Updated: Feb 25, 2019
We've read about activist chef's who are influencing food by virtue of their cause such as sustainable seafood, local, organic, nutrient dense, plant-based, etc. It makes business sense to create a competitive advantage and stand out from the crowd of other competitors. In 2019, there are endless causes to advocate for and opportunities for further differentiation and chef's to have increased influence in their cause.
So what is an activist server? Yesterday, I came across a server that presented the menu in a way that was pleasant, professional and cause-focused. I did not feel pressured or offended , rather, I felt informed and a sense of confidence by the server that they were not reading a script, but knew and believed in the message they were conveying. It was not judgemental. It was compelling.
Keep in mind, I was new to this restaurant, so I asked questions of the server about the menu. First there was the explanation of Resilience Beer that benefited Butte County fire victims. As he explained the process of development of the product, how it was distributed and what and where the proceeds were transmitted, I got the feeling that he was fully engaged and informed of the entire supply chain. Secondly, when inquiring about the menu, he similarly answered about the Impossible Burger talking about its ingredients and reviews of other patrons. The bottom line is that through this server we made menu selections, as a direct result of his enthusiastic and professional convictions. Would he have been the same if we chose another (causeless) item? No, I observed equitable professionalism no matter the order. However, there was a certain appreciation the server offered us by virtue of hearing him out and his knowledge that he had an influence on our order.
The industry talks frequently about the change agents of food. Authors, consumer groups, NGO's, commercial buyers/businesses and manufacturers can be pointed to in instances of cause-focused food movements. Keep in mind that those on the front line have belief systems that can be leveraged to support your brand loyalty. Don't overlook their influence on your business and the cause you may be supporting.