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Editor's Letter: Making connections

Editor's Letter: Making connections

While compiling the special report in this issue, I learned something unexpected about myself. After years of believing I was a late-to-the-game baby boomer, I found that I’m actually a groundbreaking Gen Xer.

Defined loosely as the age group between 30 and 50, Gen Xers are a social, family-oriented bunch that seeks out quality in our dining experiences. Check. If you want your brand to resonate with me and my cohorts, atmosphere matters — a lot. Once we’re smitten, however, are we loyal. Check again.

Of course, like anybody else, I dislike the idea that I can be shoehorned into a generational stereotype. But the fact is that demographics — and their defining characteristics — exist for a reason. Need proof? I dare you to call any of the baby boomers you know “old.”

In “Is your brand on target?” we use the prism of four familiar demographics — Millennials, Generation X, baby boomers and seniors — to identify what matters to different age groups, with the goal of helping operators establish better connections with their target audiences. As every operator knows, selling a great meal is no longer the foundation of a successful business plan. Today’s restaurant customers want an emotional connection with their brands. Establish that bond, and you have enduring loyalty that translates to long-term sales.

That message, which is replayed throughout this issue, underscores the importance of being relevant to your designated audience. Kevin Reddy, in his Winning Ideas column in the Business Intel section, writes: “Get in the heads and hearts of your guests. Determine your core guests, their needs, your ability to meet their needs and opportunities to differentiate yourself from other brands competing for those same meal occasions.”

Also in the Business Intel section, we look at how modern technology can turn consumer interest in a food’s origins into a public relations nightmare, à la the so-called pink slime, cochineal extract and other foodstuffs. The story, which kicks off on page 3, also delves into how operators can best address such viral outrage. Note: The answer lies in the authenticity and transparency that leads to ties that bind.

In the same story, Steve Ells, co-chief executive of Chipotle Mexican Grill, noted that his company has used social media to its advantage in winning support for its position that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration should ban antibiotic use in farm animals.

“We believe we’re creating a more loyal frequent customer by connecting with them rather than advertising at them,” he said.

Other chains are building frequency through loyalty programs that offer a broad range of rewards, from Facebook Credits to daily deal offers. In the Marketing section we explore the perks that have the most pull with repeat customers.

Salmon makes a splash in the Food & Beverage section, as chefs weigh in on their culinary plans for the start of wild salmon season, otherwise known as May.

Right after Food & Beverage you’ll find profiles of the 2012 MenuMasters Award winners, as well as stories on Hall of Fame winner José Garces and Innovator Stan Frankenthaler of Dunkin’ Brands.

And bar menus steal part of the page 3 spotlight as we examine how operators are turning shoulder hours into happier ones with special drinks and small plates that appeal to consumers’ lingering desire for value.

Add to that a hip vibe, music and a comfortable lounge area where my Gen X friends and I can sit and talk, and the emotional connection is complete — we’ll be regulars for the long haul.

Contact Robin Lee Allen at [email protected].
Follow her on Twitter: @RobinLeeAllen.

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