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The (augmented) Reality of Marketing

The (augmented) Reality of Marketing

               Augmented reality (AR) is a topic I have previously touched on; my first post was about the explosion of Pokémon Go about a year ago. Unfortunately this post will not focus on the wildly popular game, but on augmented reality in the culinary space as a whole. In recent years, food and beverage manufactures have started to realize the potential that augmented reality holds for advertisers and marketers in the culinary space. As the marketing director of Zappar said in an interview with FoodNavigator, “the key to success will lie in finding creative ways to integrate AR into a broader brand strategy across multiple platforms and locations, rather than slapping another logo on an already-crowded food label because you can.”

               AR has long held potential for brands, with technology and more specifically mobile phones being such a big part of our day to day life, a well-developed augmented reality app can really draw in and help engage youth and adult consumers through games, as well as useful or interesting information about a company’s product. For example, in the summer of 2014 Kraft teamed up with Walmart Super-centers across the nation to create a profitable augmented reality marketing campaign. This AR promotion allowed customers to simply download an AR app and use that app to track their Kraft brand purchases at Walmart Super-centers only. Kraft’s investment in AR technology payed off. Not only did it help them differentiate themselves from their major competitors during peak sales season, but partnering with a huge retailer like Walmart also helped spike their sales. Other companies that have launched augmented reality apps or campaigns include Coca-Cola and PepsiCo.

               AR is not only being used to draw in consumers, but it is also being used by sales staff to show how their products can fit into possible retail spaces. Coca-Cola (also mentioned above) armed one of their sales teams in Germany with an AR app that simulated and demonstrated how future coolers, installments, and Coca-Cola displays would look in specific stores; which ultimately lead to a cleaner layout and design for the brand.

               Overall, AR has great potential to become a front runner in the field of food and beverage marketing. It is a relatively new and exciting tool that engages customers in a way they find valuable, different, and exciting. There are already tons of AR games and apps out there so now the key for brands is to make sure they are producing interesting enough material that keeps consumers downloading these AR apps and coming back for more.

Food of the Future

Food of the Future

               It’s the year 2017, and although flying cars haven’t been invented yet, three dimensional printers have. These 3D printers, which can fit on a desktop, can form objects from plastics, metals, and even FOOD! Food printing is a more recent frontier that could potentially improve nutritional value of meals, or help solve hunger issues in regions of the world that lack access to fresh, and affordable ingredients.

               First, let’s talk about the basics of 3D food printing. Most 3D food printers are deposition printers, which means they deposit layers of raw material, while a newer category of 3D printers binds together materials with a kind of edible cement. The latest generation of 3D printers is also the most complex, combing nozzles, powdery material, lasers, and robotic arms to create things like sugar sculptures and latticed pastry. Although much more complicated, these newer printers can create food, like pizza, with fresh ingredients loaded into stainless steel capsules, pretty cool if you ask me.

               Now that you have a slight background on 3D printers, how can they actually help? 3D printing can help increase sustainability. The global population is always growing, which means food production is going to have to increase as well. Although 3D printing won’t fully solve all our sustainability problems, it will definitely contribute to the solution. Renewable materials like grass and algae could be used in 3D printing making it easier and more sustainable to feed parts of the ever growing population. Another issue that 3D printers could help with is nutrition. The future of 3D food printers could make processed food healthier. According Hod Lipson, a professor of mechanical engineering at Columbia, “food printing could allow consumers to print food with customized nutritional content, optimized based on biometric and genomic data, so instead of eating a slice of yesterday’s bread from the supermarket, you’d eat something baked just for you on demand. This may be the missing link between nutrition and personal medicine, and the foods that’s on your table.” Sustainability and nutrition only scratches the surface of what 3D food printing could do for our society.

               As exciting as this all is, especially with all the recent advancements in 3D food printing, the industry has many challenges to overcome before making any of these dreams a reality. Currently, most ingredients have to be turned into paste before the printer can work with them plus the printing process takes a very long time. Also, as of now most 3D printers are restricted to dry, shelf-stable ingredients because products like diary and protein have a high risk of spoiling. Even with all the challenges scientists and engineers have to face, 3D food printing could become our future, times change and as Lynette Kucsama, CEO and founder of Natural Machines said, “when people first head about microwaves, they didn’t understand the technology- now 90 percent of households have them.”

Will Travel for Food

Will Travel for Food

If you have kids in school or are a kid in school, you probably know we are in the midst of Spring Break season. This crazy time where college kids hit the beach for multiple nights of drunken debauchery (they still do that, right?) and parents with kids still living at home, try and figure out where to take the family so they don’t kill each other sitting at home all week with nothing to do.

Since I have two young kids, the only natural thing for us to do for spring break this year was embark on an 8 hour drive to Williamsburg, VA. About two hours into our drive I heard a noise that wasn’t the radio; it was my stomach telling me it was almost time to stop for food! As we were driving down the highway looking for a good place to stop, I started thinking about the importance of food as part of the travel equation and how technology, and food & travel TV shows have changed and enhanced the way we eat while on the road. 

First let’s discuss app technology. As we all know there are apps for everything these days, there is even an app called Yo., that’s sole purpose is to send someone a voice-note saying “yo;” so when it comes to food and travel there is no shortage of apps either. Jetzy, the world’s first geo-location based, user-to-user social app connects people with a passion for all things travel, like food. Allowing users to connect with one another and share their favorite restaurant, hotel, or site is one aspect of this app that makes it great for finding the most popular spots at or on your way to a destination. To make Jetzy even more appealing to consumers the app offers “JetPoints” that can be redeemed and used towards things like dining out, or going to the spa. Jetzy’s motto is “Travel like a Local” and it really does allow travelers to get connected to all the best native places. Another great recourse for food and traveling is Citymaps. Similar to Jetzy, Citymaps allows users to mark and share maps of all the places they have traveled. This app is extremely customizable and has endless amounts of data for users to engage in. Both Jetzy and Citymaps aren’t strictly food related apps but they can provide consumers with just as much, or more insight on where to eat while traveling than sites like Yelp.

Travel TV shows are also a great outlet for travelers who are looking for good places to dine on the road. Anthony Bourdain, “bad-boy” chef and best-selling author, starred in the Emmy award winning Travel Channel show called “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” which hit all the culinary hotspots and out-of-the-way gems around the globe. Similarly Andrew Zimmern travels around the world in a quest for the strangest foods he can find in his show, “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern.” You can even tune into Guy Fieri on “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” which focuses more on lesser known hot spots around the United States. Although harder to utilize on the road, these shows are great to watch in preparation of travel.

Apps and Travel TV are helping turn the average spring break road trip into a foodie’s dream drive. Also, these resources aren’t only great for consumers, restaurant owners can benefit from them as well. For example, a month after Guy Fieri featured Brick House Café, a small café in Cable, Wisconsin, on his show their sales were up 500%. Being able to easily locate and share stand out destinations has changed the way people view traveling. Don’t get me wrong, I know no one ever complained about going on vacation, but the process of actually getting to your destination can be a drag, with travel apps and shows like the ones discusses above, the once dreaded excursion can actually feel like part of the vacation.

Technology in Restaurants- What does the Future Hold?

Technology in Restaurants- What does the Future Hold?

Recently, our fearless leader Lonny went to a rather popular chain restaurant with his kids and when he arrived at work the next morning, there was only one thought on his mind. This thought wasn’t about the quality of the food (which for the record, wasn’t great), but rather, the fact that the restaurant had tablets built into every table.  This interesting feature opened up a debate in our office about the pros and cons of bringing technology to the dinner table. 

First, let’s tackle the obvious - how technology is applied in the restaurant space is key.  Meal time is an opportunity to do more than eat; it’s a time for people to get together and actually talk to each other (believe it or not, there are some who still engage in face to face conversations from time to time.) I don’t love the idea of adding a permanent distraction in the middle of the table that gives people even more of a reason to ignore each other.  Who hasn’t walked into a restaurant, stumbled across the following scene (or have even been a part of it) and thought, “Yikes, this is wrong!"

Phones down, eyes up people!  Not a great look, to say the least, but it is safe to say this is not the end result restaurants are looking for.  So let’s take a moment to collectively agree that when we sit down with our friends, families and loved ones for a good meal, we try to actually interact with one another.  Glad we got that out of the way…

Now, this is not to say there isn’t a use for this kind of “table tech.”  In fact, notable chains like Olive Garden and Chili’s have recently partnered with Ziosk, a company specializing in tablets for the diners that actually offer a greater level of engagement with the restaurant itself.  Ziok’s tablets allow diners to view the menu, submit an order, alert their server, pay a bill, etc., all meant to help streamline the dining experience.  To be clear, these are NOT set out to replace your traditional wait staff, but to offer them another way to interact with the customer.  I doubt you’ll find many diners get up in arms over a more efficient dining process…

What I find particularly intriguing here is the “business-to-consumer” application.  Could be the marketer in me, but if there is a tablet (read: easy access consumer touch point) available at every table I immediately think to ways we can tie in third parties.  The possibilities are seemingly endless:  Traditional advertisements, discounts and customer loyalty tracking / awards, promoting branded menu items (i.e.: Friday’s line of Jack Daniels meals), etc.  Simply put these technological integrations offer marketers a fresh, dynamic and cost effective medium to reach consumers; that’s essentially the marketing holy grail!

Moving past the consumer application, some restaurants have taken it a step further and are applying technological solutions in the kitchen.  Imagine this, in real-time restaurants can track orders, keep tabs on inventory, and ensure the entire process happens as efficiently as possible.  That can be a game-changer for some restaurants, many of whom likely don’t know the answer to simple operation questions that fuel their business.  True labor costs, material costs, food costs per-menu item, food waste ratios etc. are critically important to a restaurant’s longevity, but are often difficult to compute.  These sorts of technological integrations could prove to be a saving grace for chefs and restaurateurs across the board. 

The truth is, technology’s vice-like grip on our everyday lives isn’t letting up anytime soon, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing…

A Corporate dinner table?

A Corporate dinner table?

The creation of brand focused restaurants such as Kellogg’s Pop Up (http://kelloggsnyc.com/) and Cadillac branded restaurant got me thinking, how far could the idea of co-branding go in the culinary industry?  As it currently stands, there are a few examples (some seen below) of larger restaurant chains who have successfully integrated other brands into their own menus, creating new buzz for both of the businesses involved.

Taco Bell and Frito-Lay:

These two came together to create one of Taco Bell’s best-selling menu items, The Doritos Locos Taco. This collaboration had fans guessing via social media for weeks about what the next flavor of Doritos Locos Tacos would be, which created huge media buzz before the item was even announced. Eventually the introduction of Doritos Locos Taco’s became the brands third most successful product platform, and even brought Chris Brandt, the old chief marketing officer of Taco Bell to say, “The partnership continues to prove the power of two mega brands working together to create firsts in restaurants and on the grocery aisle.”

TGI Fridays and Jack Daniel’s:

This duo partnered together to create a smoky glaze for the TGI Fridays menu that hit the jackpot. “This partnership has synergy for both brands,” explained Robert Byrne, manager of market insights at Techonomic. Jack Daniel’s was one of the first spirit labels to make a strong connection to a large restaurant chain, and beyond great brand recognition, this partnership also lead to a huge hit on the TGI Fridays menu. Deciding to work together was a success for TGI Fridays and Jack Daniel’s because it was a thought out partnership on both ends. TGI Fridays played to the fact that they are a festive restaurant, positioned around a bar, making a spirits brand tie-in the perfect co-branding partner for them. 

Outback Steakhouse and Stewart-Hass Racing:

This co-branding partnership is relatively different from the other examples provided, but it is just as successful. Rather than creating a new menu item, Outback decided to create a promotion involving Stewart-Hass and NASCAR’s Kevin Harvick. This promotion is called “Happy Bloomin’ Monday” and it lets fans receive a free Bloomin’ Onion on any Monday during NASCAR season where Harvick finishes in the top-10 of a Sprint Cup Series. Like TGI Fridays, Outback made a very smart decision based on their demographic they chose a partner that they knew would get customers excited and coming back Monday after Monday.

Looking at some of the larger chain restaurants that have been successful through co-branding partnerships led me to my next few questions- will we ever see brands begin to infiltrate the dinner tables at higher end restaurants across the country? Is that something we want?

At The Connect Group we know our way around a dinner table so we personally see the potential of brands infiltrating nicer restaurants.  We also know, however, the integrity of a meal experience is king, so any successful program must enhance the experience, not detract from it.  With that in mind, even at the finer dining establishments, there are ways for brands to naturally fit into the mix.  Here are a few basic examples:

Check presenters:

While presenting customers with a check, almost all restaurants use some kind of presentation method, this could include anything from a classic check presenter, to a clip board, to a more creative application, like a postcard. With that in mind, car service companies, like Uber, Lyft, Juno or others, could utilize check presentations by providing an opportunity or incentive for customers. For example, placing a coupon code on each check, so the diners not only think to use that service to take them home, but they are also getting a good deal. This idea could also be a great place for auto companies, real estate companies, and others in these genres.

Charging stations:

Depending on the brand activation, space, and brand message, charging stations could be offered to charge guests phones during their meal. This is not only a convenience for customers, but is also a great way to combat the ever prevalent problem of people being distracted by their phones during meals. It’s time to take back meal time, and counterintuitive to this post, this would be a good way to do that.

Walk-away gifts:

So, you ordered the steak and loved the spice rub they used? Well, if a brand sponsored a spice giveaway with each order you would be in luck. Giving away spices, or sauces with branded labels or gift tags would be a great surprise at the end of any meal, and an efficient way to for brands to market their product.      

Condiments/Snacks:

What better place to brand than actually on a customer’s table? While not all restaurants have condiments on their tables, most do, so this could be an organic and effective place for brands to integrate themselves into a meal.

Just to be clear, I am not advocating for brand infiltration one way or another, but as companies (and agencies like us) continue to push the envelope and look for ways to engage with audiences, restaurants could be the next frontier.  

- Lonny Sweet

What can Food do for You?

What can Food do for You?

Over the past 7 years, I’ve been fortunate to be on the forefront of some unbelievably exciting campaigns throughout the marketing world.  I’ve orchestrated celebrity ambassador campaigns, led charitable initiatives and run corporate events, and while each have their own measure of success, my tenure in the culinary marketing vertical has given me a fresh perspective on an age old question:  What can be done to make the ordinary, extraordinary?  A loaded question, and yet, the answer has been right in front of us; make food centerpiece. 

Having spent a few days down in Miami for South Beach Wine & Food Festival (my first as an “insider” in the food-space) the palpable buzz throughout the city has left me thinking about just how incredible our industry really is.  To walk around South Beach throughout the week is to see a flock of food-connected travelers excitedly running from event to event, taking in all that SOBEWFF is all about; great food and beautiful scenes in a world-class festival setting.  While the food was incredible and the crowd’s positivity infectious, what really drew me in was the story of SOBEWFF and the corporate partners who were jumping in head first to tell it.  Being there in person was incredible, to say the least, but my mind was immediately drawn to thinking of ways we can bring the experience to the masses, namely those who can’t be there physically. 

No question, eating great food from the best chefs in the country makes for a dream experience and it goes without saying; the application for food in the “event” setting is natural, somewhat obvious and yet, is continuously evolving.  My coworkers and I have gone into great detail in recent blogs about what that means exactly (give them a read!)  While that, in and of itself, is an exciting proposition for anyone in the culinary world, it is time to start seeing food for more than just an in-person experience. 

Food is the great unifier.  Food is a way to tell a story that reaches everyone.  Recently, I’ve been speaking with a number of blue-chip brands and products that most of us use in our everyday lives, but not just about how they can host a dinner for VIPs; we’re discussing how they can tell their story through the eyes of the food-connected. 

When a chef sits down to curate a menu for their new restaurant or tests a new menu item they hope to implement, what are the tools around them that they reach for to help them?  Everything from the music they listen to and the books they read to their own stress-relieving outlets offer a story ready to be told.  Marc Forgione recently did a wonderful piece in partnership with Remy Martin about what music means to him as his go-to relaxation outlet.  While in person dining experiences are obviously a critical element to the partnership, it is the packaged story that makes it relatable for the at-home consumer.  Watching the video and seeing Marc strum his guitar and talk about the parallels between food and music is the different perspective the average consumer wants (or needs) to engage with a brand.  That’s what gets me excited here every day – our goal every day is to help companies tell their own “food stories”. 

Food, and the overall dining experience, holds an inherent meaning that is unique to each and every one of us.  My dream meal may be drastically different than yours, and the holiday dinner table at the Pinkow household almost definitely looks different than it does for your family (just ask my Italian wife about her first Passover sedar with my family).  That said, it is the role food plays that is the constant.  It’s the stories being told and the experiences shared that prove to be the reasons we come back for more.  For all the “marketers” out there, I implore you to think about food as a “storyteller”, a medium on which you can share your message and reach an entirely new audience.  For all our differences, one thing will always remain true; we all eat!

The Perfect Moment

The Perfect Moment

           Sponsoring large events, like the Super Bowl, is a great way for brands to get their name out there, but is it really the best way for brands to make a cultural mark? Being a part of these large events has its pros, but it also has the ability to overshadow the sponsoring brands. Rather than latching on to someone else’s moment, we at The Connect Group think brands should start focusing on creating an experience they can define and own themselves. This can create room for a richer brand experience, and also help consumers start to see brands as a larger lifestyle, not just a product. Many larger brands have already tapped into this idea and have had major success because of it, here are a few examples of these brands and what they have done to create their own moments:

Chipotle

           In 2010, Chipotle launched Cultivate. Cultivate is a one-day, free festival that brings people together to celebrate food and music. This festival offers live music and on-site chef demonstrations, as well as interactive experiences focused on sustainable food. Beyond offering a fun space for consumers to have a good time, Chipotle also uses the festival as a platform to encourage attendees to think and talk about food in an engaging setting.  Now in its six year, Cultivate has partnered with countless other brands including Naked Juice, and California Avocados, and has proved to be a successful marketing tool for the brand. Rather than piggybacking off other brands events, Chipotle has created its own, and the success of Cultivate is a true testament to the power of brands creating their own moment. 

Budweiser

           Budweiser’s Made in America music festival is an event I have been to myself, so I can testify its popularity. This music festival features some of the top artists in the country and attracts nearly 80,000 people each year. Budweiser partners with Live Nation to create this wildly popular show that now takes place in Philadelphia and Los Angeles. Budweiser took a risk by creating their own festival, but this moment still has consumers excited and thinking about Budweiser as a brand, making the risk worth the reward.

Bacardi

           Partnering with Swizz Beatz and the Dean Collection, Bacardi produced an event called No Commission: Art Performs. This four-day, immersive brand experience showcased art, music, and of course delicious cocktails. This event had consumers going nuts for the product. Not only did more than 7,000 people attended this event but it also received over 500 million social impressions, including coverage from The New York Times, W Magazine, the Huffington Post, and more. Like Chipotle and Budweiser, Bacardi created their own branding event, and it payed off.

           Since part of our job here at The Connect Group is helping brands get creative and come up with these unique moments, we understand how beneficial it can be to think outside of the marketing box; and although these “moments” can take time to develop, if they are done right the investment can yield a higher ROI than a traditional sponsorship. By creating these types of moments, brands like Chipotle, Budweiser, and Bacardi can display their own unique values and identity while simultaneously selling their products, which is a winning situation in our book.

Food, the Universal Valentine

Food, the Universal Valentine

          Whatever your opinion of Valentine’s Day is, it is undoubtedly one of the most prominent food connected holidays of the year.  Whether you are single going out with your friends for a family style dinner, enjoying an intimate dinner with your partner, or getting broccoli thrown at you during a family hibachi night (yes, that one is me), food is at the center of this holiday.

          For proof, look no further than the National Retail Federation, which estimated that Americans spent just shy of $19 billion on Valentine’s Day-related items this year.

          In response to this, brands (and restaurants) are getting smart and using the Valentine’s Day craze to brand and market their products. Below are a few examples of how brands and restaurants are hopping on this marketing “love train.”

Tesco

Tesco is getting consumers in the valentine’s spirit through a promotion that matches people up according to what items they buy at the Grocery Store. http://www.adweek.com/brand-marketing/valentines-day-spending-projected-reach-189-billion-year-162568/

Burger King

Burger King took a hint from Christian Grey by offering an Adult only Meal Box with an adult toy inside. http://www.foodandwine.com/fwx/food/burger-king-sex-toy-meal?xid=soc_socialflow_facebook_fw

          We at TCG are romantics at heart so to share some love ourselves, we came up with a few Valentine’s Day ideas we would love to see come to life:

LOVE & FOOD POP UP

For one night only, we would love to see a brand create a full custom Valentine’s Day Pop Up restaurant that offers 100 lucky couples the opportunity to experience love and food in a way they never have before. Partnering with a high profile celebrity chef to design and execute a mind blowing menu in an environment that evokes love and connection would be the perfect setting for a romantic evening.  Reservations for the Love & Food Pop Up would only be available the day before or the morning of Valentine’s Day and via a social media competition, making it a more exclusive and appealing ticket.

The Relationship Saver

Built for a brand with a “saving you money” message (insurance, wireless, etc), this program would be built to “Save” the relationship of those boyfriends/husbands/wives/girlfriends who waited too long to make a reservation and ended up with nothing. The brand (via an agency like Connect) would secure a number of high profile, prime time reservations at the best restaurants across the country on Valentine’s Day with the intent of giving them out to those who need them the most. To participate in the program, consumers would upload video pitches on why their relationships deserved to be “saved”, which would then be posted on a subsite and voted on by the general public. This promotion would be pushed out via the celebrity chefs who own the restaurants, select influencers, and via an aggressive PR/Social campaign.  

The At Home Night Out

For those who don’t want to brave the restaurant scene on V-Day, but still want to do something special for the one they love (and don’t have cooking skills), a brand could create a consumer promotion that involves celebrity chefs in multiple markets cooking Valentine’s Day dinners in the privacy of the select consumers’ homes.

          Food, like Love, is one of the few things that crosses language barriers, unites the soul and truly taps into the emotional spirit of humans across the world (something we all need right now).  It is from that place of love that strong brand affinity is created and brand loyalty is established.  So brands, put on your thinking caps, spread the love and let’s use Valentine’s day 2018 to create programs to reach the ever important food connected audience.   

Much love and eating

- Lonny Sweet

 

Super Bowl Follow Up: From the Eyes of the Food-Connected

Super Bowl Follow Up: From the Eyes of the Food-Connected

            Unless you’ve been living under a rock these past few days, you may have heard something about Super Bowl 51.  Yes, the Patriots pulled off the most miraculous comeback in the sport’s illustrious history.  Yes, Tom Brady is officially in a class all his own with 5 rings and 4 Super Bowl MVP’s – which [sigh] officially makes him the greatest to ever do it.  And yes, that sound you just heard was this Jets fan dry heaving as he is forced to publicly admit that.  All kidding aside, Super Bowl 51 gave us one of the most exhilarating, dramatic and simply put, remarkable championship games in history – something this country needed desperately in these divisive times.  

            As great as the game proved to be, for those lucky enough to experience Super Bowl’s physical footprint first hand, you know it to be much more than just a game.  Every year, the host city opens its doors to sports fans, corporate America and blue-chip brands alike to give them the experience of a lifetime, and it just so happens that there’s a football game at the end of it all.  It should come as no surprise, but food plays an integral role in the “Super Bowl experience”. 

           Every city has its own identity, its own culture, cuisine, etc.  Houston has a story all its own.  Situated on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, its historically native cuisine can best be described as Tex-Mex meets Louisiana Creole meets Texas BBQ, yet is in the midst of a culinary revolution, drawing inspiration from the city’s incredibly diverse populace (try the Vietnamese inspired Cajun spots!).  David Chang, one of NYC’s most popular restaurateurs recently declared Houston to be “the next global food mecca”, a powerful statement by a culinary superstar. While I may not have appreciated it, that notion came to life for me as I walked the streets of Houston, looking for the perfect meal. 

            For the uninitiated, I beg you to make your way to one of Houston’s cajun bars and order yourself a mountain of crawfish (don’t cheap out on the spice – thank me later), then seek out some tacos at the nearest Tex-Mex joint , and wrap up your trip with some proper BBQ.  We say it all the time; if you want to experience true local culture, find out where the natives eat and act accordingly. You may be surprised by what you find. 

            I was fortunate enough to walk through the ‘NFL Live’ footprint and enjoy a late lunch at one of the food trucks littered around the perimeter.  I kid you not, there was even a monster truck, of sorts, transformed into a mobile demo kitchen wherein local chefs gave interactive demonstrations on how to cook like a true Houstonian. The crowds were huge, people were well-fed and they all left talking about the FOOD, not just the big game looming. 

            When you’re catering to a “who’s who” group of VIPs, average just doesn’t cut it when it comes to the grub.  Wheels Up’s annual Super Bowl bash, traditionally one of the week’s more exclusive parties, perfectly highlighted the local cuisine and offered everything from crawfish and oysters to tacos and real, Texas ‘cue. No one left that party hungry (or thirsty, for that matter). 

            Chase took a different route to highlight the local fare, hosting a series of private dinners at one of Houston’s top restaurants, Reef.  Exclusively available to Chase’s Inside Access members, the dinner paired Houston’s top chef, Bryan Caswell, with New Orleans mainstay, John Besh and local Houston pastry chef Rebecca Masson to offer attendees a unique insight into Houston hospitality. The result was a refined dining experience that left the attendees in awe. 

            Maybe you’ve missed it or haven’t been paying attention, but the trend has been building for quite some time now. Nowadays, you don’t go to a ballgame and seek out a cheap hot dog; you expect refined food service offerings. Stadiums, arenas and even airports around the country are in the midst of a culinary revolution, highlighting local cuisine, celebrity chefs and a refined dining culture.  If you’re hosting a private event, or a big blue-chip brand looking to activate in the marketing vertical, remember, food can be more than just a simple meal.  It’s a sensory experience - an opportunity to provide deeper, more meaningful connections with your audience. 

            You want your event to really resonate?  Give your guests something they’ve never had, open their eyes to something they’ve never seen, and let them experience culture like never before. Food is the ultimate medium to do just that….