Guest Blog: Your Menu Is Missing Food With Personality

Nov. 11, 2014

We cannot afford to be bland, old or boring. This gets in to (1) what we sell; (2) how we sell it; and (3) how we engage with our customers – the people who shop at our stores. Let’s look at #1, what we sell – specifically food.

We sell good food – but too often our food lacks personality. We must attract and persuade people to visit our stores. What have we done to get them to try us for the first time – or maybe for the first time in a long time? What have we done to convince them to come back more frequently? If we are selling what everyone else is selling, they can go anywhere. If our food is unique (and that is not easy to do), we can create reasons for people to return more often. 

You’ll find ideas at chain restaurants and at unique one-of-a-kind restaurants. Here are a few examples of food with personality.   

You must get to Lockhart, Texas – they call it the heart of barbecue country. It’s about an hour from Austin. We had an amazing lunch at Kreuz Market  including brisket, ribs, sausage and boneless prime rib. We picked up knives and paper towels. We asked for BBQ sauce and forks. The photo of their t-shirt shows you what they told us, “No sauce. No forks.” You’ll really get your hands involved when you eat at Kreuz Market. It ranks as one of my favorite meals anywhere. The food is great. The environment is unique. The prime rib is outstanding – especially when you have it as finger-food. The eating experience is one-of-a-kind. It’s a great example of food with personality.  

We had a really enjoyable lunch at Noble Sandwich Co. in Austin, Texas. My sandwich was a taste treat – smoked duck pastrami with Russian dressing and rye pickle. They also do desserts including their own 4-oz. jars of delicious sweet treats. You’ll notice that they don’t have a lengthy menu. What they offer is interesting foods and creative taste and texture combinations. They were in a tiny store front on 620-North. They moved to a more spacious store and were able to maintain the energy of the original location. This is a compelling example of food with personality.

McDonald’s is facing huge challenges in generating sales and profit growth. They’re working on new products, revamping their marketing programs and they’re bringing back an old favorite to the menu. The McRib sandwich will be back on the menu in November. It was introduced in 1981 and was on the menu until 1985. Since then it has popped up on the menu for short cycles. The sandwich has an almost cult-like following. About 75 percent of U.S. stores will offer it. There is a McRib locator site to assist you in finding participating McDonald’s restaurants. Whatever your perspective (or mine), there are a lot of folks who can’t wait to find the the McRib sandwich on the menu again – because to them it’s food with personality.

“What is happening to our pastry?” That question was part of the headline of a recent article, BAKEOFF, in The New Yorker. Among the interesting developments mentioned was the Cronut™ – the innovative combination of croissant and doughnut from Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York. People line-up every day at the bakery before it opens – because the freshly-made pastry sells out quickly. On their website, they tell you that “if you arrive prior to 7:00am on a weekday, you have a great chance of getting the Cronut™ pastry.” The lesson for our industry is really simple: when did we ever have daily lines waiting to get any product we sell? The Cronut™ is a powerful example of food with personality.

There have been lots of Cronut™ imitators. You’ll see lots of signs in store windows and not just in New York City. This food craze is all over the country.

Now Dunkin’ Donuts has introduced the Croissant Donut. We drove to Middletown, New York and purchased a Croissant Donut from the drive-thru window at a Dunkin’ Donuts. It was nicely packaged in its own box. I’m not going to give you my taste test results. You really should try it yourself. Then you can decide if the Croissant Donut is food with personality.

If you want to succeed at lunch, you’re going to be selling lots of sandwiches. Here is an article (actually a slide show) from FOOD&WINE featuring the best sandwiches in the U.S. By the way – I discovered that I’ve been to three of the restaurants featured. Each sandwich is food with personality.  

Get out of your office. Find ideas for your menu. Maybe the search will push you to think about new and different approaches for the food, snacks and beverages you’re selling. If you work at it, you’ll find that you can create a menu featuring food with personality to set your menu apart from others. If you don’t know how to create food with personality, there a number of ways to kick off the creative-thinking process. We’ll get in to that in other blog postings.