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To get down to the crux of the gender-approach marketing in a restaurant, we drew inspiration from some of the top eateries around the world on how gender-based segmentation influences restaurant marketing, the role of gender on the choice of food served in a menu, and how marketing to men and women in a restaurant setting differs.
Theories Behind Gender-Based Marketing In A Restaurant Setting
Outstanding restaurateurs recognize the importance of segregating food types that appeal to male and female and cleverly manipulate this stereotype to their advantage. As R Keeper wrote in The Wall Street Journal, people tend to choose food guided by gender attitudes because they want to make the right impression on their date or meeting. As a consequence, men will choose a dish perceived as masculine and high in protein, such as steak, ribs or burgers. Women on the opposite continuum will choose delicate and healthier food options such as sandwiches and salads.
This idea was echoed by Theo Liven in the book “The Effect of Brand Gender on Brand Equity”, whereby consumers choose products with a distinct sexual segmentation. Besides, this helps to connect the image of the brand with the consumer’s personality.
Al Wolf, the author of the book “Advertising Image: Man and Woman” shared even more interesting arguments. Addressing the question of why the nutritional requirement between men and women are so different, the following reasons were noted:
Advertising and Social Media — The Culprit Behind Gender Bias
An image-conscious woman is content with three leaves of lettuce and a low-calorie dessert on most days. Worst of all, the buff and trim bodies on social media worship these stereotypical gender images.
Many old-fashion, somewhat toxic and gender bias views are prevalent in advertising. Advertisers tell us that men will not tire if they are well-nourished. Women, on the hand, need not eat hearty meals. Rather than “finishing” the food themselves, women offer their share of food to their children or husband. As such, the media rarely portray females with a huge appetite for bloody steak. This is because meat and dense, nourishing food such are deemed to be exclusively to feed a man’s need and desire.
Must the right marketing strategy perpetuate gender stereotypes to be effective?
One burning question needs to be addressed: “Is it the right strategy for a restaurateur to serve food catered for a specific gender only, rather than appeal to a wider clientele?” If this theory is true, then pubs need only serve caloric-laden, deep-fried snacks to appeal to the stronger sex, while vegan and vegetarian restaurants will thrive by solely serving vegan cutlets and healthy food. If this theory is spot on, then businesses can minimize overhead and renovation cost, reduce their food inventory and par down wastage, yet delight customers with mouthwatering food and excellent service. This theory, however, is a myth to be debunked.
Flourishing restaurants know the importance of dishing up a variety of food under the same theme, yet embracing a broader range of gender positioning. In pubs and bistros, light salads are served to appeal to figure-conscious women, while nourishing meat dishes are for men. An assortment of beer is served to appeal across both genders — Belgian or cherry beer for women; and lager for the men.
Likewise, the millennial, Gen X and Gen Z of today are becoming more self-sufficient and blurring the lines of gender stereotypes. Guys, for example, are open to trying various sweet cocktails presented in bright, fashionable wine glasses, and girls are receptive of participating in beer drinking contests.
Real gender equality in food is evident when women recognize that they love meat just as much as men, and men, in return are not averse to being pampered with ice cream for dessert. A lot of people today come to restaurants to show off their food inclination, bordering on dietary fads that proclaim: “I do not eat animals”, “I am for a healthy lifestyle”, “I am a patriot”, forgetting that food, first and foremost serves to restore strength, feed the body with nutrients and thus improve one’s general wellbeing.
The topic of gender in food paves the way for many discussions. Should restaurateurs stick to traditional views or be neutral in gender positioning of the business? Or maybe for marketing purposes, does it makes sense to bring fresh, radical ideas into the restaurant culture? All these are interesting not only in terms of the development of modern society given today’s evolving consumer behavior.
Society today is shifting towards gender neutrality. In a survey conducted among 2000 adults in the UK by New Macho, a marketing company — men no longer connect with old fashion ways of portraying masculinity. Men on the street feel masculine in pink T-shirts and no longer feel effeminate buying diet cottage cheese, as oppose to full-fat cheese. In the same vein, women ride Harley Davidsons and play “aggressive” computer games. Interestingly, when women possess more masculine traits, society perceives them to be more loyal. Sometimes the courage to enter into the menu something unconventional is enough to win the loyalty of guests of both sexes.
Differences in Food Choices between Men and Women
Quoting the head cook of the Berlin’s famous restaurant The Wall, “In Germany, it is generally accepted that fish is for women, meat is for men”. Over time, restaurants have smashed this stereotype. Women are now consuming less fat and soft meat and increasing their intake of alternative cuts traditional associated with men, such as “butcher’s steak” or “machete”.
The gender-bias view on food was echoed by Hans Bridge, the chef of the well know Munich eatery. In his restaurant, men more often choose soup, cold cuts, pickled dishes, grilled meat, fish, dumplings, crab. Women preferred lighter dishes: gazpacho, vegetable soup, vegetable salads, seafood salads, grilled or steamed fish, oysters, ceviche, and tartar. Along the same lines, when ordering an expensive food item, a glass of sparkling wine is offered to the woman as a gift.
Institutions that use an automation system and loyalty programs can see the amount of food each gender buys, and when they buy. By observing these trends, restaurateurs can create unique offers for its audience. Moreover, this is the backbone of robust marketing, taking into account everything consumer habits, tastes, location, and history of visits. With automation, businesses naturally adopt good accounting practices, while providing them with the opportunity to deeply analyze the tastes and needs of the guests.
R Keeper opined that the segmentation of consumers into small groups has a positive effect on the business. By doing so, a business can sell more to their clients without the negative effects of pushy salesmen. R Keeper also noted that consumer segmentation by gender is one of the most profitable ways to increase sales. With more stringent gender-bias laws developed in recent years, the division into “male” and “female” food becomes an increasingly complex business.
A Winning Menu — Words of Wisdoms from Top Restaurateurs
In drawing up a smashing menu that would attract walk-ins and repeat clients, a gender approach is commonly applied.
Citing Auguste Pascal, owner of the Parisian restaurant WE, “Women care about their figure and men want nothing less than a satisfying and tasty meal. “In addition, women are known to be less adventurous with food, so their orders are predictable, with their staple food mainly comprising of salad and (or) soup”. Because women pay so much attention to keeping their body svelte, Mr. Pascal noticed that his female clients rarely ordered the main course. And if they did order, it was usually fish, paired with a glass of white wine. Men, on the other hand, are more curious and experimental, favoring meat above all.
Auguste Pascal adds “Women value design, men value sizeable servings. For example, men perceive our venison decadent as the portions are huge. Contrastingly, women love our river perch fish on a bed of potato stalk, which is delicately garnished and affordably priced. ”
The owner of Milan’s restaurant, Leonardo Di Caliostro agrees with him: “Women value the aesthetic presentation of food. Therefore, it is important for them that the dish is Instagram-worthy for social –worthy media. Men value bigger servings and superior taste. In my restaurant, I try to combine large portions and beautiful plating to appeal to both genders”.
Girls tend to be pickier, often paying attention to food composition. To emphasize this point, girls prefer desserts paired with sweet fruits and berries over the cream. In terms of drinks, 90% of women opt for freshly squeezed orange juice or water without gas. For side dishes, women favor roasted vegetables, potatoes, soups and salads over the meat, unlike men.
Growth of Healthy Food Trends and Veganism
“Women, as a rule, are all obsessed with diets,” explains Auguste Pascal, the head chef at WE, Paris. The desire to live longer and healthier and aspiration to be environmental friendly has fueled the growth of vegan-food sales, gluten-free food, and low caloric dishes. “When I offer something to my female diners, I use the word “low-calorie”. When addressing men, I use more masculine words like “straight from the forest, rivers, direct deliveries from the Normandy.”
As for cuisine, the men prefer high-calorie American, German and Italian dishes, while women prefer Japanese and Mediterranean fare comprising of fish and seafood. The same sentiment was parroted by the Delivery Club Food: “The most popular dishes among guests for 2018 were the Philadelphia roll, California roll and udon with seafood. Moreover, men ordered more serious dishes, such as “Meat Feast” pizza, “Texas Cheeseburger” and pork neck skewers”.
With men being more adventurous with food, it is not surprising to note that there are more male-oriented food outlets in the market. Hans Bridge, the chef of the well know Munich eatery divulged interesting statistics about his clients by gender.
“In our restaurant, most of our clients are men”.
Recognizing these statistics, pubs, and bistros where beer is their key product primarily target the male audience, but they do not miss the opportunity to appeal to women as well. To draw in the fairer sex, the acclaimed Brasserie Belge ‘0.33’ in Brussel introduced an assortment of 38 fruity-beers to the menu.
On the contrary, women dominate the crowd at Parisian WE. According to chef Auguste Pascal’s, the average men’s check exceeds the “female” thanks to alcohol and more dishes ordered by the former. “Interesting, having women at the premise, helps draw in the crowd. “If beautiful women do not patronize the restaurant, then men with spending power will not dine here. This is a fact proven over the years,” the seasoned restaurateur added.
Why Is Gender-Based Marketing Important to Restaurateurs
Head chefs in the major restaurants share the same sentiment: Women’s food choice and eating behavior are driven by their inherent need to stay in good physical shape more than men. And gender stereotypes still play a predominant role in marketing to males, although a gradual shift to gender neutrality is noticeable.
For restaurateurs to effectively communicate the key dish of the month, they entice their patrons with food that appeal to that gender. It is therefore imperative for marketers to adopt a gender approach in marketing for a restaurant business.
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