by David Klemt

Want to Leverage Nostalgia? Put Your Spin on It

by David Klemt

A recent report from Campbell’s Foodservicealong with supporting data from external sources—supports what many operators assume about food trends.

Our dive into Campbell’s Culinary TrendPulse 2024 report is here for those who want to take a look. Anyone who wants to download a copy of the report for themselves can click here.

However, I’m referencing a fresh, quick-hit report from Campbell’s. While it only takes a handful of minutes to read, it’s chock-full of useful insights.

In particular, this latest menu trend analysis looks into succeeding with nostalgia. Citing a study from Symrise in their post, 70 to 76 percent of guests ages 22 to 65 cherish nostalgic items.

Put simply, that translates to a truth most operators know: guests of all ages like comfort foods. This really doesn’t need much explanation. Comfort foods areinsert shocked Pikachu face herecomforting. And I think we’re all seeking comfort these days.

So, yes, operators shouldin an authentic mannerspeak to and fill this guest desire. Authentically in this context means putting comfort foods on the menu that make sense. Doing this successfully requires menu programming that fits with the brand and within the venue’s theme. It also necessitates really knowing your guests and what they expect.

For example, will a particular restaurant’s guests find mac and cheese comforting? Will they stop scanning the menu when they come across pozole? What about cacio e pepe or beef braciole? How receptive will they be to sukiyaki?

A sharp operator should know their guests’ tastes better than just about anyone. Therefore, they should know what foods they’ll find comforting.

However, there’s another way to succeed with nostalgia and enhance the guest experience.

“New” Nostalgia

There are a couple of ways to interpret the term “new nostalgia.”

One way is to tap into what foods, generally speaking since they’re not monoliths, different generations view as comfort foods. This can be something as simple as a certain candy or beverage from their childhood.

Another way is for an operator and their kitchen team to take a nostalgic dish and put their own spin on it. Using candy as an example again, a scratch-made interpretation of a treat to create a dessert may work.

Consider, as a real-world model for this approach, the Chocotini that Oceans Resort Casino featured toward the end of August in 2022. This was a direct response to the news that Klondike had retired the Choco Taco, a nostalgic treat for millions of people spanning multiple generations.

Of course, operators can also cross-utilize items to craft new menu items that tap into the craving for nostalgic comfort foods. These dishes can be permanent additions, seasonal menu updates, or LTOs.

Take a look at the image atop this article. Mac and cheese is a classic comfort dish. Now, feature it as a topping for a signature burger. That’s a prime example of new nostalgia.

Going farther, kitchen teams can combine nostalgia with another trend to get even more creative: global flavors. Are there tacos on the menu? Maybe bulgogi tacos featuring beef short rib, Korean slaw, and soy-lime dressing would resonate with guests.

I’m not saying anyone should menu these specific items. Rather, my aim here is to get operators and their kitchen and bar teams to put their heads together and create undeniable, irresistible takes on classics.

The key, again, is an understanding of the market, community, and guests. From there, it’s about getting creative and crafting dishes that guests can’t get anywhere else.

Image: Alex Haney on Unsplash

KRG Hospitality menu development. Restaurant. Bar. Cafe. Lounge. Hotel. Resort. Food. Drinks.