The Fast staff took a break from putting this issue to bed for our Restaurant Trends & Directions conference. One of the keynoters was Jonah Berger, author of “Contagious” and “Invisible Influence,” who spoke about recognizing influence when we see it and how to then take advantage of that understanding.
The audience laughed when he pointed out the ways we’re all influenced without knowing it—having the larger steak to avoid ordering the “ladies’ cut,” or turning down the thermostat because the electric company says we’re not as energy-efficient as our neighbors are. The point is that sometimes people want to be like—and liked by—others, and sometimes they want to be different.
The topic relates to how health is being redefined. It seems like everybody—consumers and operators alike—wants to show off their health halo. We’re clean and fresh and wholesome. No additives, preservatives or artificial sweeteners here! We feel good eating (or selling) that bacon double cheeseburger because the cow roamed a pasture eating grass and clover, and the pig was never given an antibiotic or growth hormone.
And then there are those who are going to enjoy that burger because it’s juicy, cheesy and so delicious.
Berger would tell you to decide if you’re going to appeal to the need to be similar or the need to be different—or a bit of both. When it comes to “healthy,” today’s consumers say it’s OK to be both.