Food Culture and Being Correct

The Lempert Report
May 04, 2017

It seems like everyone these days readily points out others mistakes.

Whether its in politics or food – the results are the same – lots of people get hurt.

Andrew Zimmern, the food blogger, was heavily criticized for sharing a photo of chopsticks next to Filipino short ribs.

The fabulous Rick Bayless who is white, Oklahoma-born and raised, Mexican food chef fielded a great deal of negative commentary on how his approach is inauthentic and insulting to real Mexican culture and cuisine. Even though his restaurants and food products are about the best you can have anywhere and lived in Mexico for 6 years writing about and studying the country’s foodscape. 

So how can you as food retailer avoid offending your customers by misrepresenting a culture? Get involved with educating your shoppers, and ask them to educate you.  

According to a recent Mintel survey, almost half of Millennials dining out in restaurants want globally-inspired dishes, suggesting high interest in diverse ethnic offerings that will more than likely affect shopping choices and exploration of new and exotic ingredients as well as shape the growing palates of Americans.

As a retailer you can support that interest by offering cultural guides that not only educate shoppers on authentic preparation of dishes, but also how to authentically present these dishes. 

For example, host a monthly spotlight on a particular culture. Ask your ethnic customers to get involved as well, and participate in educating the store’s employees as well as the shoppers.  

  • Share on your website and/or on flyers in your store: The Do’s and Dont's of serving a particular culture’s food  
  • Partner your store’s grocerant chef with a customer from that culture to present a live demo on preparing a traditional dish. And make sure that dish is on the menu for the month as a special for in-store dining or take-out.
  • Share the health benefits found in this culture’s food. Your store’s dietitian can host this either through social media or in the store. The idea is to spotlight traditional ingredients that have exceptional nutritional properties. 

While the idea is to avoid offending customers, there are great benefits to acting proactively. As a retailer, you’ll learn more about your customers, and they will appreciate your desire to be culturally sensitive. And you will inspire new purchases from your customers looking to explore modern and diverse cuisines.