Now, the cynical traditionalists will scoff, but we think it behooves (love that word) food marketers to find ways to appeal to people’s desire to connect to unique and relevant brands with local flavor.
It’s pretty clear to us when something is completely contrived, like when we walk into ESPN Zone and the hostess has no clue who Stuart Scott is. Boo-Yah? No, just Boo.
But when you walk into a place called Doc’s Steakhouse in Wichita, you know you are someplace special.
There is a “676 Miles to Wall Drug” sign on the wall. The signature dishes are the Garlic Salad and Hamburger Steak. News clippings heralding the discovery of “new galaxies” also adorn the walls, along with menus from the last half-century. Worn carpet and stale smoke complete the bygone experience. As soon as you are seated, ice water in stubby, eight-ounce tumblers is raced to your table.
I went with my friend Steve. Here are just a few of the things I heard from him:
“My dad used to take us here for special occasions.”
“My wife and I used to come here a lot when we were dating.”
“I remember when the guy taking your money at the cashier stand wouldn’t let you by without talking to you for awhile, even when the line was backed up 15-people long.”
Ought to be some way for chain restaurants and supermarkets to tap into the potential to be unique the way Doc’s has done.
It has to have integrity and can’t appear stilted. Just authentic, neighborhood and familiar. Giving people a little something extra to hold on to in uncertain times never hurts, either.