Dining out isn’t just about a meal; it’s about an experience. Open kitchen concepts paved the way for food transparency, but consumers are looking for more contextually-rich experiences that combine education. It’s about creating a place where consumers are not only engaging with your food, but with your brand. They’re looking to learn chefs’ unique point of view and culinary education.
Believe it or not, a winery-restaurant combination is not as commonplace as one might think, even along the west coast in the heart of Napa Valley. In 2005, Tim McEnery paired this approach with house wines to launch Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant in Oakland Park, Chicago. Since then, the brand has successfully brought its extensive offer of house wines to an all-inclusive restaurant experience. The brand integrates education through tasting rooms, adding a retail component to augment the overall experience. And often, loyal patrons find themselves becoming wine club members, becoming susceptible to exclusive tastings and special events.
The 63,000 sq. ft. Chicago Italian food market, Eataly, is home to over 5,000 high-quality Italian products. Each item is hand-selected and vetted by a team of Italian culinary experts, of whom understand its origins, how it was grown, and when it was harvested. It’s mission is staunchly rooted in the discovery of great artisanal products and to become educated about the products with the belief that the more you know, the more you will enjoy. The environment positions itself as a laboratory for learning all things Italian. Aside from the shelf-level product information, a skilled team of baristas, bakers, pasta makers, and butchers are there to not only make and prepare fresh food, but to serve their customers with education. They even have a culinary school for guests to experience the Eataly passion firsthand, learning how to make a fresh pasta. With twenty-three different restaurants, there’s a healthy dose of dining options. Each restaurant is also strategically positioned next to an area in the market in which it sources its ingredients, making it convenient for taking some home.
Determine the stories your customers need to know to develop a greater appreciation and connection with your brand. Is it time to dispel a certain brand perception or are you not getting credit for what makes you unique? Identify ways to integrate education into the experience. When you can make it participatory too, it only becomes more memorable.