Nose to Tale: Telling the story of your food

By Doug Panko

We’ve all heard lots of stories in our time, and, let’s be honest, there are plenty of them we could have done without. But what if I told you your food can tell an engaging story that will entice customers to make a purchase? Settle and get comfortable — you’re going to want to hear this one.

It wasn’t so long ago that no one talked about the food journey, and “farm-to-table” hadn’t become the foodie mantra it is today. In the consumers’ minds, food came from a restaurant or a grocery store!

Access to information has created a new kind of consumer

The modern consumer has a wealth of information at his or her disposal at all times. This has brought the phenomenon of mindful consumerism to a whole new level. There is an understanding that the decisions they make have an impact on the world, as do those of the businesses they interact with. That means paying attention to what food goes in their bodies and wanting to know where that food came from.

As a result, buzzwords like “sustainable,” “organic,” and “natural” are top of mind. In fact, the era of processed food may be passing us by; 62 per cent of Canadians prefer to buy food that’s in as natural a state as possible. Sustainably-produced food and beverages are favoured by 61 per cent of Canadian shoppers, and 83 per cent of Millennials, the spearhead demographic for the shift to food industry transparency, purchase organic products weekly. Food like this makes them feel good about themselves, and the companies that sell it.

So, if what you’re serving meets some or all of these criteria, you’re selling yourself short by not sharing that information.

Technomic’s eye-opening Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report uncovered the power of using the right words. A remarkable 45 per cent of consumers surveyed feel food and beverages labelled as “authentic” taste better. Are you sourcing the curds for your poutine from a century-old farm in Quebec? Call it out to add instant glamour to a bowl of fries, cheese and gravy.

A great story can sell more food

In addition to fortifying your menu with inspiring tales of premium ingredients both local and imported, you can enlist your waitstaff to enhance the customer experience and sell the romance of your bill of fare. This can be especially effective at selling a new menu item. Server recommendations prompted 43 per cent of Canadian restaurant patrons to try a new dish. That’s far ahead of TV programs, newspaper, magazine or online reviews.

Don’t limit yourself to food stories, either. Beverages like artisanal sodas, craft beers and signature cocktails all have stories to tell. Even a simple cup of coffee can be spun into a feel-good tale of environmental sensitivity.

For example, coming soon is the first organic coffee from the Dominican Republic to grace Canadian mugs. Called Monte Alto, it’s grown high in the mountains near Jarabacoa, a town delightfully nicknamed The City of Eternal Spring. The sustainably-produced, single source coffee is grown and roasted by family-owned company Belarminio Ramirez e Hijos. The company employs more than a 1000 local growers, workers, and administrative staff, contributes to local health initiatives, and supports the local ecology.

See? It doesn’t take any huge investment of capital or effort; it just takes a good, honest yarn. Stories like that can significantly enhance the customer experience, and positive experiences are the road to repeat business. It’s easier than you might think to incorporate storytelling into your restaurant. What produce, ingredients or beverages are you using that you’re especially proud of? Chances are, you’re already surrounded by stories just waiting to be told. You just need to find out what they are.


About Doug Panko

Doug Panko is the president of Panko Enterprises and holds the exclusive distribution rights in Canada for Belarminio Ramirez Estate Coffee. Having spent a great deal of time in the Dominican Republic, Doug recognized that while the majority of the company’s coffee was exported as green beans to countries around the world, the opportunity to provide roasted coffee was untapped. Noting the lack of authentic, single origin coffee from the Dominican Republic available in Canada, Doug set out to introduce North America to a unique addition to the coffee market.

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