The age of indulgence

EP asks whether we are seeing a return to the food trends of the 1930s

Food has never sat more centrally in everyday life with self-reward becoming ever-more important. This is hardly a new trend but one could say that this is the age of indulgence or self-reward

Everyone works harder than ever before. Most executives suffer from stressful lives and one in four today endure from some level of mental illness. The work environment is intense from morning to night and as people drink less and the number of smokers falls, food has filled the gap. Food can be the escape that allows people a moment of relaxation and for that, indulgence is the aim.

Again this is no new trend. During the years of the Great Depression, the counter was the glamour, luxury and excitement of the nightclubs of that era. The 1930s and 40s saw nightclubs at their height in terms of style and sophistication. In any era of economic uncertainty, hospitality acts as the escape outlet during tough times. In the 30s, times were hard and arguably both the US and UK societies became deeply split and two tier. The Jarrow marches in the 30s that travelled to London did not target the Houses of Parliament as their end point. Nor Buckingham Palace. No, the Ritz Hotel was the target with some marchers entering the lobby to silently observe the high society of the day dine. In the 1940s, the hotels were often the escapes during the war and every great hotel will have its own war stories.

The same is true now but for different reasons. Today is about our personal strain with everyday life which is intense and unforgiving. It seems to ask ever more and so the need and desire is for exceptional hospitality. Indulgence is self-reward for the strain we carry, for how hard we work. We are more disciplined than ever but we need to rebel and we need to have fun. However, if one accepts that food fills a more central role in life today than in previous times, then it offers a superb opportunity for the industry to really be able to experiment and showcase its craft. The real key is to understand the psychology of the customer and how life is changing – and it is changing:

  • There is a migration back to hotel bars, lounges and restaurants led by female executives more to the fore than ever, who want safe and secure environments in which to work and meet.
  • Hotels do offer the ambience and environment that enhance that style and sense of indulgence.
  • People want to use hospitality to relax and service levels are becoming crucial – great service can have so much impact on both the guest’s satisfaction but more importantly on their spend.
  • Cocktails are once again on the rise in popularity and a strong offering is key.
  • The consumer is happy to spend more in return for quality.
  • The advance of all-day dining concepts has meant that we can all eat in great operations from 7am till late.
  • The Afternoon Tea is not just back on the agenda, but is rising in popularity.

Indulgence is all about self-reward and for hospitality companies, it is important to understand why this is so vital today. If we do, then we can understand and grasp the opportunity that lies in our hands.