Business and Operations
Editor’s Letter: December 2014
By Colleen Cross
The red-hot trend of comfort food with a twist suggests people want to
have it all. They want what feels familiar and safe – but they also
enjoy the playfulness of trying something new.
The red-hot trend of comfort food with a twist suggests people want to have it all. They want what feels familiar and safe – but they also enjoy the playfulness of trying something new.
It seems chefs everywhere are offering variations on traditional foods that satisfy three elements: people’s craving for the familiar, a chef’s own culinary creativity and the customer’s sense of adventure. One example is Jamie Oliver’s newest book of recipes, Jamie’s Comfort Food, which riffs on classic feel-good foods like sticky toffee pudding.
This nostalgia for food may be less a trend than an abiding and deep-seated truth. Marc Halperin of QSR magazine articulated how the notion has taken hold since the early 1990s: “It seems safe to say that after two bubbles, three recessions, and about 20 years of repeated refreshing and reinvention, the comfort-food trend is not so much a trend at all, but rather a permanent feature.”
The term “comfort food,” coined in 1977 by Webster’s Dictionary, unites a physiological craving for what makes the body feel good with a psychological need to summon a sense of home in an irresistible marriage.
However, like a Rorschach drawing, the concept calls to mind different things for different people. To some, it’s mac and cheese or a hearty stew. To others, it’s a chocolate bar or a cinnamon bun. A study commissioned by the Illinois Council for Agricultural Research and published in Physiology & Behavior divides preferences between males and females, noting that men prefer savoury comfort foods while women prefer sweet.
This broadening of scope is a good thing for bakeries and cafés. It suggests that while no one product will appeal to all customers, every product has the potential to satisfy body and soul.
The key is consistency. It’s something every business strives for and it’s something bakers have in spades. As bakers, you understand the importance of using the same high-quality ingredients in the same quantities, baked at the same temperature, to achieve the same delicious – and more importantly, anticipated – results. You also know it’s important to keep your bakery’s tried-and-true recipes alive as trends come and go.
Your customers know that, too, and that’s why they keep coming back. In a sense, their desire for comfort food is putting a warmer spin on the adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
To stave off boredom, consider adding a twist. Something as simple as using a different variety of cheese in your cheese buns or offering a gluten-free cinnamon bun may be enough to appeal to a customer’s sense of adventure or desire for higher-quality or healthier products.
And customers of all ages are gaining new appreciation for old favourites like bread pudding, so you should appreciate them as well. It’s important to share the stories behind your bakery’s tried-and-true specialties with your customers.
With this issue, we aim to help you prepare for winter. In our cover story, “Cold Comfort” on page 22, we delve into the comfort foods of the year and look at ways bakeries can survive – and even thrive – during the long, and likely harsh, Canadian winter. Alice Sinia provides tips on winterizing your bakery (page 20) and our new products section offers gift ideas for bakers (page 8).
We wish you the best of the season!