With the rise of celebrity chefs, food enthusiasts are taking their passion to the next level. Whether they call themselves foodies, health nuts, or gourmands, these guests are spending more time – and money – on food than ever before. Food tourism, in particular, is experiencing an economic boom. So how can restaurants take advantage of this growing trend?

Oh Goodie Foodie

“Food tourism” has a broader definition than you might think. This doesn’t just refer to people who travel and eat- or people who travel specifically to eat. It also encompasses hungry guests who enjoy cooking classes, or even those who shop at gourmet grocery stores. According to the World Food Travel Association, “food travelers” are “travelers who had participated in a food or beverage experience other than dining out, at some time in the past 12 months. They may have visited a cooking school, participated in a food tour, or gone shopping in a local grocery or gourmet store.”

The same article found that food tourists spend about ¼ of their travel budget on food and drink – sometimes as much as 35%. Clearly, these hungry travelers aren’t just eating to live; they’re making it a point to taste the local cuisine, and they might even be bringing some samples home with them. 71% of these travelers bring back local food they purchased on a trip, and 82% like to purchase similar foods even after they return home.

 

Authenticity is Key

Almost any cuisine can be labeled “authentic.” Whether it’s authentic to the region where it’s being served (think of deep dish pizza in Chicago), or authentic to a distant land (like Indian food served in Alabama), this is a word that appeals to food tourists. Whatever this word means on your menu, it’s a surefire way to capture the interest of a food tourist – whether they’re just visiting your restaurant, or looking to recreate the experience they had on a trip.

93% of travelers have participated in a “unique food or beverage experience” while traveling. That means that the vast majority of guests in your restaurant are excited about food tourism in one form or another. Provide them with options that appeal to their sense of adventure, and you’ll inspire them to try new dishes, while encouraging them to return to your business.

 

The Loyal Treatment

Food tourism might not seem to fit every restaurant’s marketing plan. What if you specialize in home-style cooking, and rely on local customers to be your biggest fan base? No matter who you’re serving, these tactics will appeal to a growing number of diners: Gen Xers and Millennials. Did you know that 52% of Gen X and Millennial diners are culinary travelers? Compare that to just 42% of Baby Boomers, and you can clearly see which way the wind is blowing. As time goes on, more and more of your guests will consider themselves food tourists.

And, perhaps the best news of all: 60% of travelers take pictures of their food. This means that every time you serve a food tourist, it’s very likely that your cuisine will end up on social media, impressing diners around the globe. Whether that food tourist lives across the street or across the country from your establishment, you can connect with them online and use their good experience to entice future customers.

Food tourism is more than a fad: it’s become a way of life. As more and more young adults get excited about healthy and adventurous eating, your restaurant will have some incredible opportunities to market to guests all around the world.