The culture of eating occasions

For years we have been writing articles discussing the importance of destination food for the success of location-based entertainment (LBE) facilities. Where many LBEs, especially the ones that fall under the category of family entertainment centers (FEC), miss the boat is their understanding of the culture of food and its three distinctive kinds of eating occasions. Just offering food for all the different day-parts when an LBE is open fails to recognize this critical aspect of eating behavior and the opportunities it can bring.

The key cultural difference that divides every eating day-part is the distinction between instrumental eating occasions and savoring eating occasions. This is a crucial, because it delineates two very different revenue opportunities and two very different sets of guest aspirations.

Instrumental eating occasions are the equivalent of stopping at a gas station to refuel. They are quick eating occasions for the practical purpose of satisfying hunger and getting energy, what is usually defined as grabbing a snack, a fast food meal or microwaving a frozen meal at home. On the other hand, savoring eating occasions are about eating food for the sake of pleasure and enjoyment. Savoring eating occasions are far more sophisticated than instrumental ones and far less price sensitive. 59% of all eating occasions are instrumental and 41% are savoring (the third category, inspirational eating occasions, belongs to the super gourmet epicenter of trends and represents less than 1% of eating occasions).

Not all snacking is an instrumental eating occasion, 33% of adult snacking is savoring. And adults are not the only ones seeking savoring eating experiences, 29% of kids’ eating is a savoring occasion.

Just about all LBEs offer food to satisfy instrumental eating occasions. Basically anything offered at a concession stand falls in that category. The opportunity to drive attendance and increase per capita spending is with savoring eating occasions, offering higher quality food that people will seek out for the enjoyment of eating it. This not only includes savoring meals, but also savoring snacks for the other day-parts. The strongest social experiences, often the primary reason people leave their homes to visit LBEs, are built around savoring dining as well as entertainment. Food is, or should be, an integral part of any LBE experience. Offering food and beverages that satisfy the desire for savoring eating occasions not only enhances the perceived value of a guest’s experience, but also enhances the LBE as a destination for not just entertainment, but for the enjoyment of food as well, thus increasing both attendance and total revenues.