What do celebrity chefs know about food retailing?
A lot, actually. It turns out that celebrity chefs/restaurateurs/TV stars Mario Batali and Robert Irvine know a lot about food retailing and how to make food shopping more exciting, which they showcased in a discussion with FMI CEO and president Leslie Sarasin at last week’s FMI Connect.
On leadership, Mr. Batali suggested top management allow other employees to lead and not feel the need to be the “smartest person in the room.” Mr. Irvine, with a military background, said you need to lead from the front, but it is critical to give employees the tools to do their jobs and get buy-in from everyone.
Mr. Batali came of age when chefs were not celebrities and said his family got into cooking because they could do it better than restaurants. Nowadays, he says, consumers are fascinated by food and ingredients and no longer view food as just fuel. Mr. Irvine got into the British military at 15-1/2 due to poor schoolwork. He became a Navy cook. His father so disapproved that he didn’t talk to him for two years.
For both chefs, it’s all about retailers educating consumers. Mr. Batali says cooking can be less effort than imagined and food retailers need to do such things as provide more samples, show consumers how to cook, educate them on tastes and trim vegetables for free. According to Mr. Irvine, retailers also need to educate as well as provide more fresh, tasty, fun and quick options. Stores need to have more color, be brighter and better organized. He says shopping should not be a mundane chore, but an outing to see what’s new.
Mr. Batali came back several times to the idea of simplicity, suggesting retailers put short, easy, “how-to” videos on social media channels. He always walks the perimeter of the store first and tries to limit processed carbs. He feels retailers have an obligation to steer consumers away from processed foods and provide better food choices, but shouldn’t decide what consumers can have.
For Mr. Irvine, a lot of it is about fitness, as he works with the military and helps to keep them fit and feeling well. He says food changes one’s physical being and mental state and advises “eating smart” with smaller, more frequent meals, a small sweet treat at the end of each meal and occasional indulgences.
- Mario Batali – Wikepedia
- Mario Batali
- Robert Irvine – Wikepedia
- Robert Irvine
- Celebrity chefs tell supermarkets to make food fun – Supermarket News
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What can supermarkets and food retailers do to make food shopping exciting and less of a chore? Do operators have an obligation to help their customers eat healthier by steering them towards fresh options and away from processed foods?