How Restaurants Can Use Nostalgia to Appeal to Customers
“Food has always been one of the strongest sources of nostalgia,” Vikram Doctor wrote in a 2009 piece for The Economic Times. “The other life experiences that provide the building blocks of nostalgia may come later, but food always goes back to childhood.”
Who doesn’t cherish fond childhood memories of a favorite home-made food made with labor and love? No doubt this universal phenomenon—with its an underlying nostalgia for childhood—is propelling a trend in the restaurant and foodservice industry with its now ubiquitous “artisan” and “hand-crafted” menu selections and “home-cooked” comfort foods, including desserts. In fact, if you look at any of the National Restaurant Association’s “What’s Hot” food trend reports from the last few years, the words “artisan,” “hand-made,” “hand-crafted,” and “house-made” appear numerous times across all food and beverage categories.
“The memories we have of foods we loved as kids will always play a role in the foods we love as adults, and the search to recreate those memories is what brings people to our shop,” says Katie Rosenhouse, owner of the Buttermilk Bakeshop in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood. “As people are finding that they have less and less time to cook at home, I think the need to find homemade items outside the home is becoming a major necessity, especially for families looking to create memories and traditions.”
Rosenhouse is among the growing industry ranks working to meet the niche “nostalgia” market, with her offerings of specialty baked dessert, which “are never really a hard sell to begin with,” she says. “We love comforting sweets, from great brownies and slices of layer cake to cake pops and macarons. Our goal is to create desserts that make you feel great, and those sweets will always sell, but it’s wonderful to know that they’re also serving a larger human demand for authenticity.”
For Rosenhouse, one of the ingredients that taps a deep vein into that larger need is DOVE® chocolate chips. “The beauty of a bag of chocolate chips is that it’s filled with endless possibilities, from hot cocoa and breakfast items to late night treats and cupcakes,” she says. “And they’re just like the chocolate chips I remember my mom baking when I was a kid, so they definitely bring that perfect touch of nostalgia.”
Restaurants and bakeries like Rosenhouse’s can capitalize on the food nostalgia craze by strategically emphasizing some of the hand-crafted processes that go into a recipe or naming ingredients made by brands that have enjoyed a long-established reputation, like DOVE chocolate chips, for example.
“People innately trust items made by their favorite brands and sometimes adding a reminder of that brand can secure a first sale,” Rosenhouse says. “But the customers who come back time and time again come back for the taste, and DOVE delivers.”
In other words, use tried and true ingredients that will honor the consumer experience of nostalgic foods.
Additionally, restaurant owners and other food providers can drive sales by pushing unique limited-time offers for holidays like Mother’s Day, which is just around the corner.
“Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day are definitely the most chocolate-centric days of the year,” Rosenhouse says. “And really, show me a mother who doesn’t love a box of decadent chocolate treats.”
Her words are a nostalgic echo of something legendary cartoonist Charles Schultz once said: “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt.”