The emergence of rituals around food and drink

Thursday, 23 September, 2021

Serving food and drinks to your customers does more than simply satisfy their hunger and thirst - it provides sensory experiences that create emotional connections like joy and comfort. With emotional wellbeing becoming an increasing priority for consumers, there’s an opportunity for foodservice operators to develop rituals around food and drink that create feelings of peace, calm, clarity, and more.

Person pouring red wine into wine glass having virtual drinks on laptop with various snacks on table

More people are prioritising their emotional wellbeing

In a recent webinar, Euromonitor analysts revealed that consumers were increasingly prioritising mental wellbeing. When asked what being healthy meant to them, 64% of respondents chose ‘mental wellbeing’, slightly above ‘having a healthy immune system’ (63%). Mintel consumer research has also observed that emotional wellbeing has become a central concern for consumers in the wake of the pandemic, with analysts predicting that health decisions will be increasingly motivated by a desire to feel good rather than look good.

Happy couple cooking together in kitchen with two glasses of red wine

Consumers form emotional connections with food and drink

It’s well-known that emotions influence food choice and, in return, that food impacts our moods. Whether sad or happy, people often manage or enhance their feelings with the accompaniment of food and drinks.

This connection between emotions and what people eat or drink is something marketers have used for a long time. For example, chocolate is a famous “good mood food” because of the mix of chemicals (dopamine, serotonin, endorphins and oxytocin) that it releases in the brain when we eat it, which is why confectionery brands use feelgood messaging so consumers form an emotional connection with their products.

However, as Mintel stated in this trend report, “The experience of food, drink and foodservice is not limited to sensory appeal. It also includes the processes and behaviours around preparing or consuming a meal or product.”

The act of preparing, presenting, or consuming food and drink in a certain way can have just as much impact on someone’s emotions as the physical taste, texture, or aroma. A great example of this is a traditional tea ceremony, where the ritualistic nature of the activity can provide calming benefits to participants, along with the tea itself.

Happy couple enjoying breakfast in café

Examples of food and drink rituals in foodservice

As a foodservice operator, you have an opportunity to create rituals around your menu items that enhance a customer’s emotional connection with your business - but where do you start?

Let’s look at a few recent examples of food and drink rituals in the foodservice industry to give you some inspiration.

The Aperitivo ritual

Lockdowns have led to the emergence of the Aperitivo ritual, where people make Aperitivo cocktails at home as a post-work, pre-dinner activity they can share with co-workers and friends virtually. This calming ritual gives people something to look forward to at the end of the working day, and bars + alcohol brands recognise the importance of highlighting their role in it. The NESCAFÉ Nitro Cold Brew Coffee System provides an opportunity for both cafes and restaurants to put a coffee-flavoured spin on this ritual, perhaps offering customers a take-home or delivery option for delicious cold-brew martinis and piña coladas.

Person toasts with friends at a virtual party on the terrace in a video call with a glass of spritz

Sydney’s Tequila Mockingbird is one venue that’s capitalised on this emerging ritual with their virtual cocktail masterclass. Participants get to have fun learning how to make delicious cocktails at home, like the signature spicy ‘Tequila Mockingbird’ margarita. Their recent Father’s Day Family Fiesta Especial is also a great example of how the venue has incorporated its products into a seasonal ritual, inviting families to get together to celebrate the occasion using their special menu.

 

Finish-at-home meals

Services like Providoor facilitate home-delivery of meals from restaurants that customers must ‘finish off’ at home. For most meals, all customers need to do is heat up ingredients and follow some basic seasoning instructions to end up with their own fine-dining experience at home.

Steak and wild mushrooms on plate with puree

 

Cooking and drink-making classes

Whether in-person or virtual, cooking and drink-making classes provide a fun learning experience for couples, groups of friends, or even entire workplaces. A great example is Cocktail Porter’s cocktail-making class ‘call the porter’ that helps people develop their at-home bartending skills.

Group of people in cooking class at home

How you could leverage food and drink rituals in your business

Think about how your current offerings could be incorporated into existing rituals amongst your customers or try to create entirely new ones.

  • Provide an ‘after work’ or ‘footy night’ special.
  • Associate behaviours in dish names and descriptions. For example, “unwind with this relaxing tea blend”.
  • Incorporate and reference ingredients that consumers associate with wellness benefits, like chamomile for relaxation.
  • Position menu items as ways to enhance stress-relief activities like watching a movie or gaming. For example, “this dessert is the perfect accompaniment for your next movie night”.

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