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Hedley & Bennett
Ellen Bennett's apron brand, Hedley and Bennett, is committed to its authenticity. Read more about Bennett and her brand in our December feature.

Yours Truly: Authenticity For Restaurant Brands

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A new series from FSR editor Laura D’Alessandro about the tried and true trends of the industry.
By Laura D'Alessandro December 2018 Blog

In the December issue I introduced our 2019 Buyer’s Guide with a letter titled Tried, True, and Trendy. All the conversations that went on behind the scenes of that 57-item, 25-page guide demonstrated two things of importance to me. Trends will always be just that, phenomena that in their essence are about change. They’re constantly evolving and changing and keeping us on our toes. But in its current iteration, this industry supports the kind of trends that are true: truly you, truly authentic, truly stylish, truly transparent, truly innovative. Thus, Yours Truly was born.

And if the name conjures for you the days of letters and pen pals, that’s because I also wanted this column to be a chance for me to connect with you, our readers, directly and invite your input. I’m always interested in creating a conversation between us and opening the lines of communication. I can never know if I’m doing my job unless I hear it from you. Please reply or reach out to me and let me know what trends you’re seeing, whether they’re on your tabletops or among your staff or in your revenue and traffic numbers.

Because this magazine isn’t just an Instagram account (although we do have one, please follow it and comment and DM us), and because it’s print and made of paper I can’t see the analytics behind each story or each page flip once it’s delivered to your mailbox or desk. Once FSR reaches you I’m still here wondering what you thought. Call me a true millennial (it’s fine, I do it all the time), but I live for the likes and comments. Which leads me to my topic this week: being a brand that’s true both online and in person, because believe it or not, both are equally important.

When I interviewed Ellen Bennett for the Buyer’s Guide in our December issue, she spent a lot of time talking about sniffing out fake brands. It pointed me again toward how much my generation cares about authenticity. Similarly, if you look at the 2019 trend report from San Francisco hospitality consulting firm af&co—a group I also recently spoke with—you’ll see that a certain level of truthfulness is reigning supreme, or as founder Andrew Freeman is calling it in their trend report, “Do the Right Thing.”

I spoke with Andrew for some forward-looking, trendcasting that will hit your mailboxes in January. In our conversation, he mentioned authentic experiences. “There this like idea of… don’t act like you’re doing something when you’re really not—have a passion behind your restaurant,” he said. Millennials prefer (and as a result are pushing the market toward) experiential dining, sure, but not without authenticity behind the experience. “Through these experiences, it’s about tying in what a chef or restaurateur is personally passionate about,” Freeman said. Folded into all that must be transparency and sustainability, too, he said. “This whole concept of cause-related marketing, partnering likeminded groups, that not only feel good but do good. There’s a sense that it’s going to benefit you because it benefits someone else but again, it’s got to be authentic. You can’t just find any charity and say we’re going to support this. Look at the neighborhood and say this is the street I live on and my restaurant lives here and how can I make this a better place.”

Laura D'Alessandro is the editor of FSR magazine. Before joining the FSR team in 2017, Laura made those viral recipe videos at Tastemade in Los Angeles where she became entrenched in internet food. While living in LA, Laura also worked independently as a food blogger, recipe developer and workshop leader specializing in plant-forward meal prep. Previously, she was a trade magazine editor in Washington, D.C. and has a Master's degree in Digital Storytelling from American University.