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consumer trends

Savory is the New Black

Savory is the New Black

We just wrapped up Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week here in New York City and while fashion doesn’t exactly scream “food and eating” (cue the “models don’t eat” jokes), the culinary and fashion industries have a lot more in common than one would think.

The culinary world, much like fashion, is driven by seasons and trends. Chefs becoming obsessed with using liquid nitrogen or exotic foraged ingredients one year is analogous to fashion designers basing their entire season’s collection on a color or theme. Considering both the fashion and food worlds measure success with retail/purchases, it makes sense that they both rely on trends to influence customers’ desires to continuously make new purchases. In the words of Heidi Klum on Project Runway, “In fashion, one day you're in and the next you're out."

Because the culinary and fashion are industries that are always evolving, it pushes people to experiment and innovate, causing the same short bursts of hype and media attention. Think of Dominique Ansel’s cronut or David Chang’s bleeding veggie burger: food items that exploded in the media and are so popular that people line up around the block for hours just to taste one. The same media/consumer frenzy can be found in fashion. Remember the years-long waiting list for the Hermes Berkin bag?

There is also a level of luxury and “must-have” appeal that comes with pursuing the finest food, not all that dissimilar to getting your hands on the hottest $3,000 handbag. A twenty-plus course dinner at Per Se will set you back well over a thousand dollars for two people and a reservation is so hard to come by that you’re lucky to secure one several months in advance. Even though Per Se has been open for years now, it continues to be one of the most difficult tables to get because people desire the status and bragging rights of simply saying they’ve eaten there.

These obvious parallels between the fashion and the food world have also produced some delicious (pun intended) collaborations. Supermodel Karlie Kloss is such an avid baker that she decided to join forces with Pastry Chef Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar to produce her own line of cookies. One of the best-selling cookbooks last year wasn’t written by a world-renowed chef, but rather Sports Illustrated supermodel Chrissy Teigen.

But what I’ve found the most interesting while working at The Connect Group are the creative ways the fashion world is incorporating culinary into its own marketing efforts. For example, a few months ago when Louis Vuitton announced its first perfume, the company asked Chef Marc Forgione to create a tasting menu for their media launch event that incorporated fragrance notes from the perfume into each of his dishes. I think we’re seeing this constant evolution and dovetailing between the two industries because there’s one thing that really will never go out of style: good food.

Cassandre Pallas


Get Ready for Gen Z

We’ve heard a lot of talk about marketing to millennials. In fact, Nation’s Restaurant News (along with many other outlets) recently posted an entire article dedicated to understanding this vast and very influential generation, with specific tips for marketing to them. They include: highlighting your social responsibility, showcasing your digital integration and encouraging word-of-mouth recommendations (aka social media posting).

But close on the heels of the food-connected millennial is the super-savvy Generation Z (Gen Z or the iGeneration) and they’ve not only grown up in a culture that revolves around food origins and food media, they’re ready to spend money quickly and efficiently in that space. So it’s time to prepare.  

In its most recent national dining trends survey, Zagat noted an ever-widening gap between the percentages of consumers who prefer to pay with mobile apps (66 percent, up seven percent from 2015) vs. those who don’t (34 percent, down seven percent from last year). No surprise, considering Gen Z-ers have just begun entering the workforce which means those numbers are only likely to increase.

According to a 2016 report by the GfK market research institute, more than half (53 percent) of Gen Z consumers made a mobile payment in the past six months. This is nearly four times the rate (14 percent) of Baby Boomers and almost 1.5 times the rate of older millennials who made mobile payments 37 percent of the time. Predictably, Generation X falls between boomers and millennials, using mobile apps at a rate of 27 percent.

In that same study, roughly one-third of Gen Z shoppers report that they believe mobile payments are more secure than other methods; more than half are looking forward to "more and more transactions" from mobile devices.  

Brands tend to think of being digitally savvy as having a social media presence and engaging with their followers to drive awareness and conversation. But now it’s more feasible than ever to reach your target audience and drive actual monetary conversion. 

Apps in particular present a major opportunity for brands or retailers large enough to support them, and more and more restaurants are adopting mobile credit card scanners to at least meet their diners half way. More and more are creating their own online payment systems. That's great progress, especially considering the top dining deal-breaker in 2016 (according to Zagat’s dining trends survey), is a restaurant with a cash-only policy.

Consumers are only getting younger, so it’s time for brands to update their standard payment practices and at least figure out the next best ways to meet their key audiences where they are: Online.