Is the age of nostalgia over?

Nostalgia inspired food labels
This week we enjoyed a visit to Bill’s Restaurant here in Windsor. We discussed how their Slow Cooked Crispy Gressingham Duck Leg shows how the brand has leveraged the trend for nostalgia, and even the trend for vintage and honest food provenance.

Huh!? OK, let me explain.

Taken under the wing of Richard Caring back in 2009, we think he saw something in Bill’s concept the rest of us missed. We think he saw a trend for food provenance and brand provenance, and its power with consumers who have little trust in an age of austerity.

Think back to the 2012 Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee, when you were organising street parties with Union Jack bunting and getting all nostalgic about what it meant – then and now – to be British. And witness our very own Instagram-eyed Boden catalogue with its whiff of vintage re-tooled as aspiration.

In my view this has all helped to accelerate an abundance of reassurance messages in brand provenance – now so prevalent in the food and casual dining sectors, it has fundamentally changed food retail design.

So Bill’s brand – starting as a deli concept in 2001 designed around organic and local produce – really took off and continued the theme of authenticity through all communication. It was the right brand in the right place at the right time. And the interiors, menu design and their partnerships all truly support the provenance of their brand.

It’s not just about where the food has come from, but also where they’ve come from.

So are restaurants like Bill’s and Jamie’s Italian riding the wave after a perfect storm? A perfect storm which sees us exhausted with the worry of cost and heading for casual dining; taking refuge in the warmth of authenticity driven by nostalgia and provenance?

We’re now seeing more relaxed design and matey-matey Jamie Oliver/Jimmy Doherty conversational language, however there is now evidence of a rejection of the over use of pointless adjectives.[1] The likes of ‘infused’, ‘drizzled’ or ‘warmed on a bed of organic air’ are beginning to irritate diners whose expectations and savvy is improving in the wake of casual dining growth.

We’re also seeing a rejection of the graphic noise that has surrounded some brands. Those more confident in their overall brand are beginning to simplify their menu layout and structure – avoiding the paradox (and sometimes panic) of too much choice.

Now we’re seeing economic growth – and potentially a new experience is what we want. Our heel-snapping, social-media-chomping Millennials may be continuing to drive a focus on honesty and authenticity, but is the abundance of colourful messages in the casual dining sector turning into white noise?

Will we be yearning for a simpler but more genuine experience when we’re eating out?

Could nostalgia be replaced with something else?

[1] 8th May, 2013 @Amy_Fleming http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2013/may/08/restaurant-menu-psychology-tricks-order-more

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