Foodies Listen When Restaurants Take a Position


Commonly referred to as manifesto marketing, the idea that businesses should hold rigid beliefs and take a stance on issues was notably introduced by Simon Sinek. He believes that people don’t buy what you sell. They buy why and how you sell it. The goal is to attract a group of like-minded customers that develop a ‘tribe’ and the all-important brand loyalty. The strategy took root in tech companies and eventually made its way to the B2C marketplace.

We’ve seen examples of this strategy in food service, most commonly in fast-casual chains like Panera and Chipotle. Their focus on fresh, quality, mindful food launched them ahead of their competition. These two brands in particular excel at integrating their extracurricular beliefs in every facet of the business including packaging, advertising, communications and products.

Marketing food brands this way isn’t the same as saying “We believe in fresh,” because everyone believes in fresh. To be effective, the message should be authentic, have a global view, and be a little risky. The way you build strong connections with your tribe will unavoidably alienate someone that doesn’t share your set of beliefs. Think about the wave of restaurants banning children from their establishments. There was an expected and understandable outcry from parents, many who promised to never patron the establishment again. Initially, it would seem like a public relations nightmare warranting a retraction and apology. However, the exact opposite is happening. Now, these restaurants are seeing huge spikes in reservations and table turn-over.

A simple answer is: not all revenue is good revenue. Catering to the needs of parents and children likely put undue strain on the staff, making their jobs more difficult and leaving them less time to take care of the other tables. Anyone who has been in a restaurant with a fussy child can guess the rest. The move isn’t an attempt to offend or upset one group of people. It was a simple business decision. The restaurant wants to give their customers the right experience. For whatever reason, small children inhibited that goal.

Regardless of your position, customers demand to know where you and your business stand on political, cultural, and global issues. As your consistent internal and external messages accumulate, the manifesto becomes more powerful and will resonate on a deeper level with your tribe. Taking a stand can be scary and risky, but in the end, you’ll find that communicating what’s important to your restaurant will go miles with foodies!