Yesterday I asked my friends on Facebook and Twitter to tell me about their favorite comfort foods. I received quite a few responses ranging from Indian food to cherry strudel, but most of the answers were rather predictable”
- Fried chicken.
- Meatloaf and mashed potatoes.
- Macaroni & Cheese.
- Various casseroles or stews.
And I’ll add one of my own: grilled cheese and tomato soup.
What exactly makes a food a comfort food?
The concept of comfort foods is relatively new (dating to the 70s) and is pretty much confined to our Western culture here in the U.S. According to Webster, comfort food is:
food prepared in a traditional style having a usually nostalgic or sentimental appeal.
I think this speaks volumes about our culture, both our love of food, as well as our love of things that remind us of home. Interestingly enough, if you look at our culture, the late 70s is about the time when we started to scatter more. My parents’ generation didn’t move around much; they stayed close to home. But my generation, and those that have followed, are much more mobile, much more detached from our roots, perhaps explaining our desire for comfort foods or things that remind us of our youth. As I get older, I find myself becoming a bit more nostalgic and sentimental.
But in the business world we spend a lot of time focusing on the latest advances and what is new. Particularly online, we need to keep up with rapidly advancing technologies and change. We seek to add new features and stay ahead of the competition. And in many ways this is a good thing, and perhaps necessary. We can’t just rest on our past successes and old business model to carry us on to future success.
So while we’re grabbing on to the latest and the greatest, we need to make sure we aren’t leaving everything behind.
I was reminded of this recently when I saw a picture that my friend Lindsay Bell posted on Twitter:
I’ve never been to a Tim Hortons, but the message on the cup is that what they offer is always “Fresh, Friendly, Familiar”.
Think about that.
“Fresh” is a statement about the quality of their product.
“Friendly” is a statement about their customer service.
But the third word, “Familiar” is what stuck out for me.
Plenty of businesses talk about offering “fresh” products with “friendly” service, but how many use “familiar” as a value proposition? You don’t see that very often, but I think it taps into a very real desire, that many of us have: a desire for something consistent and familiar.
Everything under the sun seems to be “new” these days. Plenty of shiny objects we chase after, but we still all have a yearning for things that are familiar. Even when we go away on vacation, we’re usually happy or relieved to finally get home. We may seek adventure and excitement, but I think most of us also yearn for the familiar. This is one reason why diners and family style restaurants are probably popular.
Tim Hortons has hit on a successful formula with a proper mix of product quality, customer service, and an atmosphere that makes you feel at home. If a large chain can do it, you can certainly do it within your small business. Offer great products with friendly service in a familiar or comfortable setting.
How can you stay on the cutting edge, while adding a bit of “home” and familiarity into the mix?