Over the last few years, we’ve seen a rise in the foodie demographic (click on the link below to download a cheat sheet on foodie demographics). From the growing popularity of cooking shows like Top Chef, celebrity chefs, specialty dining (gourmet restaurants, farm-to-table, food trucks, buy local, etc.), it’s hard to deny — everyone is a bit epicurious these days. And let’s face it — everyone has to eat! We’ve decided to focus on foodies this month because it’s almost November, a month focused on one big meal. So to get your mouth watering, let’s talk about food.
WHAT IS A FOODIE?
The actual definition of a foodie is up to some debate, and can even be met with some hostility. For our purposes, we’re using it as one who loves food and the dining experience. Studies show that foodies are looking for new experiences and seek adventure in their culinary explorations. They are predominately pre-middle age, more likely to have a higher education than the average American and, as such, be of a higher income bracket. While our demographic focus is on foodies, the truth is, most food-related sections and events will appeal to a wide range of demographics, not just the self-declared foodie.
IT’S ALL ABOUT FOOD
So, you may be asking yourself, what can newspapers do to embrace the foodie and generate more revenue at the same time? Restaurant critics have been a staple of newspapers for generations, and they’re not a bad place to start, especially if you live in an area with constantly evolving restaurant options. But try digging a bit deeper and looking for outside-the-box options
Dining guides are a common option. Filled to the brim with menus, coupons and maps, these are often thought of as a newcomer’s guide to the area. However, why not elaborate and make it something that will keep customer’s wanting more? When researching dining guides, I came upon the Charleston City Paper’s award-winning dining guide (if you haven’t seen it, I’d recommend checking it out: http://www.charlestoncitypaper.com/charleston/dish-dining-guide-summer-2011/Category?oid=3562827). Instead of yearly installments, they produce much-anticipated seasonal editions, which are broken into Upscale Dining, Casual Fine Dining, Neighborhood Favorites and Cheap Eats. I highly encourage creating your guide in a similar fashion, perhaps with the addition of other popular keywords — like kid friendly and healthy eating — based on the demographics of your audience. A dining guide should include a print and online presence to be truly effective. Include reviews, menus and articles about the chefs. There are plenty of advertising options here, with advertisements, coupons and sponsorship opportunities online and in print.
And please, don’t limit yourself to restaurants. As you’ll see from the Charleston City Paper, they’ve even expanded into bars as well — which is a great place to start and can include local breweries and wineries. We encourage you to look at your region and see what other options you have available. Specialty grocery stores and farmers markets are also worth featuring, perhaps side-by-side with a seasonal recipe. Or consider a “What to Buy Local” section in your guide.
Market research shows that foodies are willing to drive up to 50 and 100 miles for a particular restaurant. This is a fabulous opportunity for expanding your reach and soliciting advertising from neighboring towns and cities. Feature an out-of-town restaurant coupled with promotions for that restaurant, nearby hotels and bed and breakfasts and area entertainment.
There are plenty events that can be focused on food, and all events should include food! Consider sponsoring or hosting cooking classes, wine or beer tastings, cook-offs, food drives, or even a Taste of Home Cooking school (check out the November/December issue of Above the Fold for more). Chili cook-offs are a fall favorite — keeping you warm on those chilly fall evenings. Food drives are another popular event, especially as the holiday season approaches. They’re a good way to bring goodwill to your paper and your advertisers. Consider coupling a food drive with a cooking show and offering a discount on the cover charge — get $5 off when you donate five canned goods. When in doubt, go local. Foodies are attracted to local, be it organic and healthy or a neighborhood favorite. Look at neighboring farms and farmer’s markets and highlight regional and seasonal produce in your cooking classes.
Marketing in November
Have local grocery stores sponsor holiday feast menus and articles in your paper during the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. Perhaps host a “How to Cook the Perfect Turkey” class during the month or a stuffing cook-off (everyone has their own secret recipe for the perfect stuffing). And remember, not everyone likes to cook during the holiday season — or, perhaps their dinner is a bust — include the names and hours of local restaurants that will be open Thanksgiving Day. Also include a list of local grocery stores that will be open for those last-minute dinner supplies.