Exhibitions and food have always gone hand in hand – and in the past there was a lot of eye rolling at lukewarm chafing dishes and trays of savory puffed pastries. That’s no longer the case. Providing tasty and great looking food is essential in today’s culture.
It can also be a fun part of your marketing plan – whether food is your primary business or not. The goal is to give someone a story to tell and an experience they won’t soon forget.
Here are some fun, innovative ways that folks are using food to attract eyeballs. Many of these are pop ups or on-the-street activities, but they serve as great examples of how you could turn your next exhibit into something guests will be dying to share – on social media that is.
The Pestaurant Builds Buzz
To commemorate a milestone anniversary, British pest-control company, Rentokil, celebrated with a pop-up eatery they coined a “Pestaurant.” The menu included such delicacies as salt and vinegar crickets, cheddar cheese mealworms, sour cream and onion crickets, plain roasted locusts, and bacon and cheese crickets. For dessert, the options were chocolate dipped mixed bugs, scorpion lollipops, and cherry ant candy.
The Pestaurant was a fun way to promote the benefits of entomophagy (that’s eating insects, which, to be fair, is a significant part of several cultures’ diet across the globe) while not straying from the theme of pest control.
Taco Bell Preps for the Fast Food Wars
The franchise wars predicted by the movie “Demolition Man” have not yet come to pass (the flick is set in 2030, so there’s still time), but one Taco Bell pop up sure looks the part. The store, featured at a recent SXSW, was made entirely from a shipping container.
Its creation was actually an eco-friendly experiment. And it took only three days to construct. The idea behind the creation was to explore concepts for Taco Bell’s planned expansion, as the chain hopes to open 2,000 new locations in the United States by 2022.
Photo Credit: Curbed.com
Actual Breakfast from a Vending Machine
“Free Breakfast” announced the sign positioned next to the vending machine. When people approached they saw two robots that would prepare Quaker oatmeal customized to their exact specifications.
In truth, the robots were humans in disguise, but they never broke character, making the presentation feel fun, whimsical, and special. The promotion gave early-morning commuters a chance to try out a number of different Quaker products and walk away with a warm feeling and a full tummy.
A Cheesy VR Tour
To promote its variety of flavors, soft cheese maker Boursin created the Boursin Sensorium, a virtual reality tour that took viewers through the inside of a fridge, past carefully-chosen ingredients.
Oculus Rift VR headsets and CGI animation were combined with a sound track, moving chairs, cool air, and scented fans. A sampling of Boursin specialties, including the Shallot & Chive and Black Pepper flavors, was also part of the experience. At the end, a photo op captured shots of people “inside the fridge” surrounded by food, including Boursin cheese. The end result was an immersive experience that left participants better informed of the varieties of Boursin cheese available and their carefully selected ingredients.
Are You a Lover or a Hater? Because it Could Cost You
Marmite is a British staple – that’s also quite divisive. It’s described as a “thick, sticky paste made from concentrated yeast extract.” Not surprisingly, it has its detractors. Yet, fans of the spread absolutely love it. Marmite decided to lean into this divide with the marketing slogan: “Love it or hate it.”
To coincide with this campaign, Marmite created The Love Cafe – where people “pay” for snacks in a unique way. Upon entering the cafe, people were prompted to provide their Twitter handle. Then, a “Love-O-Meter” would analyze tweets in order to determine if the visitor is a lover or a hater on social media. Based on their online attitudes, people identified as lovers were given a snack and some coffee for free, while haters were required to pony up some cash if they wanted the treat.
What’s New Kit Kat? Whoa Oh Oh
To celebrate the candy’s 80th anniversary, Nestlé created the pop up “Create Your Break,” where visitors were able to produce their own specialty flavor of Kit Kat.
After selecting from a milk, white, or dark chocolate dip, visitors then get to choose from a variety of ingredients (including salted caramel, raspberries, meringue, and rose petals) to create a personalized Kit Kat. Those unable to choose, or unwilling to wait in line, could pick from some readymade variations.
The pop up let visitors put their own fun twist on a comfortable and familiar brand.
I’m Dreaming of a Wrapper Christmas
Speaking of Nestle, the candy giant also created a fun holiday event at Westfield London shopping center. Based on a popular chocolate assortment sold in tins, Quality Street, Nestlé created a real-life Quality Street. The display featured festive music, samples of Quality Street snacks, and colorful candy wrappers falling from above like snow (although this experience may be a trigger for anyone who has sat near an octogenarian at a movie theater).
For many Brits, the Quality Street chocolate tin is synonymous with the holiday season. And this display helped to reinforce and entrench those feelings.
Unwanted Gifts for a Taste of the Rainbow
You know that smile you have? The one where you are struggling to contain obvious disappointment as the wrapping paper falls away and a potentially good gift turns to socks or one of those clip-on book lamp things.
Well, so does everyone else. It was this emotion that Skittles tapped into when it created The Skittles Holiday Pawn Shop. This four-day pop up in Toronto enabled visitors to turn those unwanted slippers into bags of Skittles candy.
In addition, this fun idea had a positive bent. Every item that was in good condition was sent to a local Goodwill center to be repurposed for someone who could use it.
Photo Credit: Twitter.com
Belly Up to the Snacktail Bar
To promote the variety of its offerings, cracker company Jacobs hosted a two-day event in London’s SoHo neighborhood. Dubbed “The Gourmet Snacktail Bar,” the event featured savory cocktails that paired with the cracker’s newest flavors.
The drink varieties available included chili con carne, plum spring rolls, and fish and chips – yes, those were the drinks. The display drew a crowd because these drinks will probably never be available anywhere again. This unexpected savory drink and cracker pairing was a fun way to spread word of a new product offering.
Going to School on Some Ice Cream
To highlight its “Nothing is Better than Real” campaign, Häagen-Dazs provided patrons with The Master Ice Cream Academy. The goal of the presentation was to highlight how all of our senses affect our enjoyment of food.
This school for the senses explored how food tastes different when accompanied with different sounds, how touch can affect taste, how appearance and presentation can affect your perception of taste, and the impact of smell on taste. In addition to all that book learnin’, attendees were able to polish off some tasty ice cream, as well.
Photo Credit: Trendhunter.com
Sensory Endowment Tank
Chocolatier Bompas & Parr introduced another demonstration that examined how our remaining senses affect taste. However, its experience was a little more personal. Customers were invited to taste their newly purchased chocolates in a “taste pod.”
Visitors first went through a profiling exercise that helped to identify someone’s taste preferences. Sweet, salty, and bitter items were sampled and the person’s reactions were taken into account. The person was then given a chocolate varietal that best corresponded to their profile and invited to sample it with their head in the pod. Inside, people are treated to ambient lighting, music, and scents designed to enhance sensory experience.
Rules and Regulations
We hope these examples have your senses excited and that your brain is popping with ideas. Just be sure, when incorporating food in an exhibition or pop up, that you set everything up with the venue or city. Food service also comes with a lengthy set of rules and regulations, and violations are often met with a hefty fine.
In fact, some exhibit halls will not let you distribute food – especially if they have a contract with a vendor. You don’t want to be perceived as taking potential money away from another merchant (especially since the venue may require that you compensate for any lost revenue). These rules extend to small items, too. If the clean-up crew can trace sticky messes or excessive litter back to your display, expect to see an additional maintenance fee on your tab.
Keeping Costs Down
Of course, there are going to be some expenses associated with the inventive displays you come up with. Fortunately, there are some ways to minimize costs.
One possibility is utilizing a structure like an AirClad mobile architectural structure. Specifically, the Yum Yum, an 8×8-foot pod that is designed for selling food and merchandise through a hinge-up serving window.
AirClad has many benefits, including that it is designed to be set up in different environments and doesn’t require a special foundation. In addition, the AirClad design attracts eyeballs and can be fully branded. Also, there is plenty of space under the floor to accommodate an electric grid, meaning you can go so far as setting up a fully functional restaurant.
When you are ready to create your next experiential event, reach out to The Trade Group at 800-343-2005. We have ideas and solutions that will turn your wildest ideas from thoughts of fancy into a tasty reality.