As long as I can remember, I’ve had an interest in esoteric subcultures. Early on it was comic book collecting, then Magic: The Gathering, then sleight of hand, and then cocktails and bartender culture.
All of these subcultures share a common feature: they have conventions to bring like-minded people together.
The events at these conventions usually aren’t the big draw. Instead, it’s meeting friends new and old over drinks at the newest bar that opened or a late night fourth-meal in the back of a Denny’s.
Breaking Bread No More
Eating together is an increasingly rare activity in modern society: one in five meals happen in the car, and families report having a single meal together less than five days a week.
We have become overwhelmed. Faster and now is the new normal.
We have devalued the importance of taking time to eat together. We focus on the feeling-full part of eating and ignore its other potential benefits.
Even when we set time aside to eat, like going to a restaurant, we often put time limitations on how long we should stay. Eating—not the ritual of eating—is often the end goal.
This point was driven home to me several years ago during a dinner at The Tasting Kitchen in Venice, CA: A person in the couple next to me exclaimed, “This is the longest we’ve ever spent at dinner! We’ve been here an hour and a half!” They made sure not to “spend” much longer eating and then quickly left.
Eating together is a powerful act. It is intrinsically connected to love and belonging.
M.F.K. Fisher, perhaps the greatest food writer of all-time, observes, “Our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it.”
Eating is physiological as well as psychological. It is why we refer to some food as “comfort food”.
Jungian analyst Anthony Stevens writes, “The idea that we are what we eat has a psychological as well as a physiological validity: when we ingest something, take it in and absorb it, we subject ourselves to its influence and assume something of its quality.”
Eating is a transformative act whose power can be bestowed upon the provider—the nourisher.
Inviting Customers to Break Bread
Powerful brands fulfill needs unmet in their customers’ lives. Sometimes these needs are brand-specific. But, all brands can fulfill people’s need to come together and eat together.
Having your customers eat together strengthens their ties with each other. It fosters brand communities—between customers and with your brand—and makes customers see you as a caring provider.