsibilities.
With this in mind, hire staff that personify your brand. Or, partner with an event staffing company to supply talent with proven track records. The bottom line? Make sure your people, the driving force behind your ability to make emotional connections and build trust, can serve up success.
Food industry events can work wonders for any food-related brand. Download our Ultimate Experiential Marketing Staffing Guide and Checklist to ensure that you take all the steps needed to succeed. It’s free – get your copy below.